Regardless, the public were already fed up and wanted it over. Ever increasing pressures on President Ab Lincoln finally saw him ordering troops to cross the Potomac and head off to Manassas to teach the Confederates a lesson. Even though it was less than 25 miles away from the capital the army did not want to go. The soldiers were too green and not yet ready yet for battle according to their leaders. But Lincoln noted that the same also applied to the Southerners and again, if you will pardon the pun, gave the officers their marching orders. So the North headed off to teach the South a lesson. Trouble is they were the ones to become the students.
Over 35,000 soldiers headed out of DC to do battle. It was the largest (at that time) army ever massed for battle on the continent. And guess who was there to great them. Mr Beauregard again. And he and other southern generals brought along about 34,000 friends with them. (About 18,000 from each side would actually go into battle.) There were more than a few Canadians on the battlefield that horrible day. Many are still there, but now under the surface that thousands visit to pay their respects annually.
One of those not put underground that day was a Torontonian by the name of Lt Edward P Doherty. Noted in an earlier blog in this space, Doherty was a Lt. in the Cavalry and in charge of several men sent off to capture John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Lincoln.
Another on that field was a New Brunswick man named Frank Thomas, also covered in an earlier blog. He fought with the 2nd Michigan at Bull Run and several other major battles including Antietam and Fredericksburg. It would be years later when he was found out... how shall I say it... not to be a he! But a she! Like dozens of other women who impersonated men to join the cause, she fled home at 17 years of age to escape a forced marriage. When she contracted an ailment that was sure to reveal her identity towards the end of the war, she deserted to avoid having her true sex being uncovered. A later military pension was then retracted when she wrote a book about her experiences. Still later it was given back to her. She would become the only woman in the history of the Grand Army of the Republic to become a member, and lies today at rest in one of their Texas cemeteries.
Yet another in the First Battle of Bull Run, AKA Manassas, while not a Canadian, but who would spend his last years of life near Toronto was a fellow names Wilcox. He would put in several years in the military before the Civil War even started and it is his 34 years after the start of this war that are mentioned in the above title.
Wilcox, who would later be promoted to Brevet Brigadier General, and still later to Brevet Major General, was a full Colonel at Bull Run. But he was doing the job of a Brig. General due to his appointment of commander of the 2nd Brigade. In this capacity the West Point Graduate was in charge of 5 different regiments and his brigade would be just one of many in one of yet many more Divisions of Union men from the North on the battlefield that 21st of July 1861.
When the battle began the North experience some brief success by driving the enemy back, but during the day long killing spree reinforcements arrived for the South by train and were quickly hustled into the battle. This new incursion of men badly damaged one of the flanks and ultimately turned the tide of battle so much that the North had to retreat. Many of the men had to run for their lives and the rest marched back to DC with heads hung low. The day long battle ended with about 850 men dead, 1,700 wounded and another 1,300 either missing or having been taken prisoner.
When Wilcox signed up, he was enlisted in a three month regiment, and promoted up the line to the Brigade level. And it was with that level that he was caught by the enemy and made a POW. Had he still been with his unit, his war would have been over in a few months. But instead he served almost a year as a POW, and was finally exchanged for a southern colonel in August of 1862. That may have been when he found out that he had received a brevet promotion to Brig. General for... "distinguished and gallant service in the several actions since crossing the Rapidan." And to his surprise no doubt, the promotion was backdated to the date he was made a POW.
By the end of the Civil War General Wilcox had enjoyed several different command positions, had four horses shot out from under him, was wounded four times and his troops captured over 3,000 enemy soldiers. Those same troops would amass a total of 17 different Battle Flags while under his command.
In 1866 he finally mustered out of volunteer services, but within months was appointed as Colonel of the 29th Infantry, and 3 years later he moved over to command the 12th Infantry. In the 1870's Wilcox would command the Military district known then as the Department of Arizona. While so employed he had the honor to ride the first train through an area then unofficially called Maley. It was so called as the track ran through lands owned by Mr. James M. Maley. When a railway official stuck his head out of the train to ask what the name of the town was, the crowds gathered to greet it and of course the famous Orlando Wilcox, the crowd shouted back not once but twice...Wilcox. And the small community of a few thousand in Northern Arizona still go by that name today.
In 1887 Wilcox finally hung the uniform up for good. His first plans were to take a trip abroad. It seems he had to get the permission of the Secretary of War to leave the country and for the $5 fee the visa was granted. In the 1880's and 90's he seemed to move about between Arizona, Michigan and Washington DC. Wilcox received an invalid pension in 1890 and the following year he was reporting living in a soldiers home at DC.
On 2 March 1895 the President finally granted him a Medal of Honor for actions at Bull Run so many years earlier. His citation simply read...,"Led repeated charges till wounded and taken prisoner." Ten years later he would pack up his Medal of Honor and move it to Canada were he took up residence for two years at Cobourg, just outside of Toronto Ontario. In the end he would be dead within a couple of weeks of catching bronchitis.
At Arlington there are over 16,000 veterans, including a few dozen from Canada, about half of these also being MOH recipients.
A visitor to Arlington might also be fortunate enough to find the grave of Jerry Cronan. he was buried there BEFORE Arlington became a Cemetery and was owner by General Lee's family. Cronan was in the 10th Louisiana Infantry and was killed in battle at Spotsylvania n 1864. And yes he was a Confederate...the only Confederate veteran buried at Arlington. And folks he was also a Canadian.
Tomorrow marks the 106th anniversary of General Orlando Bolivar Wilcox's deed that resulted in his earning the Medal of Honor.