The Run From Bull Run
They were going to whip the Yankees in a month. Then the war was going to be over before by Christmas. One hundred fifty years ago this week, the South and the North went head to head in the first battle of the War Between the States. The southern army named its battles for the nearest town or land mass - the northern army for the nearest creek or river. The armies clashed near the railroad junction at Manassas, Virginia, near the creek named Bull Run. The Yankees were equally confident. High ranking government officials, their wives, and curious spectators traveled by wagons and buggies the short distance from Washington, D.C. to see the Grand Army of the Republic destroy the upstart rebels. When it was over, both sides were suffering. The Confederates had stood their ground, losing many lives and valuable field leaders along the way. The Federals, stunned and unexpectedly overwhelmed, ran most of the way back to the safety of the fortified capital city.
The 8th Georgia Infantry was there that day. Company G of the 8th Georgia was known as the Pulaski Volunteers. The Volunteers officially organized on May 16, 1861, a little more than a month after the war began at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. The company, under the command of Capt. T.D. Lawrence Ryan, was composed primarily of men from Pulaski, Telfair, and Laurens Counties. One of the most intriguing members of the Volunteers was James Argo. Argo was born in 1796 and fought for his country in the War of 1812. He joined the Volunteers at the age of sixty five and served until the close of the war. Laurens County's sole company, the Blackshear Guards, had not yet been fully enaged
into Confederate service in Virginia.
A week before the company was officially organized on May 16th, sixty or seventy of the Volunteers traveled to Dublin to train with the Blackshear Guards. After an exhaustive drill, the Guards entertained the Volunteers with a feast. With their stomachs full, the men were in no mood for any intensive activity, and by mid-afternoon headed back for Hawkinsville, stopping on the way at the home of Samuel Yopp, four miles outside of Dublin.
Daniel H. Mason, of Laurens County, was elected as the company's Second Sergeant. Sgt. Mason, the thirty one year old son of William Mason and his wife, the former Margaret Pullen of northeastern Laurens County, was one of the first Laurens Countians to enlist in the Confederate Army.
Around the 10th to the 15th of July, the 8th Georgia was ordered to Martinsburg, Virginia, where Stonewall Jackson's forces were converging with the Federal army. The conflict never materialized, and on the 19th, the Confederate Army marched toward Manassas Junction. The report of cannon fire was heard during the mid morning hours of the 20th. The regiment marched double quick to the sound of the guns. They arrived just before noon and found themselves in an open field and in easy view of Union artillery and riflemen. The volunteers quickly moved to the cover of a pine thicket near the Stone Bridge over Bull Run, where the Federals had crossed earlier in the day.
The 8th Georgia opened fire. The Federals fired back. The slaughter began. The six hundred men of the 8th Georgia held on for forty five minutes, just long enough to delay the enemy until Beauregard and the remainder of Johnston's armies could come up to the lines. In despair and confusion, the Volunteers fell back into a ravine in the rear of the thicket. The Volunteers attempted to rally. The Federals rushed in, nearly surrounding the devastated Pulaski Countians after they managed to get off only one volley of musketry fire. Colonel Francis S. Bartow, a former Georgia Congressman, rode toward the 8th's position. Bartow, who had his horse shot out from underneath him, was escorted by the surviving Volunteers to a more secure position. Col. Bartow sat down to rest. In contemplation of the ongoing tumult, Bartow lamented, "My men are nearly all killed and I can not longer to live. I pray God that a bullet may pierce my heart."
Captain Ryan asked permission for his remaining men to join a South Carolina unit in one last gallant charge. The request was denied and the survivors of the 8th were sent to the rear of the lines out of range of enemy fire. The Confederate lines were collapsing. Col. Bartow, commanding the 7th and 8th Georgia regiments, and Gen. Barnard Bee of South Carolina rushed to the aid of Col. Nathan Evans's men.
Despite the reinforced line, the Confederates began to fall back toward Henry Hill. After a lull in the battle, Gen. Bee attempted to rally his men by yelling the immortal words, " There stands Jackson like a stone wall." Col. Bartow led the 7th Georgia in a charge. His prayer was answered. Bartow received a mortal wound. The dying colonel stated, "They have killed me, boys, but never give up the field." Gen. Bee, too, received a mortal wound. Lt. Col. William Gardner, commanding officer of the 8th Georgia, was severely wounded and removed from the field. The 8th suffered horrific losses.
New and fresh Confederate units smashed the Federal flank. After the firing had slowed to a smattering, the Pulaski Volunteers made their way to an elevated position overlooking the village of Centerville. David G. Fleming of the Volunteers recalled, " Men, carts, wagons, carriages, artillery, horses, and everything rushing frantically and 'topsy-turvy' over each other, and all running for dear life." Soldiers and spectators fled in mass confusion all the way home to Washington. Victory overcame the sting of death, if only briefly. The Volunteers greeted Gen. Beauregard as he came up to salute their efforts. The Confederates whipped the Yankees just like they said they would, but at a cost which was more dear than they ever imagined. Both sides learned that day that the war would not be a quick one. More than a half million more men would die before peace would come.
There was one more task to do before the end of the day. It was not a pleasant one, but it had to be done. The men knew that they had to return to the thicket. Their comrades were there, some wounded, some dying, and some already dead. Alvey Goodson, John Lowery, J.W. Carruthers, and Jesse Scarborough were dead. Thomas Boatright was dying. W.N. Bowen, A.R. Coley, J.E. Floyd, A. McClelland, and Isaac Rains were severely wounded. Sgt. Daniel Mason was there too, blood gushing from a wound in his arm. Bowen, McLelland, and Rains soon died. Fleming pondered, "On viewing the small pines, and remembering how thick the bullets came, our wonder was how any of us escaped, except by protection of an unseen hand."
Sgt. Mason was taken to a primitive field hospital and later transported to Charlottesville, Virginia, where a Confederate surgeon amputated his arm. David Fleming, Mason's dear friend and messmate, described the sergeant as "a most excellent soldier." Mason, like many amputees of the day, didn't make it. After a few weeks of lingering in constant agony, Mason died. He is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Charlottesville. Sgt. Daniel Mason was Laurens County's first victim of that long and eternally tragic war, the War Between the States, which began in earnest with all of its death and horror, one hundred and fifty years ago this week.