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Battle of Big Bethel
New York Times Article

The following article is transcribe from the New York Times, dated June 18, 1861:



          "The honor of a soldier is his life." Having read in your issue of yesterday what purports to be an official report of Capt. KILPATRICK, and finding therein misapprehensions concerning Col. TOWNSEND and his Regiment, I deem it the duty of some one, injustice to him and his command, to correct them. Without going minutely into the details of the march to Brig. Bethel, and without reference to the unfortunate being of Col. BENDIX's men upon the Third Regiment, I will proceed with a relation of the facts of the attack at Big Bethel. After coming within a distance of little more than a quarter of a mile from the fortification of the enemy, Cols. TOWNSEND and DURYEE were ordered by Brigadier Gen. PIERCE to form their respective commands in line of battle -- Col. TOWNSEND on the left of the main road, in an open field, and Col. DURYEE on the right, covered by a thick wood. After waiting a short time for further orders, Col. DURYEE marched his command, by the flank, up the road, towards the battery, but receiving a sharp fire from the enemy, flanked to the right into the wood, where he was again covered by it. Col. TOWNSEND then with his command was ordered to more forward, which he did in perfect order, over fences and ditches, will he reached a line about fifty rods from the enemy, immediately in front and in full view of their main battery, where he formed his line of battle. Here he sent out two companies of his command to skirmish in the vicinity of the enemy. After getting about half way from the main portion of the regiment to the battery, the enemy sent a terrible volley of cannon and rifle shot into their midst, but which was an in-accurately aimed as to do no serious damage. Seeing this, Col. TOWNSEND, mounted on his fine charger, leaped the fence and ditch in front of him and with sword in hand, galloped up to their front in the very face of the enemy, and was soon followed by his entire command. Up to this time there had been no regular advance in the open field, toward the enemy, and close upon the battery, and previously none of the Federal forces had even occupied the open field, save now and then a Zouave who sought the shaker and protection of the buildings and trees in the neighborhood while filing and loading. The only charge in front and face of the battery was made by Col. TOWNSEND and his command. Capt. KILPATRICK, in his report, says that "we (KILPATRICK) maintained our position till Col. TOWNSEND began to retire with his whole command. Being left thus alone, and no prospects of receiving aid, we (KILPATRICK) ordered the men to fall back, which they did, and in good order, forming their line of battle about one hundred and fifty yards in the rear." Now, in this statement, Capt. KILPATRICK is mistaken. In the first place, he had no "position" to "maintain" at this time, unless it was in the wood, on the right of Col. TOWNSEND, where he was invisible from the open field, and out of sight of the main battery. But whatever was his position, it was taken previous to the last advance of Col. TOWNSEND, and unknown to him, consequently, whatever were the movements of Col. TOWNSEND, they had no reference to Capt. KILPATRICK's position, and could not affect it in any way. After Col. TOWNSEND had charged up to the very teeth of the enemy, the only considerable number of Zouaves visible, perhaps from fifty to seventy-five, without an officer, came running behind his regiment and retired in front of it, when the regiment withdrew to its original position, on the left of Col. DURYEE, for the purpose of supporting him, in defence of the howitzers stationed there. Col. TOWNSEND kept his command in line in front of this battery, against a heavy fire, for at least a half hour, with the view of charging the battery. But, receiving no orders to that effect, and finding his command entirely unsupported, also learning that a creek and heavy swail intervened between him and the battery, he withdrew, as before said, to support Col. DURYEE, expecting that the attack would soon be renewed by a concerted movement of the two commands. It is also proper to state here that when Col. TOWNSEND made his last advance from the lane towards the fortifications of the enemy, the majority, at least, of Col. DURYEE's command were on his (TOWNSEND's) right, in the cover of the wood, and were still there, when he returned to his original position. To show more conclusively that Capt. KILPATRICK's statement relative to Col. TOWNSEND's "retiring with his whole command," leaving him (KILPATRICK) alone, is wrong, it is only necessary to state that Lieut.-Col. WARREN remarked to Col. TOWNSEND, in the presence of several officers, that the (WARREN) had been trying a half hour to get his command, of which Capt. KILPATRICK formed a part, together, and had not been able to do so. I do not hesitate to say that had Col. TOWNSEND been supported by Col. DURYEE's Regiment, he would have made a charge upon those intrenched traitors, regardless of the bitter consequences to himself and command. No man ever conducted himself more bravely or gallantly on a field than did Col. TOWNSEND on that day. Hoping you will do me the favor to insert this statement of the fight at Big Bethel, which can be abundantly verified if required, I am Yours, &c. ISAAC S. CATLIN, Commanding Company H, Third Regiment N.Y.S.V. CAMP HAMILTON, FORTRESS MONROE.

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