Report of Col. John E. Bendix, Seventh New York Infantry
Engagement at Big Bethel, or Bethel Church, Va.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME 2 [S# 2] -- CHAPTER IX.
CAMP BUTLER, NEWPORT NEWS,
Headquarters Seventh Regiment N. Y. V., June 12, 1861.
SIR: On the evening of the 10th instant I proceeded, according to instructions, to the cross-roads, and took my position as reserve with one field piece. The advance, consisting of 300 men of the Vermont, 300 of the Massachusetts, and 150 men belonging to my regiment, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Washburn, of the Vermont regiment, had gone on with one field piece. I was taking my position when we saw what I supposed some cavalry. I asked the gunner if he was loaded. The answer was, "No, sir." Then I directed him to load, but before this was done the firing commenced. Lieutenant Greble, of the U.S. Army, rode forward for assistance. The firing lasted some fifteen minutes--am not certain which commenced the fire. I did not give the word to fire, but think likely my men fired first, and finding the fire returned, and not expecting friends from that quarter, I stopped the firing as soon as I could, and directed one company to guard the rear and one company to go out in the field on the right and find out where the enemy (as I supposed them to be) were situated. Then sent a squad down the road and found to my horror that there had been a sad mistake, having fired upon General Pierce and staff and Colonel Townsend's regiment. Our advance then returned to my assistance. Lieutenant-Colonel Kapff, on my right, then reported that he had taken two prisoners (citizens) with double barreled shot-guns in their hands. One of the pieces had one barrel discharged. The prisoners were sent to Fort Monroe. My men took one gold and one silver watch, with pocketbook, containing some silver and paper money, from them, which I have, subject to orders.
I was then ordered to bring up the rear of the column, and proceed to Big Bethel. We had marched some six or seven miles, when I was ordered to the front with the field piece, and before we had got ready for action the enemy opened their fire upon us, striking one man down by my side at the first shot. Not expecting this, it caused some confusion, and having received no orders, I did the best I could as skirmishers in the woods. I then looked for General Pierce, and by his direction took my position on the enemy's left flank with some two hundred Vermont and Massachusetts troops, and we were not strong enough to make an attack, and after firing some time, withdrew back into the woods. When we got into the woods I found the troops retiring, and followed. I then saw General Pierce, who told me to retire, which I did in the main column until we came to the cross-roads, when our detachment came to Newport News.
I am, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN E. BENDIX,
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