No. 35. Report of Major George Sykes, Fourteenth U. S. Infantry, commanding battalion of Regulars.
HEADQUARTERS BATTALION OF REGULARS, Camp Turnbull, Va., July 24, 1861.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with your circular of the 23rd instant, I have the honor to report the following casualties that occurred in my command during the recent battle before Manassas: Three commissioned officers wounded; one assistant surgeon missing; 13 rank and file killed, 17 wounded, 12 of whom are missing; 42 missing. A list is inclosed.* Many of the latter are supposed to have taken the Alexandria road by mistake and will no doubt rejoin their colors to-day.
This battalion, composed of two companies of Second U. S. Infantry, five companies of the Third U. S. Infantry, and one company of the Eighth Infantry, left its camp near Centreville about 3.30 a.m. on the 21st instant, and after a circuitous march of ten or twelve miles arrived on the enemy's left, and was immediately ordered to support the force under Colonel Burnside, which was suffering from a severe fire in its front. Our line was rapidly formed, opening fire, and a column under Colonel Heintzelman appearing at the same moment on our left, the enemy fell back to the rising ground in his rear. My battalion was then advanced to the front, and took a position on the edge of a wood immediately opposite a masked battery and a large force of the secessionists posted about aa house and the fences and trees around it. My three left companies were deployed as skirmishers under Captain Dodge, Eighth Infantry, and did great execution among their ranks. At this time the whole battalion became actively engaged, and a Rhode Island battery coming into action on my right, and having no support, at the request of its commanding officer, and seeing myself the necessity of the case, I remained as a protection to his guns. For more than an hour the command was here exposed to a concentrated fire from the batteries and regiments of the enemy, which seemed doubled when the guns of the Rhode Islanders opened. Many of my men assisted in working the latter battery.
As the attack of our Army became more developed on the right, and the necessity for my staying with the guns ceased, I moved my battalion in that direction, passing through crowds of retiring troops, whom we endeavored in vain to rally. Taking a position on the extreme right, in front of several regiments of the enemy, I opened an effective fire upon them, and held my ground until all our troops had fallen back and my flank was turned by a large force of horse and foot. I then retired a short distance in good order, and facing to the enemy on the crest of a hill, held his cavalry in check, which still threatened our flank.
At this stage of the action, my command was the only opposing force to the enemy, and the last to leave the field. By taking advantage of woods and broken ground, I brought it off without loss, although the guns of our opponents were playing on our line of march from every height. While thus retiring, I received an order from the brigade commander to cover the retreat of that portion of the Army near me, which I did as well as I was able, remaining in rear until all of it had passed me.
After crossing Bull Run my command was threatened by a large force of cavalry, but its order and the regularity of its march forbade
*Embodied in division return, p.387.