Category Archives: Battle of Dranesville

1861: Seneca Freeman Minard to John S. Minard

This early-war tintype of an unidentified soldier was probably a member of Kane’s Rifle Regiment. Note the bucktail on the side of his cap. ( Dale Niesen Collection)

This letter was written by Seneca Freeman Minard (1837-1914) of Shippen, Cameron county, Pennsylvania, who mustered into the Kane Rifle Regiment of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps (13th Pennsylvania Reserves, 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry)—better known as the “Bucktail Regiment”—on 1 June 1861 as a private in Co. C. At the time of his enrollment he was described as standing 5′ 9.5″ tall, with black hair, and blue eyes. He gave his occupation just prior to his enlistment as “lumberman.”

At some point Seneca appears to have been promoted to a corporal but there are no muster-out records for him and a note in the regimental history indicates that Seneca deserted his regiment though no date was given. The 1890 Veteran Schedule records him as a resident of Milton, Rock county, Wisconsin and states that he served 2.5 years.

Seneca’s letter describes the Battle of Dranesville that took place between Confederate forces under Brig. General J. E. B. Stuart and Union forces under Brig. Gen. Edward O. C. Ord on 20 December 1861 in Fairfax county, Virginia.


Addressed to John S. Minard, Esq., at Shippen, Camden county, Penna.

Headquarters, Bucktail Regiment
Co. C, Camp Pierpont
December 20th 1861

Dear Brother,

I read a letter from you on the 18th but we went out on a scout the 19th yesterday so I could do no better than to answer you today, thank God. We had a glorious fight & won the field with but little loss on our side but we peppered them like hell. We went about two miles out from our camp [on the Leesburg pike] to a little village called Dranesville. After scouting around there for about an hour we run into a nest of them stationed in a thick grove of little pines. They had four pieces of artillery and about four or five thousand footmen as near as we could find out.

The Bucktails were on the ground first and consequently were in the hottest of the fight. We were coming along the road & one of our [men] saw them planting a cannon in a crossroad to our left and he told the Colonel of it. Then the Colonel took us in behind a large brick house for shelter. we had hardly taken our position when they opened fire on us. The grapeshot and bomb shells flew like hail among us but we laid down as close to the ground as we could hug and they couldn’t do us much harm. But we did not have to stay here long until our big guns got on the ground and then we went in on our shape & within half an hour from the time our cannons got there, we were masters of the field.

Our loss was about ten killed and fifteen wounded—the most of them slightly. There was only three of our regiment killed and five or six wounded. [Lt.-]Col. [Thomas Leiper] Kane was wounded in the cheek but not seriously. 1 I escaped without a scratch. Out of our company, for that matter, there was no one hurt to amount to anything. So much for the fight.

I received a Bucktail from Shippen this morning & don’t know who to thank for it but I guess you are the chap for you said you was going to send one. I am much pleased with it.

Well as this sheet is about full, I will close hoping this may find you well.

Your brother, — Seneca

to John S. Minard

N. B. The date of this is wrong. Today is the 21st. On the 20th we had the skirmish. — Seneca

The killed and wounded of the [Rebs] was 79 left on the ground besides some prisoners we took.

1 Lt. Col. Kane was struck in the face by a ball that pierced his upper jaw. He halted just long enough to tie a bandage and resumed his position at he lead of his men.