Reports of Gen. G. T. Beauregard, C. S. Army, and Resulting Correspondence (Part 1)
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 484 – 504
HDQRS. FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Fairfax Court-House, October 14, 1861
SIR: I have the honor to transmit by my aide, Lieut. S. W. Ferguson, the report of the battle of Manassas, with the accompanying papers and drawings(*), as well as the flags and colors captured from the enemy on that occasion. Occupations of the gravest character have prevented their earlier transmission. I send as a guard of said colors two of the soldiers who participated in their capture.
I remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. T. BEAUREGARD,
Gen. SAMUEL COOPER,
Adjutant General C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.
*Drawings not found
HDQRS. FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Manassas, August 26 [October 14], 1861
GENERAL: Before entering upon a narration of the general military operations in the presence of the enemy on the 21st of July, I propose, I hope not unseasonably, first to recite certain events which belong to the strategy of the campaign, and consequently form an essential part of the history of the battle.
Having become satisfied that the advance of the enemy, with a decidedly superior force, both as to numbers and war equipage, to attack or turn my position in this quarter, was immediately impending, I dispatched on the 13th of July one of my staff, Col. James Chesnut, of South Carolina, to submit for the consideration of the President a plan of operations substantially as follows:
I proposed that General Johnston should unite as soon as possible the bulk of the Army of the Shenandoah with that of the Potomac, then under my command, leaving only sufficient forces to garrison his strong works at Winchester, and to guard the fine defensive passes of the Blue Ridge, and thus hold General Patterson in check. At the same time Brigadier-General Holmes was to march hither with all of his command not essential for the defense of the position of Aquia Creek. These junctions having been effected at Manassas, an immediate impetuous attack of our combined armies upon General McDowell was to follow as soon as he approached my advanced positions at and around Fairfax Court-House, with the inevitable result, as I submitted, of his complete defeat and the destruction or capture of his army. This accomplished, the Army of the Shenandoah, under General Johnston, increased with a part of my forces, and rejoined as he returned by the detachments left to hold the mountain passes, was to march back rapidly into the valley, fall upon and crush Patterson with a superior force wheresoever he might be found. This I confidently estimated could be achieved within fifteen days after General Johnston should march from Winchester for Manassas. Meanwhile I was to occupy the enemy’s works on this side of the Potomac if, as I anticipated, he had been so routed as to enable me to enter them with him; or if not, to retire again for a time within the lines of Bull Run with my main force. Patterson having been virtually destroyed, then General Johnston would re-enforce General Garnett sufficiently to make him superior to his opponent, General McClellan, and able to defeat that officer. This done, General Garnett was to form an immediate junction with General Johnston, who was forthwith to cross the Potomac into Maryland with his whole force, arouse the people as he advanced to the recovery of their political rights and the defense of their homes and families from an offensive invader, and then march to the investment of Washington in the rear, whilst I resumed the offensive in front. This plan of operations, you are aware, was not accepted at the time, from considerations which appeared so weighty as to more than counterbalance its proposed advantages.
Informed of these views, and of the decision of the War Department, I then made my preparations for the stoutest practicable defense of the line of Bull Run, the enemy having now developed his purposes by the advance on and occupation of Fairfax Court-House, from which my advanced brigade had been withdrawn.
The War Department having been informed by me by telegraph on the 17th July of the movement of General McDowell, General Johnston was immediately ordered to form a junction of his army corps with mine, should the movement in his judgment be deemed advisable. General Holmes was also directed to push forward with two regiments, a battery, and one company of cavalry.
In view of these propositions, approaching re-enforcements modifying my plan of operations so far as to determine on attacking the enemy at Centreville as soon as I should hear of the near approach of the two re-enforcing columns, I sent one of my aides, Colonel Chisolm, of South Carolina, to meet and communicate my plans to General Johnston, and my wish that one portion of his forces should march by the way of Aldie, and take the enemy on his right flank and in reverse at Centreville. Difficulties, however, of an insuperable character, in connection with means of transportation and the marching condition of his troops, made this impracticable, and it was determined our forces should be united within the lines of Bull Run, and thence advance to the attack of the enemy.
General Johnston arrived here about noon on the 20th July, and being my senior in rank he necessarily assumed command of all the forces of the Confederate States then concentrating at this point. Made acquainted with my plan of operations and dispositions to meet the enemy, he gave them his entire approval, and generously directed their execution under my command.
In consequence of the untoward detention, however, of some five thousand of General Johnston’s army corps, resulting from the inadequate and imperfect means of transportation for so many troops at the disposition of the Manassas Gap Railroad, it became necessary, on the morning of the 21st, before daylight, to modify the plan accepted to suit the contingency of an immediate attack on our lines by the main force of the enemy, then plainly at hand.
The enemy’s forces, reported by their best-informed journals to be fifty-five thousand strong, I had learned from reliable sources on the night of the 20th were being concentrated in and around Centreville and along the Warrenton turnpike road to Bull Run, near which our respective pickets were in immediate proximity. This fact, with the conviction that after his signal discomfiture on the 18th of July before Blackburn’s Fords–the center of my lines–he would not renew the attack in that quarter, induced me at once to look for an attempt on my left flank, resting on the stone bridge, which was but weakly guarded by men, as well as but slightly provided with artificial defensive appliances and artillery.
In view of these palpable military conditions, by 4.30 a.m. on the 21st of July I had prepared and dispatched orders directing the whole of the Confederate forces within the lines of Bull Run, including the brigades and regiments of General Johnston, which had arrived at that time, to be held in readiness to march at a moment’s notice. At that hour the following was the disposition of our forces: Ewell’s brigade, constituted as on the 18th of July, remained in position at Union Mills Ford, its left extending along Bull Run in the direction of McLean’s Ford, and supported by Holmes’ brigade, Second Tennessee and First Arkansas Regiments, a short distance to the rear–that is, at and near Camp Wigfall. D. R. Jones’ brigade, from Ewell’s left, in front of McLean’s Ford and along the stream to Longstreet’s position. It was unchanged in organization, and was supported by Early’s brigade, also unchanged, placed behind a thicket of young pines a short distance in the rear of McLean’s Ford. Longstreet’s brigade held its former ground at Blackburn’s Ford, from Jones’ left to Bonham’s right, at Mitchell’s Ford, and was supported by Jackson’s brigade, consisting of Cols. James F. Preston’s Fourth, Harper’s Fifth, Allen’s Second, the Twenty-seventh, Lieutenant-Colonel Echols, and the Thirty-third, Cummings’ Virginia Regiments, two thousand six hundred and eleven strong, which were posted behind the skirting of pines to the rear of Blackburn’s and Mitchell’s Fords, and in rear of this support was also Barksdale’s Thirteenth Regiment Mississippi Volunteers, which had lately arrived from Lynchburg. Along the edge of a pine thicket, in rear of and equidistant from McLean’s and Blackburn’s Fords, ready to support either position, I had also placed all of Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades that had arrived, namely: Two companies of the Eleventh Mississippi, Lieutenant-Colonel Liddell; the Second Mississippi, Colonel Falkner, and Fourth Alabama, with Seventh and Eighth Georgia Regiments, Colonel Gartrell and Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner–in all two thousand seven hundred and thirty-two bayonets. Bonham’s brigade, as before, held Mitchell’s Ford, its right near Longstreet’s left, its left extending in the direction of Cocke’s right. It was organized as at the end of the 18th of July, with Jackson’s brigade, as before said, as a support.
Cocke’s brigade, increased by seven companies of the Eighth, Hunton’s, three companies of the Forty-ninth, Smith’s, Virginia Regiments, two companies of cavalry, and a battery, under Rogers, of four 6-pounders, occupied the line in front and rear of Bull Run, extending from the direction of Bonham’s left, and guarding Island, Ball’s, and Lewis’ Fords, to the right of Evans’ demi-brigade, near the stone bridge, also under General Cooke’s command. The latter held the stone bridge, and its left covered a farm ford about one mile above the bridge.
Stuart’s Cavalry, some three hundred men of the Army of the Shenandoah, guarded the level ground extending in rear from Bonham’s left to Cocke’s right.
Two companies of Radford’s cavalry were held in reserve a short distance in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, his left extending in the direction of Stuart’s right.
Colonel Pendleton’s reserve battery of eight pieces was temporarily placed in rear of Bonham’s extreme left.
Major Walton’s reserve battery of five guns was in position on McLean’s farm in a piece of woods in rear of Bee’s right.
Hampton’s Legion, of six companies of infantry, 600 strong, having arrived that morning by the cars from Richmond, was subsequently, as soon as it arrived, ordered forward to a position in the immediate vicinity of the Lewis house as a support for any troops engaged in that quarter.
The effective force of all arms of the Army of the Potomac on that eventful morning, including the garrison at Camp Pickens, did not exceed 21,833 and 29 guns. The Army of the Shenandoah, ready for action on the field, may be set at 6,000 men and 20 guns. (That is, when the battle began. Smith’s brigade and Fisher’s North Carolina came up later, and made total of Army of the Shenandoah engaged, of all arms, 8,334. Hill’s Virginia Regiment, 550, also arrived, but was posted as reserve to right flank.) The brigade of General Holmes mustered about 1,265 bayonets, 6 guns, and a company of cavalry about 90 strong.
Informed at 5.30 a.m. by Colonel Evans that the enemy had deployed some twelve hundred men (these were what Colonel Evans saw of General Schenck’s brigade of General Tyler’s division and two other heavy brigades—in all over nine thousand men and thirteen pieces of artillery, Carlisle’s and Ayres’ batteries; that is, nine hundred men and two 6-pounders, confronted by nine thousand men and thirteen pieces of artillery, mostly rifled) with several pieces of artillery in his immediate front, I at once ordered him, as also General Cooke, if attacked, to maintain their position to the last extremity.
In my opinion the most effective method of relieving that flank was by a rapid, determined attack with my right wing and center on the enemy’s flank and rear at Centreville, with due precautions against the advance of his reserves from the direction of Washington. By such a movement I confidently expected to achieve a complete victory for my country by 12 m.
These new dispositions were submitted to General Johnston, who fully approved them, and the orders for their immediate execution were at once issued.
Brigadier-General Ewell was directed to begin the movement, to be followed and supported successively by Generals D. R. Jones, Longstreet, and Bonham, respectively, supported by their several appointed reserves. The cavalry, under Stuart and Radford, were to be held in hand, subject to future orders and ready for employment, as might be required by the exigencies of the battle.
About 8.30 a.m. General Johnston and myself transferred our headquarters to a central position, about half a mile in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, whence we might watch the course of events. Previously, as early as 5.30, the Federalists in front of Evans’ position (stone bridge) had opened with a large 30-pounder Parrott rifled gun, and thirty minutes later with a moderate, apparently tentative, fire from a battery of rifled pieces, directed first in front of Evans’, and then in the direction of Cocke’s position, but without drawing a return fire and discovery of our positions, chiefly because in that quarter we had nothing but eight 6 pounder pieces, which could not reach the distant enemy.
As the Federalists had advanced with an extended line of skirmishers in front of Evans, that officer promptly threw forward the two flank companies of the Fourth South Carolina Regiment and one company of Wheat’s Louisiana Battalion, deployed as skirmishers to cover his small front. An occasional scattering fire resulted, and thus the two armies in that quarter remained for more than an hour, while the main body of the enemy was marching his devious way through the Big Forest to take our forces in flank and rear.
By 8.30 a.m. Colonel Evans, having become satisfied of the counterfeit character of the movement on his front, and persuaded of an attempt to turn his left flank, decided to change his position to meet the enemy, and for this purpose immediately put in motion to his left and rear six companies of Sloan’s Fourth South Carolina Regiment, Wheat’s Louisiana Battalion’s five companies, and two 6-pounders of Latham’s battery, leaving four companies of Sloan’s regiment under cover as the sole immediate defense of the stone bridge, but giving information to General Cocke of his change of position and the red, sons that impelled it.
Following a road leading by the old Pittsylvania (Carter) mansion, Colonel Evans formed in line of battle some four hundred yards in rear, as he advanced, of that house, his guns to the front and in position, properly supported, to its immediate right. Finding, however, that the enemy did not appear on that road, which was a branch of one leading by Sudley Springs Ford to Brentsville and Dumfries, he turned abruptly to the left, and marching across the fields for three-quarters of a mile, about 9.30 a.m. took a position in line of battle, his left, Sloan’s companies, resting on the main Brentsville road in a shallow ravine, the Louisiana Battalion to the right, in advance some two hundred yards, a rectangular copse of wood separating them, one piece of his artillery planted on an eminence some seven hundred yards to the rear of Wheat’s battalion, and the other on a ridge near and in rear of Sloan’s position, commanding a reach of the road just in front of the line of battle. In this order he awaited the coming of the masses of the enemy, now drawing near.
In the mean time, about 7 o’clock a.m., Jackson’s brigade, with Imboden’s and five pieces of Walton’s battery, had been sent to take up a position along Bull Run, to guard the interval between Cooke’s right and Bonham’s left, with orders to support either in case of need, the character and topographical features of the ground having been shown to General Jackson by Capt. D. B. Harris, of the engineers, of this army corps. So much of Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades, now united, as had arrived, some 2,800 muskets, had also been sent forward to the support of the position of the stone bridge.
The enemy, beginning his detour from the turnpike at a point nearly half-way between stone bridge and Centreville, had pursued a tortuous, narrow trace of a rarely-used road through a dense wood the greater part of his way until near the Sudley road. A division under Colonel Hunter, of the Federal Regular Army, of two strong brigades, was in the advance, followed immediately by another division, under Colonel Heintzelman, of three brigades and seven companies of Regular Cavalry, and twenty-four pieces of artillery, eighteen of which were rifled guns. This column, as it crossed Bull Run, numbered over sixteen thousand men of all arms by their own accounts.
Burnside’s brigade–which here, as at Fairfax Court-House, led the advance–at about 9.45 a.m. debouched from a wood in sight of Evans’ position, some five hundred yards distant from Wheat’s battalion. He immediately threw forward his skirmishers in force, and they became engaged with Wheat’s command, and the 6-pounder gun under Lieutenant Leftwitch. The Federalists at once advanced–as they report officially–the Second Rhode Island Regiment Volunteers, with its vaunted battery of six 13-pounder rifled guns. Sloan’s companies were then brought into action, having been pushed forward through the woods. The enemy, soon galled and staggered by the fire and pressed by the determined valor with which Wheat handled his battalion until he was desperately wounded, hastened up three other regiments of the brigade and two Dahlgren howitzers, making in all quite three thousand five hundred bayonets and eight pieces of artillery, opposed to less than eight hundred men and two 6-pounder guns. Despite this odds, this intrepid command, of but eleven weak companies, maintained its front to the enemy for quite an hour, and until General Bee came to their aid with his command. The heroic Bee, with a soldier’s eye and recognition of the situation, had previously disposed his command with skill, Imboden’s battery having been admirably placed between the two brigades, under shelter, behind the undulations of a hill about one hundred and fifty yards north of the now famous Henry house, and very near where he subsequently fell mortally wounded, to the great misfortune of his country, but after deeds of deliberate and ever-memorable courage. Meanwhile the enemy had pushed forward a battalion of eight companies of regular infantry, and one of their best batteries of six pieces (four rifled), supported by four companies of marines, to increase the desperate odds against which Evans and his men had maintained their stand with an almost matchless tenacity. General Bee, now finding Evans sorely pressed under the crushing weight of the masses of the enemy, at the call of Colonel Evans threw forward his whole force to his aid across a small stream (Young’s Branch and Valley), and engaged the Federalists with impetuosity, Imboden’s battery at the time playing from his well-chosen position with brilliant effect with spherical case, the enemy having first opened on him from a rifle battery (probably Griffin’s) with elongated cylindrical shells, which flew a few feet over the heads of our men and exploded in the crest of the hill immediately in rear.
As Bee advanced under a severe fire he placed the Seventh and Eighth Georgia Regiments under the chivalrous Bartow, at about 11 a.m. in a wood of second-growth pines, to the right and front of and nearly perpendicular to Evans line of battle; the Fourth Alabama to the left of them, along a fence, connecting the position of the Georgia regiments with the rectangular copse in which Sloan’s South Carolina companies were engaged? and into which he also threw the Second Mississippi. A fierce and destructive conflict now ensued. The fire was withering on both sides, while the enemy swept our short thin lines with their numerous artillery, which, according to their official reports, at this time consisted of at least ten rifled guns and four howitzers. For an hour did these stout-hearted men of the blended commands of Bee, Evans, and Barrow breast an unintermitting battle-storm, animated surely by something more than the ordinary courage of even the bravest men under fire. It must have been indeed the inspiration of the cause and consciousness of the great stake at issue which thus nerved and animated one and all to stand unawed and unshrinking in such extremity.
Two Federal brigades of Heintzelman’s division were now brought into action, led by Ricketts” superb light battery of six 10-pounder rifled guns, which, posted on an eminence to the right of the Sudley road, opened fire on Imboden’s battery–about this time increased by two rifled pieces of the Washington Artillery under Lieutenant Richardson, and already the mark of two batteries, which divided their fire with Imboden and two guns under Lieutenants Davidson and Leftwitch, of Latham’s battery, posted as before mentioned. At this time confronting the enemy we had still but Evans’ eleven companies and two guns, Bee’s and Bartow’s four regiments, the two companies Eleventh Mississippi under Lieutenant-Colonel Liddell, and the six pieces under Imboden and Richardson. The enemy had two divisions of four strong brigades, including seventeen companies of regular infantry, cavalry, and artillery, four companies of marines, and twenty pieces of artillery. (See official reports of Colonels Heintzelman, Porter, &c.) Against this odds, scarcely credible, our advance position was still for a while maintained, and the enemy’s ranks constantly broken and shattered under the scorching fire of our men; but fresh regiments of the Federalists came upon the field. Sherman’s and Keyes’ brigades of Tyler’s division, as is stated in their reports, numbering over six thousand bayonets, which had found a passage across the run about eight hundred yards above the stone bridge, threatened our right.
Heavy losses bad now been sustained on our side both in numbers and in the personal worth of the slain. The Eighth Georgia Regiment had suffered heavily, being exposed, as it took and maintained its position, to a fire from the enemy, already posted within a hundred yards of their front and right, sheltered by fences and other cover. It was at this time that Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner was severely wounded, as also several other valuable officers. The adjutant of the regiment, Lieutenant Branch, was killed, and the horse of the regretted Barrow was shot under him. The Fourth Alabama also suffered severely from the deadly fire of the thousands of muskets which they so dauntlessly confronted under the immediate leadership of Bee himself. Its brave colonel (E. J. Jones) was dangerously wounded, and many gallant officers fell, slain or hors de combat.
Now, however, with the surging mass of over fourteen thousand Federal infantry pressing on their front and under the incessant fire of at least twenty pieces of artillery, with the fresh brigades of Sherman and Keyes approaching, the latter already in musket range, our lines gave back, but under orders from General Bee. The enemy, maintaining their fire, pressed their swelling masses onward as our shattered battalions retired. The slaughter for the moment was deplorable, and has filled many a Southern home with life-long sorrow. Under this inexorable stress the retreat continued, until arrested by the energy and resolution of General Bee, supported by Barrow and Evans, just in rear of the Robinson house, and Hampton’s Legion, which had been already advanced and was in position near it. Imboden’s battery, which had been handled with marked skill, but whose men were almost exhausted, and the two pieces of Walton’s battery, under Lieutenant Richardson, being threatened by the enemy’s infantry on the left and front, were also obliged to fall back. Imboden, leaving a disabled piece on the ground, retired until he met Jackson’s brigade, while Richardson joined the main body of his battery near the Lewis house.
As our infantry retired from the extreme front the two 6-pounders of Latham’s battery before mentioned fell back with excellent judgment to suitable positions in the rear, where an effective fire was maintained upon the still advancing lines of the Federalists with damaging effect until their ammunition was nearly exhausted, when they too were withdrawn in the near presence of the enemy and rejoined their captain.
From the point, previously indicated, where General Johnston and myself had established our headquarters, we heard the continuous roll of musketry and the sustained din of the artillery, which announced the serious outburst of the battle on our left flank, and we anxiously but confidently awaited similar sounds of conflict from our front at Centreville, resulting from the prescribed attack in that quarter by our right wing.
At 10:30 a.m., however, this expectation was dissipated, from Brigadier-General Ewell informing me, to my profound disappointment, that my orders for his advance had miscarried, but that in consequence of a communication from Gen. D. R. Jones he had just thrown his brigade across the stream at Union Mills. But in my judgment it was now too late for the effective execution of the contemplated movement, which must have required quite three hours for the troops to get into position for the attack. Therefore it became immediately necessary to depend on new combinations and other dispositions suited to the now pressing exigency. The movement of the right and center, already begun by Jones and Longstreet, was at once countermanded with the sanction of General Johnston, and we arranged to meet the enemy on the field upon which he had chosen to give us battle.
Under these circumstances our reserves not already in movement were immediately ordered up to support our left flank, namely, Holmes’ two regiments and battery of artillery, under Capt. Lindsey Walker, of six guns, and Early’s brigade. Two regiments from Bonham’s brigade, with Kemper’s four 6-pounders, were also called for and, with the sanction of General Johnston, Generals Ewell, Jones (D. R.), Longstreet, and Bonham were directed to make a demonstration to their several fronts, to retain and engross the enemy’s reserves and any forces on their flank and at and around Centreville. Previously our respective chiefs of staff, Major Rhett and Colonel Jordan, had been left at my headquarters to hasten up and give directions to any troops that might arrive at Manassas.
These orders having been duly dispatched by staff officers, at 11.30 a.m. General Johnston and myself set out for the immediate field of action, which we reached in the rear of the Robinson and Widow Henry’s houses at about 12 m., and just as the commands of Bee, Bar-tow, and Evans had taken shelter in a wooded ravine behind the former, stoutly held at the time by Hampton with his Legion, which had made stand there after having previously been as far forward as the turnpike, where Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, an officer of brilliant promise, was killed, and other severe losses were sustained.
Before our arrival upon the scene General Jackson had moved forward with his brigade of five Virginia regiments from his position in reserve, and had judiciously taken post below the brim of the plateau, nearly east of the Henry house, and to the left of the ravine and woods occupied by the mingled remnants of Bee’s, Bartow’s, and Evans’ commands, with Imboden’s battery and two of Stanard’s pieces placed so as to play upon the on-coming enemy, supported in the immediate rear by Col. J. F. Preston’s and Lieutenant-Colonel Echols’ regiments, on the right by Harper’s, and on the left by Allen’s and Cummings’ regiments.
As soon as General Johnston and myself reached the field we were occupied with the reorganization of the heroic troops, whose previous stand, with scarce a parallel, has nothing more valiant in all the pages of history, and whose losses fitly tell why at length their ranks had lost their cohesion.
It was now that General Johnston impressively and gallantly charged to the front, with the colors of the Fourth Alabama Regiment by his side, all the field officers of the regiment having been previously disabled. Shortly afterwards I placed S. R. Gist, adjutant and inspector general of South Carolina, a volunteer aide of General Bee, in command of this regiment, and who led it again to the front as became its previous behavior, and remained with it for the rest of the day.
As soon as we had thus rallied and disposed our forces, I urged General Johnston to leave the immediate conduct of the field to me, while he, repairing to Portici, the Lewis house, should urge re-enforcement–forward. At first he was unwilling, but reminded that one of us must do so, and that properly it was his place, he reluctantly, but fortunately, complied; fortunately, because from that position, by his energy and sagacity, his keen perception and anticipation of my needs, he so directed the reserves as to insure the success of the day.
As General Johnston departed for Portici, Colonel Bartow reported to me with the remains of the Seventh Georgia Volunteers, Gartrell’s, which I ordered him to post on the left of Jackson’s line in the edge of the belt of pines bordering the southeastern rim of the plateau, on which the battle was now to rage so long and so fiercely.
Col. William Smith’s battalion of the Forty-ninth Virginia Volunteers, having also come up by my orders, I placed it on the left of Gartrell’s, as my extreme left at the time. Repairing then to the right, I placed Hampton’s Legion, which have suffered greatly, on that flank somewhat to the rear of Harper’s regiment, and also the seven companies of the Eighth (Hunton’s) Virginia Regiment, which, detached from Cocke’s brigade by my orders and those of General Johnston, had opportunely reached the ground. These, with Harper’s regiment, constituted a reserve to protect our right flank from an advance of the enemy from the quarter of the stone bridge, and served as a support for the line of battle, which was formed on the right by Bee’s and Evans’ commands, in the center by four regiments of Jackson’s brigade, with Imboden’s four 6-pounders, Walton’s five guns (two rifled), two guns (one piece rifled) of Stanard’s, and two 6-pounders of Rogers’ batteries, the latter under Lieutenant Heaton, and on the left by Gartrell’s reduced ranks and Colonel Smith’s battalion, subsequently re-enforced, Falkner’s Second Mississippi Regiment, and by another regiment of the Army of the Shenandoah, just arrived upon the field–the Sixth (Fisher’s) North Carolina. Confronting the enemy at this time my forces numbered at most not more than sixty-five hundred infantry and artillerists, with but thirteen pieces of artillery and two companies (Carter’s and Hoge’s) of Stuart’s Cavalry.
The enemy’s force now bearing hotly and confidently down on our position, regiment after regiment of the best-equipped men that ever took the field according to their own official history of the day, was formed of Colonels Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, Colonels Sherman’s and Keyes’ brigades of Tyler’s division, and of the formidable batteries of Ricketts, Griffin, and Arnold (regulars), and Second Rhode Island and two Dahlgren howitzers–a force of over twenty thousand infantry, seven companies of regular cavalry, and twenty-four pieces of improved artillery. At the same time perilous heavy reserves of infantry and artillery hung in the distance around the stone bridge, Mitchell’s, Blackburn’s, and Union Mills Fords, visibly ready to fall upon us at any moment, and I was also assured of the existence of other heavy corps at and around Centreville and elsewhere within convenient supporting distances.
Fully conscious of this portentous disparity of force, as I posted the lines for the encounter I sought to infuse into the hearts of my officers and men the confidence and determined spirit of resistance to this wicked invasion of the homes of a free people which I felt. I informed them that re-enforcements would rapidly come to their support, and that we must at all hazards hold our posts until re-enforced. I reminded them that we fought for our homes, our firesides, and for the independence of our country. I urged them to the resolution of victory or death on that field. These sentiments were loudly, eagerly cheered wheresoever proclaimed, and I then felt reassured of the unconquerable spirit of that army, which would enable us to wrench victory from the host then threatening us with destruction.
Oh, my country! I would readily have sacrificed my life and those of all the brave men around me to save your honor and to maintain your independence from the degrading yoke which those ruthless invaders had come to impose and render perpetual, and the day’s issue has assured me that such emotions must also have animated all under my command.
In the mean time the enemy had seized upon the plateau on which Robinson’s and the Henry houses are situated–the position first occupied in the morning by General Bee before advancing to the support of Evans. Ricketts’ battery of six rifled guns, the pride of the Federalists, the object of their unstinted expenditure in outfit, and the equally powerful regular light battery of Griffin, were brought forward and placed in immediate action, after having, conjointly with the batteries already mentioned, played from former positions with destructive effect upon our forward battalions.
The topographical features of the plateau, now become the stage of the contending armies, must be described in outline. A glance at the map will show that it is inclosed on three sides by small water-courses, which empty into Bull Run within a few yards of each other a half a mile to the south of the stone bridge. Rising to an elevation of quite one hundred feet above the level of Bull Run at the bridge, it falls off on three sides to the level of the inclosing streams in gentle slopes, but which are furrowed by ravines of irregular direction and length, and studded with clumps and patches of young pines and oaks. The general direction of the crest of the plateau is oblique to the course of Bull Run in that quarter and to the Brentsville and turnpike roads, which intersect each other at right angles. Immediately surrounding the two houses before mentioned are small open fields of irregular outline, not exceeding one hundred and fifty acres in extent. The houses, occupied at the time, the one by the Widow Henry and the other by the free negro Robinson, are small wooden buildings, the latter densely embowered in trees and environed by a double row of fences on two sides. Around the eastern and southern brow of the plateau an almost unbroken fringe of second-growth pines gave excellent shelter for our marksmen, who availed themselves of it with the most satisfactory skill. To the west, adjoining the fields, a broad belt of oaks extends directly across the crest on both sides of the Sudley road, in which during the battle regiments of both armies met and contended for the mastery. From the open ground of this plateau the view embraces a wide expanse of woods and gently undulating open country of broad grass and grain fields in all directions, including the scene of Evans’ and Bee’s recent encounter with the enemy, some twelve hundred yards to the northward.
In reply to the play of the enemy’s batteries our own artillery had not been either idle or unskillful. The ground occupied by our guns, on a level with that held by the batteries of the enemy, was an open space of limited extent, behind a low undulation just at the eastern verge of the plateau, some live or six hundred yards from the Henry house. Here, as before said, thirteen pieces, mostly 6-pounders, were, maintained in action; the several batteries of Imboden, Stanard, Pendleton (Rockbridge Artillery), and Alburtis, of the Army of the Shenandoah, and five guns of Walton’s and Heaton’s section of Rogers’ battery of the Army of the Potomac, alternating to some extent with each other, and taking part as needed, all from the outset displaying that marvelous capacity of our people as artillerists which has made them, it would appear, at once the terror and the admiration of the enemy. As was soon apparent, the Federalists had suffered severely from our artillery and from the fire of our musketry on the right, and especially from the left flank, placed under cover, within whose galling range they had been advanced; and we are told in their official reports how regiment after regiment thrown forward to dislodge us was broken, never to recover its entire organization on that field.
In the mean time, also, two companies of Stuart’s Cavalry ((Carter’s and Hoge’s) made a dashing charge down the Brentsville and Sudley road upon the Fire Zouaves, then the enemy’s right; on the plateau, which added to their disorder wrought by our musketry on that flank. But still the press of the enemy was heavy in that quarter of the field as fresh troops were thrown forward there to outflank us, and some three guns of a battery in an attempt to obtain a position, apparently to enfilade our batteries, were thrown so close to the Thirty-third Regiment, Jackson’s brigade, that that regiment, springing forward, seized them, but with severe loss, and was subsequently driven back by an overpowering force of Federal musketry.
Now, full 2 o’clock p.m., I gave the order for the right of my line, except my reserves, to advance to recover the plateau. It was done with uncommon resolution and vigor, and at the same time Jackson’s brigade pierced the enemy’s center with the determination of veterans and the spirit of men who fight for a sacred cause, but it suffered seriously. With equal spirit the other parts of the line made the onset, and the Federal lines were broken and swept back at all points from the open ground of the plateau. Rallying soon, however, as they were strongly re-enforced by fresh regiments, the Federalists returned, and by weight of numbers pressed our lines back, recovered their ground and guns, and renewed the offensive.
By this time, between half past two and 3 o’clock p.m., our re-enforcements pushed forward, and, directed by General Johnston to the required quarter, were at hand just as I had ordered forward to a second effort for the recovery of the disputed plateau the whole line, including my reserve, which at this crisis of the battle I felt called upon to lead in person. This attack was general, and was shared in by every regiment then in the field, including the Sixth (Fisher’s) Worth Carolina Regiment, which had just come up and taken position on the immediate left of the Forty-ninth Virginia Regiment. The whole open ground was again swept clear of the enemy, and the plateau around the Henry and Robinson houses remained finally in our possession with the greater part of the Ricketts and Griffin batteries, and a flag of the First Michigan Regiment, captured by the Twenty-seventh Virginia Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Echols, of Jackson’s brigade.
This part of the day was rich with deeds of individual coolness and dauntless conduct, as well as well-directed embodied resolution and bravery, but fraught with the loss to the service of the country of lives of inestimable preciousness at this juncture. The brave Bee was mortally wounded at the head of the Fourth Alabama and some Mississippians. In the open field near the Henry house, and a few yards distant, the promising life of Bartow, while leading the Seventh Georgia Regiment, was quenched in blood. Col. F. J. Thomas, acting chief of ordnance, of General Johnston’s staff, after gallant conduct and most efficient service, was also slain. Colonel Fisher, Sixth North Carolina, likewise fell, after soldierly behavior at the head of his regiment with ranks greatly thinned.
Withers’ Eighteenth Regiment, of Cocke’s brigade, had come up in time to follow this charge, and, in conjunction with Hampton’s Legion, captured several rifled pieces, which may have fallen previously in possession of some of our troops, but if so, had been recovered by the enemy. These pieces were immediately turned and effectively served on distant masses of the enemy by the hands of some of our officers.
While the enemy had thus been driven back on our right entirely across the turnpike and beyond Young’s Branch on our left, the woods yet swarmed with them when our re-enforcements opportunely arrived in quick succession and took position in that portion of the field. Kershaw’s Second and Cash’s Eighth South Carolina Regiments, which had arrived soon after Withers, were led through the oaks just east of the Sudley-Brentsville road, brushing some of the enemy before them, and taking an advantageous position along and west of that road, opened with much skill and effect on bodies of the enemy that had been rallied under cover of a strong Federal brigade posted on a plateau in the southwest angle formed by intersection of the turnpike with the Sudley-Brentsville road. Among the troops thus engaged were the Federal regular infantry.
At the same time Kemper’s battery, passing northward by the Sudley-Brentsville road, took position on the open space, under orders of Colonel Kershaw, near where an enemy’s battery had been captured, and was opened with effective results upon the Federal right, then the mark also of Kershaw’s and Cash’s regiments. Preston’s Twenty-eighth Regiment, of Cocke’s brigade, had by that time entered the same body of oaks, and encountered some Michigan troops, capturing their brigade commander, Colonel Willcox.
Another important accession to our forces had also occurred about the same time, 3 o’clock p.m. Brig. Gen. E. K. Smith, with some seventeen hundred infantry, of Elzey’s brigade, of the Army of the Shenandoah, and Beckham’s battery came upon the field from Camp Pickens, Manassas, where they had arrived by railroad at noon. Directed in person by General Johnston to the left, then so much endangered, on reaching a position in rear of the oak woods, south of the Henry house, and immediately east of the Sudley road, General Smith was disabled by a severe wound, and his valuable services were lost at that critical juncture; but the command devolved upon a meritorious officer of experience, Colonel Elzey, who led his infantry at once somewhat farther to the left, in the direction of the Chinn house, across the road, through the oaks skirting the west side of the road, and around which he sent the battery, under Lieutenant Beckham. This officer took up a most favorable position near that house, whence, with a clear view of the Federal right and center, filling the open fields to the west of the Brentsville-Sudley road and gently sloping southward, he opened fire with his battery upon them with deadly and damaging effect.
Colonel Early, who by some mischance did not receive orders until 2 o’clock which had been sent him at noon, came on the ground immediately after Elzey, with Kemper’s Seventh Virginia, Hays’ Seventh Louisiana, and Barksdale’s Thirteenth Mississippi Regiments. This brigade, by the personal direction of General Johnston, was marched by the Holkham house across the fields to the left, entirely around the woods through which Elzey had passed, and under a severe fire, into a position in line of battle near Chinn’s house, outflanking the enemy’s right.
At this time, about 3.30 p, m., the enemy, driven back on their left and center and brushed from the woods bordering the Sudley road, south and west of the Henry house, had formed a line of battle of truly formidable proportions, of crescent outline, reaching on their left from vicinity of Pittsylvania (the old Carter mansion), by Mathews’ and in rear of Dogan’s, across the turnpike near to Chinn’s house. The woods and fields were filled with their masses of infantry a and their carefully-preserved cavalry. It was a truly magnificent, though redoubtable, spectacle as they threw forward in flue style on the broad, gentle slopes of the ridge occupied by their main lines a cloud of skirmishers, preparatory for another attack.
But as Early formed his line, and Beckham’s pieces played upon the right of the enemy, Elzey’s brigade, Gibbons’ Tenth Virginia, Lieutenant-Colonel Steuart’s First Maryland, and Vaughn’s Third Tennessee Regiments, Cash’s Eighth and Kershaw’s Second South Carolina, Withers, Eighteenth and Preston’s Twenty-eighth Virginia advanced in an irregular line, almost simultaneously, with great spirit from their several positions upon the front and flanks of the enemy in their quarter of the field. At the same time, too, Early resolutely assailed their right flank and rear. Under this combined attack the enemy was soon forced first over the narrow plateau in the southern angle made by the two roads so often mentioned into a patch of woods on its western slope, thence back over Young’s Branch and the turnpike into the fields of the Dogan farm and rearward, in extreme disorder in all available directions towards Bull Run. The rout had now become general and complete.
About the time that Elzey and Early were entering into action a column of the enemy (Keyes’ brigade, of Tyler’s division) made its way across the turnpike between Bull Run and the Robinson house, under cover of a wood and brow of the ridges, apparently to turn my right, but was easily repulsed by a few shots from Latham’s battery, now united and placed in position by Capt. D. B. Harris, of the Virginia engineers, whose services during the day became his character as an able, cool, an(. skillful officer, and from Alburtis’ battery, opportunely ordered by General Jackson to a position to the right of Latham, on a hill commanding the line of approach of the enemy, and supported by portions of regiments collected together by the staff officers of General Johnston and myself.
Early’s brigade, meanwhile, joined by the Nineteenth Virginia Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Strange, of Cockers brigade, pursued the now panic-stricken fugitive enemy. Stuart, with his cavalry and Beckham had also taken up the pursuit along the road by which the enemy had come upon the field that morning, but soon, cumbered by prisoners who thronged his way, the former was unable to attack the mass of the fast-fleeing, frantic Federalists. Withers’, R. T. Preston’s, Cash’s, and Kershaw’s regiments, Hampton’s Legion, and Kemper’s battery also pursued along the Warrenton road by the stone bridge, the enemy having opportunely opened a way for them through the heavy abatis which my troops had made on the west side of the bridge several days before; but this pursuit was soon recalled in consequence of a false report which unfortunately reached us that the enemy’s reserves, known to be fresh and of considerable strength, were threatening the position of Union Mills Ford.
Colonel Radford, with six companies Virginia Cavalry, was also ordered by General Johnston to cross Bull Run and attack the enemy from the direction of Lewis’ house. Conducted by one of my aides, Colonel Chisolm, by the Lewis Ford to the immediate vicinity of the suspension bridge, he charged a battery with great gallantry, took Colonel Corcoran, of the Sixty-ninth Regiment New York Volunteers, a prisoner, and captured the Federal colors of that regiment, as well as a number of the enemy. He lost, however, a promising officer of his regiment, Capt. Winston Radford.
Lieutenant-Colonel Mumford also led some companies of cavalry in hot pursuit, and rendered material service in the capture of prisoners and of cannon, horses, ammunition, &c., abandoned by the enemy in their flight. Captain Lay’s company of the Powhatan Troops and Utterback’s Rangers, Virginia Volunteers, attached to my person, did material service under Captain Lay in rallying troops broken for the time by the onset of the enemy’s masses.
During the period of the momentous events, fraught with the weal of our country, which were passing on the blood-stained plateau along the Sudley and Warrenton roads, other portions of the line of Bull Run had not been void of action of moment and of influence on the general result.
While Colonel Evans and his sturdy band were holding at bay the Federal advance beyond the turnpike the enemy made repeated demonstrations with artillery and infantry upon the line of Cooke’s brigade, with the serious intention of forcing the position, as General Schenck admits in his report. They were driven back with severe loss by Latham’s (a section) and Rogers’ four 6-pounders, and were so impressed with the strength of that line as to be held in check and inactive even after it had been stripped of all its troops but one company of the Nineteenth Virginia Regiment, under Captain Duke, a meritorious officer; and it is worthy of notice that in this encounter of our 6-pounder guns, handled by our volunteer artillerists, they had worsted such a notorious adversary as the Ayres (formerly Sherman’s) battery, which quit the contest under the illusion that it had weightier metal than its own to contend with.
The center brigades, Bonham’s and Longstreet’s, of the line of Bull Run, if not closely engaged, were, nevertheless, exposed for much of the day to an annoying, almost incessant fire of artillery of long range; but, by a steady, veteran-like maintenance of their positions, they held virtually paralyzed all day two strong brigades of the enemy with their batteries (four) of rifled guns.
As before said, two regiments of Bonham’s brigade–Second and Eighth South Carolina Volunteers-and Kemper’s battery took a distinguished part in the battle. The remainder–Third (Williams’), Seventh (Bacon’s) South Carolina Volunteers, Eleventh (Kirkland’s) North Carolina Regiment, six companies of the Eighth Louisiana Volunteers, Shields’ battery, and one Section of Walton’s battery, under Lieutenant Garnett–whether in holding their post or taking up the pursuit, officers and men discharged their duty with credit and promise.
Longstreet’s brigade, pursuant to orders prescribing his part of the operations of the center and right wing, was thrown across Bull Run early in the morning, and under a severe fire of artillery was skillfully disposed for the assault of the enemy’s batteries in that quarter, but was withdrawn subsequently, in consequence of the change of plan already mentioned and explained. The troops of this brigade were–First (Major Skinner), Eleventh (Garland’s), Twenty-fourth (Lieutenant-Colonel Hairston), Seventeenth (Corse’s) Virginia Regiments; Fifth North Carolina (Lieutenant-Colonel Jones), and Whitehead’s company Virginia Cavalry. Throughout the day these troops evinced the most soldierly spirit.
After the rout, having been ordered by General Johnston in the direction of Centreville in pursuit, these brigades advanced nearly to that place, when, night and darkness intervening, General Bonham thought it proper to direct his own brigade and that of General Longstreet back to Bull Run.
General D. R. Jones early in the day crossing Bull Run with his brigade, pursuant to orders indicating his part in the projected attack by our right wing and center on the enemy at Centreville, took up a position on the Union Hills and Centreville road more than a mile in advance of the run. Ordered back, in consequence of the miscarriage of the orders to General Ewell, the retrograde movement was necessarily made under a sharp fire of artillery.
At noon this brigade, in obedience to new instructions, was again thrown across Bull Run to make demonstration. Unsupported by other troops, the advance was gallantly made until within musket range of the enemy’s force–Colonel Davies’ brigade, in position near Rocky Run–and under the concentrated fire of their artillery. In this affair the Fifth, (Jenkins’) South Carolina and Captain Fontaine’s company of the Eighteenth Mississippi Regiment are mentioned by General Jones as having shown conspicuous gallantry, coolness, and discipline under a combined fire of infantry and artillery. Not only did the return fire of the brigade drive to cover the enemy’s infantry, but the movement unquestionably spread through the enemy’s ranks a sense of insecurity and danger from an attack by that route on their rear at Centreville, which served to augment the extraordinary panic which we know disbanded the entire Federal Army for the time. This is evident from the fact that Colonel Davies, the immediate adversary’s commander, in his official report, was induced to magnify one small company of our cavalry which accompanied the brigade into a force of 2,000 men, and Colonel Miles, the commander of the Federal reserves at Centreville, says the movement caused painful apprehensions for the left flank of their army.
General Ewell, occupying for the time the right of the lines of Bull Run, at Union Mills Ford, after the miscarriage of my orders for his advance upon Centreville, in the afternoon was ordered by General Johnston to bring up his brigade into battle, then raging on the left flank. Promptly executed as this movement was, the brigade, after a severe march, reached the field too late to share the glories as they had the labors of the day. As the important position at the Union Mills had been left with but a slender guard, General Ewell was at once ordered to retrace his steps and resume his position,. to prevent the possibility of its seizure by any force of the enemy in that quarter. Brigadier-General Holmes, left with his brigade as a support to the same position in the original plan of battle, had also been called to the left, whither he marched with the utmost speed, but not in time to join actively in the battle. Walker’s rifled guns of the brigade, however, came up in time to be fired with precision and decided execution at the retreating enemy, and Scott’s cavalry, joining in the pursuit, assisted in the capture of prisoners and war munitions.
This victory, the details of which I have thus sought to chronicle as fully as were fitting an official report, it remains to record was dearly won by the death of many officers and men of inestimable value, belonging to all grades of our society. In the death of General Barnard E. Bee the Confederacy has sustained an irreparable loss, for, with great personal bravery and coolness, he possessed the qualities of an accomplished soldier and an able, reliable commander. Colonels Bartow and Fisher and Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, of Hampton’s Legion, in the fearless command of their men, gave earnest of great usefulness to the service had they been spared to complete a career so brilliantly begun. Besides the field officers already mentioned as having been wounded while in the gallant discharge of their duties, many others also received severe wounds, after equally honorable and distinguished conduct, whether in leading their men forward or in rallying them when overpowered or temporarily shattered by the largely superior force to which we were generally opposed.
The subordinate grades were likewise abundantly conspicuous for zeal and capacity for the leadership of men in arms. To mention all who, fighting well, paid the lavish forfeit of their lives, or at least crippled, mutilated bodies, on the field of Manassas, cannot well be done within the compass of this paper; but a grateful country and mourning friends will not suffer their names and services to be forgotten and pass away unhonored.
Nor are those officers and men who were so fortunate as to escape the thick-flying deadly missiles of the enemy less worthy of praise for their endurance, firmness, and valor, than their brothers in arms whose lives were closed or bodies maimed on that memorable day. To mention all who exhibited ability and brilliant courage were impossible in this report; nor do the reports of brigade and other subordinate commanders supply full lists of all actually deserving of distinction. I can only mention those whose conduct came immediately under my notice or the consequence of whose actions happened to be signally important. It is fit that I should in this way commend to notice the dauntless conduct and imperturbable coolness of Colonel Evans, and well indeed was he supported by Colonel Sloan and the officers of the Fourth South Carolina Regiment, as also Major Wheat, than whom no one displayed more brilliant courage until carried from the field shot through the lungs, though happily not mortally stricken. But in the desperate, unequal conflict to which these brave gentlemen were for a time necessarily exposed, the behavior of officers and men generally was worthy of the highest admiration, and assuredly hereafter all there present may proudly say, We were of that band who fought the first hour of the battle of Manassas. Equal honors and credit must also be awarded in the pages of history to the gallant officers and men who, under Bee and Bartow, subsequently marching to their side, saved them from destruction, and relieved them from the brunt of the enemy’s attack.
The conduct of General Jackson also requires mention as eminently that of an able, fearless soldier and sagacious commander, one fit to lead his efficient brigade. His prompt, timely arrival before the plateau of the Henry house, and his judicious disposition of his troops, contributed much to the success of the day. Although painfully wounded in the hand, he remained on the field to the end of the battle, rendering invaluable assistance.
Col. William Smith was as efficient as self-possessed and brave. The influence of his example and his words of encouragement were not confined to his immediate command, the good conduct of which is especially noticeable, inasmuch as it had been embodied but a day or two before the battle.
Colonels Harper, Hunton, and Hampton, commanding regiments of the reserve, attracted my notice by their soldierly ability, as with their gallant commands they restored the fortunes of the day at a time when the enemy by a last desperate onset with heavy odds had driven our forces from the fiercely-contested ground around the Henry and Robinson houses. Veterans could not have behaved better than these well-led regiments.
High praise must also be given to Colonels Cocke, Early, and Elzey, brigade commanders; also to Colonel Kershaw, commanding for the time the Second and Eighth South Carolina Regiments. Under the instructions of General Johnston these officers reached the field at an opportune, critical moment, and disposed, handled, and fought their respective commands with sagacity, decision, and successful results, which have been described in detail.
Col. J. E. B. Stuart likewise deserves mention for his enterprise and ability as a cavalry commander. Through his judicious reconnaissance of the country on our left flank he acquired information, both of topographical features and the positions of the enemy, of the utmost importance in the subsequent and closing movements of the day on that flank, and his services in the pursuit were highly effective.
Capt. E. P. Alexander, C. S. Engineers, gave me seasonable and material assistance early in the day with his system of signals. Almost the first shot fired by the enemy passed through the tent of his party at the stone bridge, where they subsequently firmly maintained their position in the discharge of their duty–the transmission of messages of the enemy’s movements–for several hours under fire. Later, Captain Alexander acted as my aide-de-camp in the transmission of orders and in observation of the enemy.
I was most efficiently served throughout the day by my volunteer aides, Colonels Preston, Manning, Chesnut, Miles, Rice, Hayward, and Chisolm, to whom I tender my thanks for their unflagging, intelligent, and fearless discharge of the laborious, responsible duties Intrusted to them. To Lieut. S. W. Ferguson, aide-de-camp, and Colonel Hayward, who were habitually at my side from 12 noon until the close of the battle, my special acknowledgments are due. The horse of the former was killed under him by the same shell that wounded that of the latter. Both were eminently useful to me, and were distinguished for coolness and courage until the enemy gave way and fled in wild disorder in every direction–a scene the President of the Confederacy had the high satisfaction of witnessing, as he arrived upon the field at that exultant moment.
I also received from the time I reached the front such signal service from H. E. Peyton, at the time a private in the Loudoun Cavalry, that I have called him to my personal staff. Similar services were also rendered me repeatedly during the battle by T. J. Randolph, a volunteer acting aide-de-camp to Colonel Cocke. Capt. Clifton H. Smith, of the general staff, was also present on the field, and rendered efficient service in the transmission of orders.
It must be permitted me here to record my profound sense of my obligations to General Johnston for his generous permission to carry out my plans with such modifications as circumstances had required. From his services on the field as we entered it together, already mentioned, and his subsequent watchful management of the re-enforcements as they reached the vicinity of the field, our countrymen may draw the most auspicious auguries.
To Col. Thomas Jordan, my efficient and zealous assistant adjutant-general, much credit is due for his able assistance in the organization of the forces under my command and for the intelligence and promptness with which he has discharged all the laborious and important duties of his office.
Valuable assistance was given to me by Major Cabell, chief officer of the quartermaster’s department, in the sphere of his duties-duties environed by far more than the ordinary difficulties and embarrassments attending the operations of a long organized regular establishment.
Col. R. B. Lee, chief of subsistence department, had but just entered upon his duties, but his experience and long and varied services in his department made him as efficient as possible.
Capt. W. H. Fowle, whom Colonel Lee had relieved, had previously exerted himself to the utmost to carry out orders from these headquarters to render his department equal to the demands of the service. That it was not entirely so it is due to justice to say was certainly not his fault.
Deprived by the sudden severe illness of the medical director, Surg. Thomas H. Williams, his duties were discharged by Surg. R. L. Brodie to my entire satisfaction; and it is proper to say that the entire medical corps of the Army at present, embracing gentlemen of distinction in the profession, who had quit lucrative private practice, by their services in the field and subsequently did high honor to their profession.
The vital duties of the ordnance department were effectively discharged under the administration of my chief of artillery and ordnance, Col. S. Jones.
At one time, when reports of evil omen and disaster reached Camp Pickens with such circumstantiality as to give reasonable grounds of anxiety, its commander, Colonel Terrett, the commander of the intrenched batteries, Captain Sterrett, of the C. S. Navy, and their officers, made the most efficient possible preparations for the desperate defense of that position in extremity; and in this connection I regret my inability to mention the names of those patriotic gentlemen of Virginia by the gratuitous labor of whose slaves the intrenched camp at Manassas had been mainly constructed, relieving the troops from that laborious service, and giving opportunity for their military instruction.
Lieut. Col. Thomas H. Williamson, the engineer of these works, assisted by Capt. D. B. Harris, discharged his duties with untiring energy and devotion as well as satisfactory skill.
Capt. W. H. Stevens, engineer C. S. Army, served with the advanced forces at Fairfax Court-House for some time before the battle. He laid out the works there in admirable accordance with the purposes for which they were designed, and yet so as to admit of ultimate extension and adaptation to more serious uses as means and part of a system of real defense when determined upon. He has shown himself to be an officer of energy and ability.
Maj. Thomas G. Rhett, after having discharged for several months the laborious duties of adjutant-general to the commanding officer of Camp Pickens, was detached to join the Army of the Shenandoah just on the eve of the advance of the enemy, but volunteering his services, was ordered to assist on the staff of General Bonham, joining that officer at Centreville on the night of the 17th, before the battle of Bull Run, where he rendered valuable services, until the arrival of General Johnston, on the 20th of July, when he was called to the place of chief of staff of that officer. It is also proper to acknowledge the signal services rendered by Cols. B. F. Terry and T. Lubbock, of Texas, who had attached themselves to the staff of General Longstreet. These gentlemen made daring and valuable reconnaissances of the enemy’s positions, assisted by Captains Goree and Chichester; they also carried orders to the field, and on the following day accompanied Captain White-, head’s troop to take possession of Fairfax Court-House. Colonel Terry, with his unerring rifle, severed the halliard, and thus lowered the Federal flag found still floating from the cupola of the court-house there. He also secured a large Federal garrison flag, designed, it is said, to be unfurled over our intrenchments at Manassas.
In connection with the unfortunate casualty of the day, that is the miscarriage of the orders sent by courier to Generals Holmes and Ewell to attack the enemy in flank and reverse at Centreville, through which the triumph of our arms was prevented from being still more decisive, I regard it in place to say a divisional organization, with officers in command of divisions, with appropriate rank, as in European services, would greatly reduce the risk of such mishaps, and would advantageously simplify the communications of a general in command of a field with his troops.
While glorious for our people, and of crushing effect upon the morale of our hitherto confident and overweening adversary, as were the events of the battle of Manassas, the field was only won by stout fighting, and, as before reported, with much loss, as is precisely exhibited in the papers herewith, marked F, G, and H,(@) and being lists of the killed and wounded. The killed outright numbered 369, the wounded 1,483, making an aggregate of 1,852.
The actual loss of the enemy will never be known; it may now only be conjectured. Their abandoned dead, as they were buried by our people where they fell, unfortunately were not enumerated, but many parts of the field were thick with their corpses as but few battle-fields have ever been. The official reports of the enemy are studiously silent on this point, but still afford us data for an approximate estimate. Left almost in the dark in respect to the losses of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, first, longest, and most hotly engaged, we are informed that Sherman’s brigade, Tyler’s division, suffered in killed, wounded, and missing 609; that is, about eighteen per cent. of the brigade. A regiment of Franklin’s brigade (Gorman’s) lost twenty-one per cent., Griffin’s (battery) loss was thirty per cent., and that of Keyes’ brigade, which was so handled by its commander as to be exposed to only occasional volleys from our troops, was at least ten per cent. To these facts add the repeated references in the reports of the more reticent commanders to the “murderous” fire to which they were habitually exposed, the “pistol-range” volleys, and galling musketry of which they speak as scourging their ranks, and we are warranted in placing the entire loss of the Federalists at over forty-five hundred in killed, wounded, and prisoners. To this may be legitimately added as a casualty of the battle the thousands of fugitives from the field, who have never rejoined their regiments, and who are as much lost the enemy’s service as if slain or disabled by wounds. These may not be included under the head of missing, because in every instance of such report we took as many prisoners of those brigades or regiments as are reported missing.
A list appended exhibits some 1,460 of their wounded and others who fell into our hands and were sent to Richmond.(*) Some were sent to other points, so that the number of prisoners, including wounded who did not die, may be set down as not less than 1,600. Besides these a considerable number who could not be removed from the field died at several farm-houses and field hospitals within ten days following the battle.
To serve the future historian of this war I will note the fact that among the captured Federalists are officers and men of forty-seven regiments of volunteers, besides from some nine different regiments of regular troops, detachments of which were engaged. From their official reports we learn of a regiment of volunteers engaged, six regiments of Miles’ division, and the five regiments of Runyon’s brigade, from which we have neither sound nor wounded prisoners. Making all allowances for mistakes, we are warranted in saying that the Federal army consisted of at least fifty-five regiments of volunteers, eight companies of regular infantry, four of marines, nine of regular cavalry, and twelve batteries of forty-nine guns. These regiments at one time, as will appear from a published list appended, marked K, numbered in the aggregate 54,140, and average 964 each. From an order of the enemy’s commander, however, date, July 13, we learn that one hundred men front each regiment were directed to remain in charge of their respective camps. Some allowance must further be made for the sick and details, which would reduce the average to eight hundred men. Adding the regular cavalry, infantry, and artillery present, an estimate of their force may be made.(+)
A paper appended, marked L, exhibits in part the ordnance and supplies captured, including some twenty-eight field pieces of the best character of arm, with over one hundred rounds of ammunition for each gun, thirty-seven caissons, six forges, four battery wagons, sixty-four artillery horses completely equipped, 500,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, 4,500 sets of accouterments, over 500 muskets, some nine regimental and garrison flags, with a large number of pistols, knapsacks, swords, canteens, blankets, a large store of axes and intrenching tools, wagons, ambulances, horses, camp and garrison equipage, hospital stores, and some subsistence.
Added to these results may rightly be noticed here that by this battle an invading army, superbly equipped, within twenty miles of their base of operations, has been converted into one virtually besieged and exclusively occupied for months in the construction of a stupendous series of fortifications for the protection of its own capital.
I beg to call attention to the reports of the several subordinate commanders for reference to the signal parts played by individuals of their respective commands. Contradictory statements found in these reports should not excite surprise, when we remember how difficult if not impossible it is to reconcile the narrations of bystanders or participants in even the most inconsiderable affair, much less the shifting, thrilling scenes of a battlefield.
Accompanying are maps showing the positions of the armies on the morning of the 21st July and of three several stages of the battle; also of the line of Bull Run north of Blackburn’s Ford. These maps, from actual surveys made by Capt. D. B. Harris, assisted by Mr. John Grant, were drawn by the latter with a rare accuracy worthy of high commendation.(#)
In conclusion, it is proper and doubtless expected that through this report my countrymen should be made acquainted with some of the sufficient causes that prevented the advance of our forces and prolonged vigorous pursuit of the enemy to and beyond the Potomac. The War Department has been fully advised long since of all of those causes, some of which only are proper to be here communicated. An army which had fought as ours on that day, against uncommon odds, under a July sun, most of the time without water and without food except a hastily-snatched scanty meal at dawn, was not in condition for the toil of an eager, effective pursuit of an enemy immediately after the battle.
On the following day an unusually heavy and unintermitting fall of rain intervened to obstruct our advance with reasonable prospect of fruitful results. Added to this, the want of a cavalry force of sufficient numbers made an efficient pursuit a military impossibility.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. T. BEAUREGARD,
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va
*Summarized in No.121, post.
@Namely: 3 colonels, 1 major, 13 captains, 36 lieutenants, 2 quartermasters, 5 surgeons, 7 assistant surgeons, 2 chaplains, 15 citizens, and 1,376 enlisted men.
+Report No. 120, post.