The letter to the Richmond Enquirer written by members of Leftwich’s gun from Latham’s Battery, contesting the report of Captain John D. Imboden, was provided courtesy of Jim Burgess at Manassas National Battlefield Park. It generated some good comments – check them out at the bottom of the post. Notice that the gun crew claimed that Wheat’s Battalion alone faced off against 35,000 Federal troops. This is not all that unusual for after action reports, regardless of th army, the period of the war, or the rank of the writer. You defeat insurmountable odds, or retreat in an orderly fashion under the weight of same.
For instance, Joe Johnston’s report says 6,000 Confederates held off 35,000 Yankees at Bull Run. Other reports make similar assertions. And the myth that the Confederates were significantly out manned at Bull Run persists, showing up as recently as Joseph Glatthaar’s General Lee’s Army (see here and here). And a new Lost Cause publication states that the Rebels faced the largest army ever assembled on the North American continent up to that time: true, but the book fails to mention that they did so with a force that came in a very, very close second. I’ll be reviewing that book in the next installment of America’s Civil War’s Six-Picks.
So keep in mind that the two armies probably totaled about 33,000 to 36,000 men each. We typically don’t include Runyon’s reserve division, or Johnston’s troops who failed to arrive in time, or any nearby Confederate militia units (thanks, Robert). And the fighting on Matthew’s and Henry House Hills involved only about 15,000 to 18,000 men on each side. These were evenly matched forces.