Col. W. T. Sherman on Blackburn’s Ford

1 02 2009

To John Sherman

Camp near Centreville,

July 19, 1861

Hon. John Sherman

Dear Brother,

I started my Brigade at 2 P.M. the day I wrote you viz. Tuesday the men with 3 days cooked provision in their haversacks.  We passed Falls Church in about two hours, took the gravel road a couple of miles then turned left to the village of Vienna, which is hardly entitled to the name.  There we camped, and next morning at 5 1/2 started, marched very slowly toward Germantown.  The road was obstructed by fallen timber but no signs of an armed opposition we found at Germantown an Earth parapet thrown across the road, but very poor – at or near Germantown we came into the Main Road back of Farifax C. H. which had been abandoned by 5000 men.  Had we reached their rear in time we might have Caught them – but their Knowledge of the Roads – and extreme ease of obstructing them by simply cutting down trees prevented us reaching the point in time.  We followed on to Centreville where also we expected opposition, but it too was evacuated, though the Strongest place I have yet seen to make a stand.  This was the point arranged for the Concentration of the Columns from Alexandria, Geo[']town & Long Bridge.  Our Division reached it first.  Richardsons Brigade in advance mine next – Gen. Tyler took two 20 pr. Rifled guns, some Dragoons & Richardsons Brigade to follow to discover the line of Retreat – Bulls Run was only 3 miles distant and it was distinctly understood it was not to be attacked by the Route of usual travel, which had been carefully studied and commanded.  I went into a large meadow with my four Regts. and soon saw the heads of Miles & Heintzelmans columns showing the details had been well planned.  About noon I heard firing in the direction of the Ford at Bulls Run – very irregular and though I knew McDowell did not want it attacked I felt uneasy – The firing was quite sharp at time, and I continued uneasy though my duty was plain to Stand fast – about 2 I got orders to come forward, and about that time I heard heavy musketry firing.  In four minutes we were hastening[.]  The distance about 2 1/2 miles – the road la[y]ing on the {illegible} or Ridge divide between heavy wooded slopes making a narrow Rocky road – we met too many, far too many straggling soldiers and soon came to the ambulance & Doctors with their appliances at work – I led the head of my column till I came upon our Batteries – that of 2 20 prs. – and Ayers field Battery.  I asked Gen. Tyler for orders, and was told to deploy and cover Richardson who was down a Ravine to the left – front was a small house, and Right an open field in which Ayres Battery was unlimbered – the whole comprising a small open farm just where you could look across Bulls Run – It was Known to be fortified, yet the Batteries could not be clearly seen, it was full a mile & half off – the cannonading was quite brisk at the time of my arrival, but the shots mostly passed over us, the Batteries were simply firing at each other.  Richardson had previously pushed his Brigade down close to the Run, but was repulsed, his volunteers breaking and not rallying.  Then the fighting was very brisk, and our loss heavy.  That occurred some twenty minutes beofre my arrival and it was the dispersed troops we met – After arranging my four Regts. under cover of timber, ready for any movement.  I went forward again to the Batteries, and there learned that we were to return.  Receiving the order I drew out my Brigade on the Back track and marched to this Camp – Gen. McDowell arrived during the cannonading and I think did not like it – Tyler never intended to attack Bulls Run Ford, but wanted to experiment with Rifled cannon and got a Rowland for his Oliver.  We have to cross Bulls run by some Route and attack Manassas.  No doubt the enemy is there in all force.  We are only about 6 miles off in an air line, but the Country is wooded, and Bulls Run with ugly ragged banks well known to them, and imperfectly to us still lies between.  Some manoeuvering must still precede the final attack – The volunteers test my patience by their irregularities Robbing, shooting in direct opposition to orders, and like conduct showing a great want of Discipline – Twill take time to make soldiers of them.  Send this to Ellen, to assure her of my safety – day is hot, and we have little shade.  Yrs.

W. T. Sherman

[Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman's Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 119-121]








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 874 other followers