Report of Col. Israel B. Richardson, Second Michigan Infantry, of Action at Blackburn’s Ford
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 312-314
CAMP 4TH BRIG., 1ST DIV., GENERAL McDOWELL’S CORPS,
In Front of Blackburn’s Ford, on Bull Run, July 19, 1864
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that I left the camp at Germantown at an early hour yesterday morning, my brigade consisting of the Second and Third Michigan Regiments, the First Massachusetts Regiment, and Twelfth New York. A battalion of light infantry, consisting of forty men from each regiment, one hundred and sixty in all, and commanded by Capt. Robert Brethschneider, of the Second Regiment of Michigan Infantry, moved in front of the brigade some five hundred yards in advance, and threw pickets still farther in advance on the road. A section of 20-pounder rifled guns, commanded by Lieutenant Benjamin, of the Second Artillery, moved in rear of the light battalion. The march of the column was slow, so as to prevent surprise. No enemy appeared at Centreville, three miles from camp, he having abandoned his intrenchments the night before.
On advancing one mile in front of Centreville, I came to a halt near some springs to procure water for the brigade, and General Tyler and myself left with a squadron of cavalry and two companies of infantry, for the purpose of making a reconnaissance to the front, which, on arriving one mile in front of Blackburn’s Ford, proved that the enemy had a battery in rear of the run, so as to enfilade the road. He had also strong pickets of infantry and skirmishing parties occupying the woods and houses in front of his position. The battalion of light infantry was now ordered to deploy five hundred yards in front of the eminence upon which this camp is situated, and a position at once taken by the rifled guns, which now opened their fire. This fire was not answered by the enemy until several rounds had been fired, and I pushed forward the skirmishers to the edge of the woods, they driving in those of the enemy in fine style, and then brought up the First Massachusetts Regiment to their support, the skirmishers still advancing into the woods.
Captain Brackett’s squadron of the Second Cavalry, and two 12-pounder howitzers, commanded by Captain Ayres, Fifth U.S. Artillery, now moved up into an opening in the woods in support. The enemy also opened another battery, more to our left, so as to cross-fire with the other upon the road. I ordered up at this time the Twelfth New York Regiment, Colonel Walrath, to the left of our battery, and it being formed in line of battle, I directed it to make a charge upon their position, the skirmishers still pushing forward and drawing the enemy’s fire, but keeping themselves well covered. I now left the position of the Twelfth New York Regiment, to place upon the right of the battery the Massachusetts and Second and Third Michigan Regiments, when a very heavy fire of musketry and artillery was opened by the enemy along his whole line. On moving towards our left, I found that the Twelfth New York Regiment had fallen back out of the woods in disorder, only parts of two companies, some sixty men in all, remaining in line, and retreating. The howitzers and also the cavalry had been withdrawn. Our left was thus exposed, although the skirmishers still held the ground in the woods, and the three remaining regiments on the right remained firm and determined.
I now reported to General Tyler that the main body of the New York regiment had fallen back in confusion, and I proposed to make a charge with the three remaining regiments for the purpose of carrying the enemy’s position. The general replied that the enemy were in large force and strongly fortified, and a further attack was unnecessary; that it was merely a reconnaissance which he had made; that he had found where the strength of the enemy lay, and ordered me to fall back in good order to our batteries on the hill, which we did, the enemy closing his fire before we left the ground, and not venturing to make an effort to follow us.
Our batteries on the hill now opened fire, sustained by the Second Michigan Regiment on the right, in close column by division, the other two regiments forming line of battle on the left. The New York regiment after some time formed under cover of the woods in rear. In this affair our skirmishers advanced so close to the enemy’s works and batteries that two mounted officers were killed inside the breastworks, and one of our men was shot through the shoulder with a revolver by one of the enemy’s officers, and one of their cannoneers was bayoneted by one of our men while the former was engaged in loading his gun. Our skirmishers also, in falling back, had several of their wounded bayoneted, by order of one of the enemy’s officers.
The enemy’s intrenchments and batteries appeared to be in rear of a creek called Bull Run. The batteries on the extreme right of their line were on high ground, and fired over the heads of their infantry in front. At night we fell back to Centreville for water and rations, and this morning have again occupied our ground upon the hill in front of the enemy, they being in large force, and having their pickets and skirmishers in the woods and in front of them, as yesterday. I have the honor also to inclose a statement of our loss incident to this affair.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
I. B. RICHARDSON,
Colonel, Commanding Fourth Brigade, First Division