For more on Kirkland, see this earlier post. Good stuff.
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Report of Col. W. W. Kirkland, Eleventh North Carolina Infantry
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX p 521
HDQRS. ELEVENTH REG’T NORTH CAROLINA VOLS.,
Mitchell’s Ford, July 23, 1861
GENERAL: I have the honor to report the following facts concerning the operations of the regiment under my command during the actions of the 18th and 21st:
On the 18th I was ordered to take up a position in rear of the howitzer battery to support it. Subsequently I was directed to proceed to the extreme left as its defense. Throwing up a slight breastwork, I directed my men to kneel down and await the approach of the enemy, but as the attack was confined exclusively to the right, we had no opportunity to engage. After the action I was directed to post the regiment in the trenches which formed the center of your brigade, and here remained, perfecting and erecting breastworks, until the morning of Sunday, the 21st, when word was brought that the enemy was advancing against our left in great force, and had drawn up a strong column of about ten thousand, composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, with which he menaced our center. You ordered me at this time to proceed to some point near the enemy and report his proceedings as they developed themselves. I took the road leading to Roberts’ house, and from that eminence perceived that a battery of light pieces had been put in position to the left of the road, about opposite the center of our brigade, and farther to the right a heavy piece of ordnance, which I supposed was a 24-pounder, had been arranged in battery. This column must have been the reserve. Soon both light and heavy pieces opened upon our right and center, and as you are aware, continued a heavy fire for ten hours. Many shot and shell passed over and into the trenches occupied by my regiment, but fortunately no man was touched.
At 3 p.m., by your order, we assisted in the pursuit of the enemy, who was flying before our victorious columns who had so gallantly and so bloodily fought them through ten long hours. I must tell you that the officers and men showed a coolness under fire and an eagerness to advance which was very gratifying. I call your special attention to Maj. J. M. Richardson and Adjutant James A. Walthall, who were unremitting in their efforts to instruct the men in duties of which they had but little knowledge, owing to the recency of our organization.
Regretting, general, that I cannot report that the opportunity offered us to meet the enemy at the point of the bayonet,
I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. W. KIRKLAND,
Eleventh Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, Commanding
Commanding First Brigade, Army of the Potomac
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Well, I’m off to throw away my money at Pimlico. Hopefully it won’t take an eventual mortal injury in the feature for me to break even this year. I’ll have my computer with me while in Baltimore, but I doubt I’ll have internet access. So this post will have to do until I get back on Sunday. Sometimes we manage to hit a Civil War site on the ride home – last year it was Monocacy. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
I mentioned here that I learned an interesting tidbit on William Whedbee Kirkland as a result of my visit to Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown a couple of weeks ago. Since I have a little time before we hit the road, let’s get it out of the way.
At First Bull Run, Kirkland was colonel of the 11th North Carolina Volunteers, part of Brig. Gen. Milledge Luke Bonham’s First Brigade of Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac. This apparently simple information can be confusing, however, since the 11th NCV was later designated the 21st North Carolina Infantry. There was a later change to the regimental numbers, as well as designations of units as either North Carolina Infantry (NCI) or North Carolina State Troops (NCST). It’s confusing, but when this change happened the NCV units had to change numbers, and those who became NCI regiments did so by changing their NCV number by ten. It’s similar to the difference between the numbering of Pennsylvania Reserve regiments and their eventual PA volunteer infantry numbers, which you can figure out by adding 29 to the reserve number. Confused? If so, you get it. But if you’re looking for the biography of the 11th NCV in a reference work like Crute, you need to look at the 21st NCI. That’s the case for all of the NCV units, 2nd through 15th, except for the 10th, which became the 1st Artillery.
Now, give me a minute while I try to remember my name.
You may recall from this earlier article that the later General Kirkland was related by marriage to Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee. When Hardee’s son Willie was gravely wounded in the late war Battle of Bentonville, his father sent him to the Kirkland home in Hillsboro (now Hillsborough), outside of Raleigh, NC. It was there that young Willie died, and it was in the Kirkland family’s churchyard that he was buried.
After the war, Kirkland worked in the “commission business” in Savannah, GA. The famous Broadway star Odette Taylor was actually Kirkland’s daughter, Bess, and her father eventually moved to New York where he worked for the post office. Bess married another actor, one R. D. MacLean, whose real name was R. D. Shepherd of, you guessed it, Shepherdstown, WV (the acting couple are buried in Hollywood, CA, where they had moved to work in silent motion pictures – she was in Buster Keaton’s The Saphead; he seems to have had more success). Apparently the elder Kirklands were tight with the Shepherd family, as Mrs. Kirkland – who at some point divorced her husband – is buried in the Shepherd family lot. Kirkland, due to infirmity, spent the last 15 years of his life in the Washington, DC Soldier’s Home. When he died in 1915, he was buried in Elmwood in what Ezra Warner wrote in 1959 was an unmarked grave.
To bring the thread full circle, Kirkland’s burial plot (below, from my trip) was restored in 1990 by the citizens of his hometown, Hillsborough, NC. I am not sure if the Susan Wilkins next to whom Kirkland is buried is his ex-wife, second wife, or what. But check out the inscription on Kirkland’s stone. Click on the thumbnail for larger pictures.
I’m getting a sort of rakish vibe from Kirkland. I don’t know if it’s because of his divorce, his post-war wanderings, his Hollywood connections, or the fact that after he dropped out of West Point he became a U. S. Marine. Regardless, I’m looking forward to doing his bio sketch. Any info you readers can provide is appreciated.
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Facebook friend Garry Adelman alerted me to this site for the Averasboro (NC) Battlefield and Museum, which features a snippet from this article I wrote on the death of Willie Hardee at the Battle of Bentonville. I’m flattered they used my article, but wish they had linked to it so interested folks could read the whole thing. In addition, I’ve written articles on Hardee in-law William Kirkland and on the town in which Willie is interred, Hillsborough, NC. Check them out.
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Report of Brig. Gen. M. L. Bonham, C. S. Army, Commanding First Brigade, of Retreat from Fairfax Court-House and Skirmish at Mitchell’s Ford
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 449-450
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp Gregg, July 31, 1861
GENERAL: In making, in obedience to your orders, a report of the operations of my brigade on the 18th instant, I beg leave to make a brief statement of the events immediately preceding that day, and which are closely connected with it.
On the morning of the 17th instant, at Fairfax Court-House, the advance forces of the Army of the Potomac under my command consisted of the Second Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, Colonel Kershaw; Third, Colonel Williams; Seventh, Colonel Bacon; Eighth, Colonel Cash; the Eighteenth Virginia Volunteers, Colonel Withers, temporarily attached; part of Colonel Radford’s cavalry.; Captains Wickham’s, Ball’s, Powell’s, and Payne’s troops of cavalry, and the batteries of Captain’s Kemper and Shields. Early that morning I received from my scouts confirmation of what I had been hearing many hours previous, viz, that the enemy would probably advance upon me that morning by the Alexandria, Flint Hill, and, it was said, the Falls Church roads.
In obedience to your orders, which I had previously received, to fall back on the approach of an enemy to attack my position in “superior force,” I ordered my baggage and supply wagons to be put in immediate motion, and to be parked in rear of Bull Run, Mitchell’s Ford. This was promptly and successfully accomplished by Colonel Kemper, assisted by Lieutenant Washington, quartermaster, and Major Kennedy, commissary for the command, with but little loss.
Between 8 and 9 o’clock I heard the report and saw the smoke of the enemy’s artillery at Flint Hill, about two miles off, and learned at the same time that my pickets were being driven in. I immediately ordered the troops to their trenches, their places having been previously designated, which order was obeyed with the greatest alacrity and enthusiasm, the body of the troops not knowing that they were to fall back at all. My plan of falling back on Bull Run, based upon your instructions, I had previously explained to the commanding officers of corps, assigning each his position on the march at Centreville and at Bull Run in a confidential order, which I did not deliver till on the march.
Finding the enemy did not seem to be approaching by the Falls Church road, I ordered the pickets to be withdrawn from that road. About 9 o’clock the enemy made his appearance in large force on the Flint Hill slope, and, deploying his columns, moved down toward the Court-House, his lines extending a great distance across the open fields, stretching out from Flint Hill to the Court-House. I awaited his approach till a part of his force had arrived within a half mile of my works, to be satisfied that his force was such “superior force” as I had heard it would be and as came within the intent of your order.
Having satisfied myself that he was concentrating around me a force many times my number–in three columns, from Alexandria upon my right, upon my left at Germantown, from the same place, and having sent word to General Ewell that I was about to begin my movement–I ordered my regiments to take up the line of march according to my prearranged plan, and directed Kershaw’s regiment (which with Kemper’s battery and Wickham’s and Floyd’s troops of cavalry, constituted my rear guard) to file, as they retired, through the trenches as the preceding regiments filed out. The column thus fell back in perfect order to Centreville, the enemy not venturing to attack my rear guard. At dark our pickets were within a few hundred paces of each other.
At midnight, Major Rhett having returned from a personal interview with yourself, I resumed the march, in obedience to your orders, and at daylight put my command in position at Mitchell’s Ford, on Bull Run, the place previously assigned me, placing two pieces of Kemper’s battery six hundred yards in front of my center, on Kemper’s Hill, supported by two companies of light troops, in order to give the enemy’s advancing column a few shots before retiring to the position assigned those pieces behind the run. The Eleventh North Carolina Volunteers, Colonel Kirkland, and the Eighth Louisiana Battalion, Colonel Kelly, reported to me during the morning. The former, having been kept for a while in reserve, was placed on the extreme left; the latter was held in reserve in rear of the center of my position.
At about 12 m. the enemy, following up his movements of the day previous, opened a heavy cannonade on my position, which was kept up most of the day, throwing shell and shot into every portion of my command, but fortunately without injury to the troops. As the range of his guns and the weight of his metal were greater than my own, Captain Kemper’s two pieces, with the two supporting companies, were withdrawn to their position in the rear of the run, but not till some effective shots had been made at the enemy. In the course of a few hours he attacked the position of General Longstreet at Blackburn’s Ford, a short distance to my right, from which he was most gallantly repulsed. He then began to show his troops in some force in my front. By your leave I ordered Colonel Kershaw, with four companies of his regiment and one piece of Kemper’s battery, to move forward to Kemper’s Hill, and open fire upon that force. It was promptly and gallantly executed, three or four effective shots being thrown into the grove near Butler’s house, doing some execution and scattering the enemy in every direction.
I cannot too highly commend the conduct and bearing of all the officers and men under my command. Everything that characterizes gallant people prepared to perish before a superior force, if necessary, for the defense of their homes, was exhibited by them throughout the trying and fatiguing operations of the 17th and 18th of July. Inclosed I send reports of officers of my command as far as received.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
M. L. BONHAM,
Brig. Gen. G. T. BEAUREGARD,
Commanding Army of the Potomac
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Reports of General G. T. Beauregard, Commanding Confederate Army of the Potomac, of Operations from July 17 to 20
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 439-448
MANASSAS, July 17, 1861
President of the Confederate States:
The enemy has assailed my outposts in heavy force. I have fallen back on the line of Bull Run, and will make a stand at Mitchell’s Ford.If his force is overwhelming I shall retire to the Rappahannock Railroad Bridge, saving my command for defense there and future operations. Please inform Johnston of this, via Staunton, and also Holmes. Send forward any re-enforcements at the earliest possible instant and by every possible means.
G. T. BEAUREGARD
HDQRS. FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Manassas, August –, 1861
GENERAL: With the general results of the engagement between several brigades of my command and a considerable force of the enemy in the vicinity of Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s Fords, at Bull Run, on the 18th ultimo, you were made duly acquainted at the time by telegraph, but it is my place now to submit in detail the operations of that day.
Opportunely informed of the determination of the enemy to advance on Manassas, my advanced brigades, on the night of the 16th of July, were made aware from these headquarters of the impending movement, and in exact accordance with my instructions (a copy of which is appended, marked A), their withdrawal within the lines of Bull Run was effected with complete success during the day and night of the 17th ultimo, in face of and in immediate proximity to a largely superior force, despite a well-planned, well-executed effort to cut off the retreat of Bonham’s brigade first at Germantown and subsequently at Centreville, whence he withdrew by my direction after midnight without collision, although enveloped on three sides by their lines. This movement had the intended effect of deceiving the enemy as to my ulterior purposes, and led him to anticipate an unresisted passage of Bull Run.
As prescribed in the first and second sections of the paper herewith, marked A, on the morning of the 18th of July, my troops, resting on Bull Run from Union Mills Ford to the stone bridge, a distance of about eight miles, were posted as follows:
Ewell’s brigade occupied a position in vicinity of the Union Mills Ford. It consisted of Rodes’ Fifth and Seibels’ Sixth Regiments of Alabama, and Seymour’s Sixth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, with four 12-pounder howitzers of Walton’s battery, and Harrison’s, Green’s, and Cabell’s companies of Virginia Cavalry.
D. R. Jones’ brigade was in position in rear of McLean’s Ford, and consisted of Jenkins’ Fifth South Carolina and Burt’s Eighteenth and Featherston’s Seventeenth Regiments of Mississippi Volunteers, with two brass 6-pounder guns of Walton’s battery, and one company of cavalry.
Longstreet’s brigade covered Blackburn’s Ford, and consisted of Moore’s First, Garland’s Eleventh, and Corse’s Seventeenth Regiments Virginia Volunteers, with two 6-pounder brass guns of Walton’s battery.
Bonham’s brigade held the approaches to Mitchell’s Ford. It was composed of Kershaw’s Second, Williams’ Third, Bacon’s Seventh, and Cash’s Eighth Regiments South Carolina Volunteers; of Shields’ and Del. Kemper’s batteries, and of Flood’s, Radford’s, Payne’s, Ball’s, Wickham’s, and Powell’s companies of Virginia Cavalry, under Colonel Radford.
Cooke’s brigade held the fords below and in the vicinity of the stone bridge, and consisted of Withers’ Eighteenth, Lieutenant-Colonel Strange’s Nineteenth, and R. T. Preston’s Twenty-eighth Regiments, with Latham’s battery, and one company of cavalry, Virginia Volunteers.
Evans held my left flank, and protected the stone bridge crossing, with Sloan’s Fourth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, Wheat’s special battalion Louisiana Volunteers, four 6-pounder guns, and two companies of Virginia Cavalry.
Early’s brigade, consisting of Kemper’s Seventh and Early’s Twenty-fourth Regiments Virginia Volunteers; Hays’ Seventh Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, and three rifled pieces of Walton’s battery–Lieutenant Squires–at first were held in position in the rear of and as a support to Ewell’s brigade, until after the development of the enemy in heavy offensive force in front of Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s Fords, when it was placed in rear of and nearly equidistant between McLean’s, Blackburn’s, and Mitchell’s Fords.
Pending the development of the enemy’s purpose, about 10 o’clock a.m. I established my headquarters at a central point (McLean’s farmhouse), near to McLean’s and Blackburn’s Fords, where two 6-pounders of Walton’s battery were in reserve, but subsequently during the engagement I took post to the left of my reserve.
Of the topographical features of the country thus occupied it must suffice to say that Bull Run is a small stream, running in this locality nearly from west to east to its confluence with the Occoquan River, about twelve miles from the Potomac, and draining a considerable scope of country from its source in Bull Run Mountain to a short distance of the Potomac at Occoquan. At this season habitually low and sluggish, it is, however, rapidly and frequently swollen by the summer rains until unfordable. The banks for the most part are rocky and steep, but abound in long-used fords. The country on either side, much broken and thickly wooded, becomes gently rolling and open as it recedes from the stream. On the northern side the ground is much the highest, and commands the other bank completely. Roads traverse and intersect the surrounding country in almost every direction. Finally, at Mitchell’s Ford the stream is about equidistant between Centreville and Manassas, some six miles apart.
On the morning of the 18th, finding that the enemy was assuming a threatening attitude, in addition to the regiments whose positions have been already stated, I ordered up from Camp Pickens as a reserve, in rear of Bonham’s brigade, the effective men of six companies of Kelly’s Eighth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers and Kirkland’s Eleventh Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, which, having arrived the night before en route for Winchester, I had halted in view of the existing necessities of the service. Subsequently the latter was placed in position to the left of Bonham’s brigade.
Appearing in heavy force in front of Bonham’s position, the enemy, about meridian, opened fire with several 20-pounder rifled guns from a hill over one and a half miles from Bull Run. At the same time Kemper, supported by two companies of light infantry, occupied a ridge on the left of the Centreville road, about six hundred yards in advance of the ford, with two 6-pounder (smooth) guns. At first the firing of the enemy was at random, but by 12.30 p.m. he had obtained the range of our position, and poured into the brigade a shower of shot, but without injury to us in men, horses, or guns. From the distance, however, our guns could not reply with effect, and we did not attempt it, patiently awaiting a more opportune moment.
Meanwhile a light battery was pushed forward by the enemy, whereupon Kemper threw only six solid shot, with the effect of driving back both the battery and its supporting force. This is understood to have been Ayres’ battery, and the damage must have been considerable to have obliged such a retrograde movement on the part of that officer. The purposes of Kemper’s position having now been fully served, his pieces and support were withdrawn across Mitchell’s Ford to a point previously designated, and which commanded the direct approaches to the ford.
About 11.30 o’clock a.m. the enemy was also discovered by the pickets of Longstreet’s brigade advancing in strong columns of infantry with artillery and cavalry on Blackburn’s Ford. At meridian the pickets fell back silently before the advancing foe across the ford, which, as well as the entire southern bank of the stream for the whole front of Longstreet’s brigade, was covered at the water’s edge by an extended line of skirmishers, while two 6-pounders of Walton’s battery, under Lieutenant Garnett, were advantageously placed to command the direct approach to the ford, but with orders to retire to the rear as soon as commanded by the enemy.
The northern bank of the stream in front of Longstreet’s position rises with a steep slope at least fifty feet above the level of the water, leaving a narrow berme in front of the ford of some twenty yards. This ridge formed for them an admirable natural parapet, behind which they could and did approach under shelter in heavy force within less than one hundred yards of our skirmishers. The southern shore was almost a plain, raised but a few feet above the water for several hundred yards; then rising with a very gradual, gentle slope and undulations back to Manassas. On the immediate bank there was a fringe of trees, but with little if any undergrowth or shelter, while on the other shore there were timber and much thick brush and covering. The ground in rear of our skirmishers and occupied by our artillery was an old field, extending along the stream about one mile, and immediately back for about half a mile to a border or skirting of dense second-growth pines. The whole of this ground was commanded at all points by the ridge occupied by the enemy’s musketry, as was also the country to the rear for a distance much beyond the range of 20-pounder rifled guns by the range of hills on which their batteries were planted, and which it may be further noted commanded also all our approaches from this direction to the three threatened fords.
Before advancing his infantry the enemy maintained a fire of rifled artillery from the batteries just mentioned for half an hour; then he pushed forward a column of over three thousand infantry to the assault, with such a weight of numbers as to be repelled with difficulty by the comparatively small force of not more than twelve hundred bayonets with which Brigadier-General Longstreet met him with characteristic vigor and intrepidity. Our troops engaged at this time were the First and Seventeenth and four companies of the Eleventh Regiments Virginia Volunteers. Their resistance was resolute, and maintained with a steadiness worthy of all praise. It was successful, and the enemy was repulsed. In a short time, however, he returned to the contest with increased force and determination, but was again foiled and driven back by our skirmishers and Longstreet’s reserve companies, which were brought up and employed at the most vigorously-assailed points at the critical moment.
It was now that Brigadier-General Longstreet sent for re-enforcements from Early’s brigade, which I had anticipated by directing the advance of General Early with two regiments of infantry and two pieces of artillery. As these came upon the field the enemy had advanced a third time with heavy numbers to force Longstreet’s position. Hays’ regiment, Seventh Louisiana Volunteers, which was in advance, was placed on the bank of the stream under some cover to the immediate right and left of the ford, relieving Corse’s regiment (Seventeenth Virginia Volunteers). This was done under a heavy fire of musketry with promising steadiness. The Seventh Virginia, under Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, was then formed to the right, also under heavy fire, and pushed forward to the stream, relieving the First Regiment Virginia Volunteers. At the same time two rifled guns brought up with Early’s brigade were moved down in the field to the right of the road, so as to be concealed from the enemy’s artillery by the girth of timber on the immediate bank of the stream, and there opened fire, directed only by the sound of the enemy’s musketry.
Unable to effect a passage, the enemy kept up a scattering fire for some time. Some of our troops had pushed across the stream, and several small parties of Corse’s regiment, under command of Captain Marye, met and drove the enemy with the bayonet; but as the roadway from the ford was too narrow for a combined movement in force, General Longstreet recalled them to the south bank. Meanwhile the remainder of Early’s infantry and artillery had been called up; that is, six companies of the Twenty-fourth Regiment Virginia Volunteers, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hairston, and five pieces of artillery, one rifled gun, and four 6-pounder brass guns, including two 6-pounder guns under Lieutenant Garnett, which had been previously sent to the rear by General Longstreet. This infantry was at once placed in position to the left of the ford, in a space unoccupied by Hays, and the artillery was unlimbered in battery to the right of the road, in a line with the two guns already in action. A scattering fire of musketry was still kept up by the enemy for a short time, but that was soon silenced.
It was at this stage of the affair that a remarkable artillery duel was commenced and maintained on our side with a long-trained professional opponent, superior in the character as well as in the number of his weapons, provided with improved munitions and every artillery appliance, and at the same time occupying the commanding position. The results were marvelous, and fitting precursors to the artillery achievements of the 21st of July. In the outset our fire was directed against the enemy’s infantry, whose bayonets, gleaming above the tree-tops, alone indicated their presence and force. This drew the attention of a battery placed on a high, commanding ridge, and the duel began in earnest. For a time the aim of the adversary was inaccurate, but this was quickly corrected, and shot fell and shells burst thick and fast in the very midst of our battery, wounding in the course of the combat Captain Eshleman, five privates, and the horse of Lieutenant Richardson. From the position of our pieces and the nature of the ground their aim could only be directed at the smoke of the enemy’s artillery. How skillfully and with what execution this was done can only be realized by an eye-witness. For a few moments their guns were silenced, but were soon reopened. By direction of General Longstreet, his battery was then advanced by hand out of the range now ascertained by the enemy, and a shower of spherical case, shell, and round shot flew over the heads of our gunners. But one of our pieces had become hors de combat from an enlarged vent.
From the new position our guns fired as before, with no other aim than the smoke and flash of their adversaries’ pieces, renewed and urged the conflict with such signal vigor and effect, that gradually the fire of the enemy slackened, the intervals between their discharges grew longer and longer, finally to cease, and we fired a last gun at a baffled, flying foe, whose heavy masses in the distance were plainly seen to break and scatter in wild confusion and utter rout, strewing the ground with castaway guns, hats, blankets, and knapsacks as our parting shell were thrown among them. In their retreat one of their pieces was abandoned, but from the nature of the ground it was not sent for that night, and under cover of darkness the enemy recovered it.
The guns engaged in this singular conflict on our side were three 6-pounder rifled pieces and four ordinary 6-pounders, all of Walton’s battery, Washington Artillery, of New Orleans. The officers immediately attached were Captain Eshleman, Lieuts. C. W. Squires, Richardson, Garnett, and Whittington. At the same time our infantry held the bank of the stream in advance of our guns, and the missiles of the combatants flew to and fro above them, as cool and veteran-like for more than an hour they steadily awaited the moment and signal for the advance.
While the conflict was at its height before Blackburn’s Ford, about l o’clock p.m., the enemy again displayed himself in force before Bonham’s position. At this time Colonel Kershaw, with four companies of his regiment (Second South Carolina) and one piece of Kemper’s battery, were thrown across Mitchell’s Ford to the ridge which Kemper had occupied that morning. Two solid shot and three spherical case thrown among them with a precision inaugurated by that artillerist at Vienna effected their discomfiture and disappearance, and our troops in that quarter were again withdrawn within our lines, having discharged the duty assigned.
At the close of the engagement before Blackburn’s Ford I directed General Longstreet to withdraw the First and Seventeenth Regiments, which had borne the brunt of the action, to a position in reserve, leaving Colonel Early to occupy the field with his brigade and Garland’s regiment.
As a part of the history of this engagement I desire to place on record that on the 18th of July not one yard of intrenchments nor one rifle pit sheltered the men at Blackburn’s Ford, who, officers and men, with rare exceptions, were on that day for the first time under fire, and who, taking and maintaining every position ordered, cannot be too much commended for their soldierly behavior.
Our artillery was manned and officered by those who but yesterday were called from the civil avocations of a busy city. They were matched with the picked light artillery of the Federal Regular Army–Company E, Third Artillery, under Captain Ayres, with an armament, as their own chief of artillery admits, of two 10-pounder Parrott rifled guns, two 12-pounder howitzers, and two 6-pounder pieces, aided by two 20-pounder Parrott rifled guns of Company G, Fifth Artillery, under Lieutenant Benjamin. Thus matched, they drove their veteran adversaries from the field, giving confidence in and promise of the coming efficiency of that brilliant arm of our service.
Having thus related the main or general results and events of the action of Bull Run, in conclusion it is proper to signalize some of those who contributed most to the satisfactory results of that day. Thanks are due to Brigadier-Generals Bonham and Ewell and to Colonel Cocke and the officers under them for the ability shown in conducting and executing the retrograde movements on Bull Run directed in my orders of the 8th of July–movements on which hung the fortunes of this Army.
Brigadier-General Longstreet, who commanded immediately the troops engaged at Blackburn’s Ford on the 18th, equaled my confident expectations, and I may fitly say that by his presence at the right place at the right moment among his men, by the exhibition of characteristic coolness, and by his words of encouragement to the men of his command, he infused a confidence and spirit that contributed largely to the success of our arms on that day.
Colonel Early brought his brigade into position and subsequently into action with judgment, and at the proper moment; he displayed capacity for command and personal gallantry.
Colonel Moore, commanding the First Virginia Volunteers, was severely wounded at the head of his regiment, the command of which subsequently devolved upon Major Skinner, Lieutenant-Colonel Fry having been obliged to leave the field in consequence of a sun-stroke.
An accomplished, promising officer, Maj. Carter H. Harrison, Eleventh Regiment Virginia Volunteers, was lost to the service while leading two companies of his regiment against the enemy. He fell, twice shot, mortally wounded.
Brigadier-General Longstreet, while finding on all sides alacrity, ardor, and intelligence, mentions his special obligations to Colonels Moore, Garland, and Corse, commanding severally regiments of his brigade, and to their field officers, Lieutenant-Colonels Fry, Funsten, Munford, and Majors Brent and Skinner, of whom he says, “They displayed more coolness and energy than is usual among veterans of the old service.” General Longstreet also mentions the conduct of Captain Marye, of the Seventeenth Virginia Volunteers, as especially gallant on one occasion, in advance of the ford.
The regiments of Early’s brigade were commanded by Colonel Harry Hays and Lieutenant-Colonels Williams and Hairston, who handled their commands in action with satisfactory coolness and skill, supported by their field officers, Lieutenant-Colonel De Choiseul and Major Penn, of the Seventh Louisiana, and Major Patton, of the Seventh Virginia Volunteers.
The skill, the conduct, and the soldierly qualities of the Washington Artillery engaged were all that could be desired. The officers and men attached to the seven pieces already specified won for their battalion a distinction which I feel assured will never be tarnished, and which will ever serve to urge them and their corps to high endeavor. Lieutenant Squires worthily commanded the pieces in action. The commander of the battalion was necessarily absent from the immediate field, under orders in the sphere of his duties, but the fruits of his discipline, zeal, instruction, and capacity as an artillery commander were present, and must redound to his reputation.
On the left, at Mitchell’s Ford, while no serious engagement occurred, the conduct of all was eminently satisfactory to the general officers in command.
It is due, however, to Col. J. L. Kemper, Virginia forces, to express my sense of the value of his services in the preparation for and execution of the retreat from Fairfax Court-House on Bull Run. Called from the head of his regiment, by what appeared to me an imperative need of the service, to take charge of the superior duties of the quartermaster’s department with the advance at that critical juncture, he accepted the responsibilities involved, and was eminently efficient.
For further information touching officers and individuals of the First Brigade, and the details of the retrograde movement, I have to refer particularly to the report of Brigadier-General Bonham, herewith No. 66.
It is proper here to state that while from the outset it had been determined on the approach of the enemy in force to fall back and fight him on the line of Bull Run, yet the position occupied by General Ewell’s brigade, if necessary, could have been maintained against largely superior force. This was especially the case with the position of the Fifth Alabama Volunteers, Colonel Rodes, which that excellent officer had made capable of a resolute protracted defense against heavy odds. Accordingly, on the morning of the 17th ultimo, when the enemy appeared before that position, they were checked and held at bay with some confessed loss in a skirmish in advance of the works, in which Major Morgan and Captain Shelley, Fifth Regiment Alabama Volunteers, acted with intelligent gallantry, and the post was only abandoned under general, but specific, imperative orders, in conformity with a long-conceived established plan of action and battle.
Capt. E. P. Alexander, Confederate States Engineers, fortunately joined my headquarters in time to introduce the system of new field signals, which under his skillful management rendered me the most important service preceding and during the engagement.
The medical officers serving with the regiments engaged were at their proper posts and discharged their duties with satisfactory skill and zeal, and on one occasion at least, under an annoying fire, when Surgeon Cullen, First Regiment Virginia Volunteers, was obliged to remove our wounded from the hospital, which had become the special target of the enemy’s rifled guns, notwithstanding it was surmounted by the usual yellow hospital flag, but which, however, I hope for the sake of past associations was ignorantly mistaken for a Confederate flag. The name of each individual medical officer I cannot mention.
On the day of the engagement I was attended by my personal staff, Lieut. S. W. Ferguson, aide-de-camp and my volunteer aides-de-camp, Colonels Preston, Manning, Chesnut, Miles, Chisolm, and Hayward, of South Carolina, to all of whom I am greatly indebted for manifold essential services in the transmission of orders on the field and in the preliminary arrangements for the occupation and maintenance of the line of Bull Run.
Col. Thomas Jordan, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. C. H. Smith, assistant adjutant-general; Col. S. Jones, chief of artillery and ordnance; Major Cabell, chief quartermaster; Capt. W. H. Fowle, chief of subsistence department; Surg. Thomas H. Williams, medical director, and Assistant Surgeon Brodie, medical purveyor, of the general staff, attached to the Army of the Potomac, were necessarily engaged severally with their responsible duties at my headquarters at Camp Pickens, which they discharged with an energy and intelligence for which I have to tender my sincere thanks.
Messrs. McLean, Wilcoxen, Kinchelo, and Brawner, citizens of this immediate vicinity, it is their due to say, have placed me and the country under great obligations for the information relative to this region, which has enabled me to avail myself of its defensive features and resources. They were found ever ready to give me their time without stint or reward.
Our casualties, in all sixty-eight killed and wounded, were fifteen (including two reported missing) killed, and fifty-three wounded, several of whom have since died. The loss of the enemy can only be conjectured. It was unquestionably heavy. In the cursory examination, which was made by details from Longstreet’s and Early’s brigades, on the 18th of July, of that part of the field immediately contested and near Blackburn’s Ford, some sixty-four corpses were found and buried. Some few wounded and at least twenty prisoners were also picked up, besides one hundred and seventy-five stand of arms, a large quantity of accouterments and blankets, and quite one hundred and fifty hats.
The effect of this day’s conflict was to satisfy the enemy he could not force a passage across Bull Run in the face of our troops, and led him into the flank movement of the 21st of July and the battle of Manassas, the details of which will be related in another paper.
Herewith I have the honor to transmit the reports of the several brigade commanders engaged and of the artillery; also a map of the field of battle.(*)
The rendition of this report, it is proper to say in conclusion, has been unavoidably delayed by the constantly engrossing administrative duties of the commander of an army corps composed wholly of volunteers, duties vitally essential to its well being and future efficiency, and which I could not set aside or postpone on any account.
I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
G. T. BEAUREGARD,
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, C. S. Army
Special ORDERS, No. 100
HDQRS. ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Manassas Junction, July 8, 1861
Paragraph IV, of Special Orders, No. 51, from these headquarters, dated June 20, 1861, is revoked, and if attacked by a superior force of the enemy, the three brigades of the Army of the Potomac, serving in Fairfax County, will retire in the following manner and order:
I. The First Brigade on Mitchell’s Ford, of Bull Run, by way of Centreville.
II. The whole of the Fifth Brigade on Bull Run stone bridge, and adjacent fords, making a stand, if practicable, at the suspension bridge across Cub Run.
III. The Second Brigade, except Colonel Rodes’ regiment, will fall back via the railway and adjacent roads on Union Mills Ford and the railroad bridge across Bull Run, burning the bridges on their way.
The Fifth Regiment Alabama Volunteers, Colonel Rodes, will retire by way of Braddock’s old road and the nearest side roads to McLean’s Ford, on Bull Run, or Union Mills Ford, as most practicable. These brigades, thus in position, will make a desperate stand at the several points hereinbefore designated on the line of Bull Run, and will be supported as follows:
I. The Third Brigade will move forward to McLean’s Ford.
II. The Fourth Brigade will repair to Blackburn’s Ford.
III. The Sixth Brigade will be advanced to Union Mills Ford.
IV. Major Walton’s battery will repair to McLean’s farm-house by the shortest practicable route, with which he shall at once make himself and his officers thoroughly acquainted. At said farm-house he will await further orders.
Should the enemy march to the attack of Mitchell’s Ford via Centreville the following movements will be made with celerity:
I. The Fourth Brigade will march from Blackburn’s Ford to attack him on the flank and center.
II. The Third Brigade will be thrown to the attack of his center and rear towards Centreville.
III. The Second and Sixth Brigades united will also push forward and attack him in the rear by way of Centreville, protecting their own right flanks and rear from the direction of Fairfax Station and Court-House.
IV. In the event of the defeat of the enemy, the troops at Mitchell’s Ford and stone bridge, especially the cavalry and artillery, will join in the pursuit, which will be conducted with vigor but unceasing prudence, and continued until he shall have been driven beyond the Potomac.
V. The garrison of Camp Pickens and all existing guards and pickets inside of the lines of Bull Run and the Occoquan River will remain in position until otherwise ordered.
VI. The chiefs of the several staff corps attached to these headquarters will take all necessary measures to secure an efficient service of their respective departments in the exigency.
By order of Brigadier General Beauregard:
Acting Assistant Adjutant General
The plan of attack prescribed within would have been executed with modifications affecting First and Fifth Brigades to meet the attack upon Blackburn’s Ford but for the expected coming of General Johnston’s command, which was known to be en route to join me on the 18th of July.
G. T. BEAUREGARD,
(*) Map not found.
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This past Saturday, an off day between the 1st & 2nd rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the family piled into our rental car and drove to Hillsborough, outside of Raleigh. You can’t swing a dead cat in Hillsborough without hitting a historical marker of some sort.
The town was laid out in 1754, and due in large part to its situation along an Indian trading path that stretched from Petersburg, VA to Augusta, GA, Hillsborough became the center of the North Carolina back country. Hillsborough was the home of five General Assemblies during the 1770’s and 1780’s, and residents who played a prominent role in the Revolution included a signer of the Declaration of Independence (William Hooper, who relocated from Wilmington), a member of the Continental Congress (Thomas Burke, also wartime governor of NC), and Brigadier General Francis Nash, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Germantown. The house owned by Nash and, after his death, Hooper still stands at 118 W. Tyron St. British General Cornwallis camped in Hillsborough in 1781, and the Tory David Fanning (say that like The Virgin Connie Swail) captured Gov. Burke there later that same year.
This blog focuses on the Civil War, so let’s fast forward a bit. William Kirkland built Ayr Mount (376 St. Mary’s Rd.) in 1815, and the home would remain in the Kirkland family until 1971. In 1833, William W. Kirkland was born there (I’ve written about Kirkland here and here). Ayr Mount is now a historic site open to the public – but I didn’t have time to go there. I did revisit St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, where many Kirklands, Ruffins, and Pettigrews lie buried, and took a new photo of the Willie Hardee grave (though I must have been there at a similar time of day last time – this is one tough stone to photo). Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
The Visitor’s Center is in the Dickson House. As the war neared its close, General Wade Hampton made this his headquarters, and it was in the office building outside the house that Joseph Johnston and members of the Confederate Cabinet met to discuss surrendering to the armies of William T. Sherman. It was from there that Johnston rode out on April 18, 1865, bound for the nearby Bennett (Bennitt) Farm. Here’s a photo of the house – I forgot to take one of the office building.
Hillsborough was also home to the Burwell School, a female academy operated by the Rev. Robert Burwell and his wife from 1837 to 1857. In 1836 it became “home” to a teenaged slave named Elizabeth Hobbes. In 1855, Elizabeth bought her freedom, married, moved to Washington, worked as a dressmaker in the White House and in 1868 published her memoir, Behind the Scenes; or Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, under her married name, Elizabeth Keckly. She, along with her boss, Mary Todd Lincoln, was the recent subject of this book.
Hillsborough has a ton to offer the history-minded traveler, and lots of shops and such to satisfy the non-history-minded spouses with which many of us seem to travel.
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Categories : Articles, Field Trips
Report of Brig. Gen. M. L. Bonham, C. S. Army, Commanding First Brigade, First Corps
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 518-521
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG. FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp Gregg, August 1, 1861
GENERAL: I had ordered reports from my officers of the operations of the 21st of July previous to the 1st instant, though I had not until that day received instructions to do so. Between the 18th and 21st of July I placed on my extreme left Kershaw’s regiment with Kemper’s battery, both to give support to the left or center of your whole line, as circumstances might require, and to keep watch on the enemy’s movements, should he attempt to cross any part of his force by Cub Run Ford, between Colonel Cocke’s position at stone bridge and my own at Bull Run. Colonel Kirkland’s regiment was placed in my center, on the ground previously occupied by Colonel Kershaw. The enemy continued up to evening of the 20th to make some display of force in my front, but to what extent it was impossible to ascertain, as his force was under cover of the hills and woods. My command was kept on the alert, and my scouts and pickets kept careful watch on his movements, under the expectation that he was preparing to move directly on my position.
About 2.30 o’clock on the morning of the 21st Colonel Kirkland, field officer of the day for my command, a vigilant officer, came in from visiting his pickets beyond the run and informed me that he had heard the rumbling to my left front of artillery wagons. I directed him to renew his efforts to ascertain its character, and before daylight he confirmed his suspicions that it was the enemy in force, which I communicated to headquarters. I also sent across the run General McGowan, one of my volunteer aides, who brought me the same intelligence. I directed him to report to you in person, and crossing myself (it was now light) to the grove near Butler’s house, directly in my front, I perceived by my field-glass, dimly in the distance, the enemy in large force proceeding along the Warrenton turnpike towards the stone bridge, Colonel Cocke’s position. This fact I immediately communicated to headquarters, and directed my whole command to prepare for action, as I supposed the assault would be made early along our whole line.
Early in the morning the enemy’s fire was opened upon my position from the batteries in my front, throwing shot and shell from rifled cannon, and kept up until the afternoon, with occasional exchanges of small-arms between the advance troops. The distance was such that my own field pieces could do but little execution, and my fire was reserved for a closer encounter. My men occupied through the day the trenches under this pretty regular fire of shell and shot, exhibiting a coolness and steadiness worthy of veterans.
While standing a little after noon with General Johnston and yourself on Lookout Hill, in rear of my position, watching the progress of the engagement on my left, where the enemy’s chief force seemed to be concentrating, I received an order from yourself in person to detach to the support of our troops engaged on the left, two of my regiments, with one battery. I immediately sent forward Kershaw and Gash with Kemper’s battery.
Between 5 and 6 o’clock in the afternoon I received an order from General Johnston to move forward upon Centreville with most of my command and General Longstreet’s which order was at once obeyed. Before we had reached the position which the enemy had occupied in our front he abandoned his camp, with indications of a precipitate retreat. I continued the pursuit to near Centreville, when the enemy opened with his artillery upon the route of my column as indicated by the dust. Colonel Lay, with a small escort, having gone forward to make a reconnaissance, found his artillery and infantry drawn up on the hills between the run and Centreville, covering the approach to that place. I ordered my own infantry to deploy in the woods to the left of the road and General Longstreet’s to the right placing a battery of artillery in the road, and the cavalry in the rear, under cover.
By the time the deployment was completed it was dark. After the lapse of a half hour or more I moved the whole command to the run, to refresh themselves preparatory to executing such order as I might receive from you, reporting the fact to yourself at Manassas. During the night the enemy abandoned his position at Centreville. On the following morning I received an order to move forward with two regiments, some artillery and cavalry, to Centreville, where my command, during an incessant fall of rain, took possession of and collected together as far as practicable a large quantity of commissary supplies, tents, wagons, horses, with one piece of artillery, four caissons, and a large quantity of ammunition, and a number of prisoners, sending to Manassas all that could be forwarded that evening. The following day I was ordered to occupy Vienna.
I shall find it difficult to do justice to the fortitude, the patriotism, and the steady courage of the officers and men composing my command, through their hard labors of several weeks in the trenches at Fairfax Court-House; the falling back from that place to Bull Run, and their occupation of the trenches for four successive days through all changes of weather, much of the time without food, and entirely without covering, their readiness to meet the foe at any odds at Fairfax, and the willingness to encounter him at all times at Bull Run, command my highest admiration. To those gentlemen who belonged to my staff in South Carolina as the major-general of the South Carolina State troops, and who so promptly responded to the first call from the State of Virginia for assistance, at all times cheerfully rendering me every aid in their power in the organization of the troops which have been at different times under my command, coming with me to Manassas at the beginning of military operations in this quarter, and sustaining me under every trial and difficulty, I am much indebted. Col. W. C. Moragné, Maj. S. W. Nelson, and Maj. B. H. Whitner, of my regular staff, and Maj. E. Spann Hammond, of my volunteer staff, were called home by imperative duties previous to these operations. To Lieut. Col. W. D. Simpson, Lieut. Col. A. P. Aldrich, and Lieut. Col. James M. Lipscomb, of my regular staff, am I greatly indebted for most active and efficient services during the whole time of the operations of my command from the 17th to the 22d of July, inclusive, each executing every order delivered him with the utmost alacrity, and frequently under circumstances of peril. I am also indebted to Maj. Thomas J. Davies, of my regular staff’, and Maj. S. W. Melton, and Alfred Moss (the latter of Virginia), my volunteer aides, for similar active and efficient services; and to Major Melton I am further indebted for very valuable aid as military secretary. I am also much indebted to my volunteer aides, Majs. S. S. Tompkins, W. P. Butler; and M. B. Lipscomb, for valuable assistance in the performance of various duties connected with my command from the time they joined me at Centreville to the close of the operations. To General S. McGowan, volunteer aide, who also joined me at Centreville, I am under many obligations for his valuable assistance during the operations of my command from the 17th to the 21st, inclusive, under circumstances of peril and exposure.
I desire to mention in most favorable terms the valuable services of Col. George W. Lay, Virginia forces, who acted as my adjutant-general during the above-mentioned operations. To Capt. W. H. Stevens, of the Engineers, C. S. Army, am I greatly indebted for his indefatigable labors in putting Fairfax Court-House in a state of defense, and his constant attention to the execution of all Orders extended through him, both in camp and in the field. It is also proper to mention the valuable aid rendered Captain Stevens by General Johnson Hagood, of South Carolina; Professor Venable, of South Carolina College; and Mr. Nyllis, of the Eighth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, as volunteer assistant engineer in the construction of the works at Fairfax Court-House. Of Captains Wickham, Ball, Powell, and Payne, and the officers and men of their commands, who have been with me from about the time of my arrival at Manassas early in May, I wish to make my acknowledgments for valuable and efficient services, at all times cheerfully rendered. I desire to make favorable mention also of Colonel Radford and his cavalry, who joined me at a late period, and who have ever promptly executed all my orders. Captain Kemper and the officers and men of his battery are deserving of my highest approbation. They were the first artillery to occupy Artillery Hill at Centreville under my orders. They have been kept steadily in the front, and have shown themselves worthy of the position and the great cause in which they are engaged. The distinguished parts performed by Colonels Kershaw and Cash and Captain Kemper, as also by Colonel Radford’s cavalry and the other troops of cavalry belonging to my command, was somewhat under your own observation on the 21st of July, and to their reports I respectfully refer. Col. J. L. Kemper, of the Seventh Regiment Virginia Volunteers, is entitled to my highest approbation, not only for his generous acceptance of the place of quartermaster with my advanced command, but also on account of his activity and efficiency as a member of my staff in carrying my orders on the 17th, as well as the 18th, at Bull Run. To Colonels Williams, Bacon, Kirkland, and Kelly, and Captain Shields, and the officers and men of their commands, I am also indebted for the promptness, cheerfulness, and energy with which they performed all the duties assigned to them; and I commend the entire command for the spirit and patriotism with which they performed all their duties. To Major Kennedy, commissary of my command, and Lieutenant Washington, assistant quartermaster, C. S. Army, am I also indebted for active and efficient services.
For more minute details of the operations of the different corps I respectfully refer to the reports of the commanders of those corps.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
M. L. BONHAM,
Brig. Gen., Comdg. First Brigade, First Corps, Army Potomac
Brig. Gen. G. T. BEAUREGARD,
Commanding First Corps, Army Potomac
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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,
*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.
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