The Regular Infantry in the First Bull Run Campaign – Dangerfield Parker

3 03 2010

THE REGULAR INFANTRY IN THE FIRST BULL RUN CAMPAIGN.

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

BY DANGERFIELD PARKER, MAJOR NINTH US INFANTRY

UNITED SERVICE – Volume XIII (1885), pp. 521-531

The rays of the afternoon sun of the 16th of July, 1861, were brightly reflected from the rifle-barrels of a compact little battalion of infantry just about to move from camp at Arlington Heights, Virginia, and take its place in the heavy column already beginning the march toward Fairfax Court-House. The battalion consisted of Companies C and G, Second, B, D, G, H, Third, and G, Eighth United States Infantry, under the command of Major George Sykes, Fourteenth Infantry (afterward major-general of volunteers, and in command of the Fifth Corps), who had recently been promoted from captain Third Infantry. Captain N. H. Davis, Second Infantry (now inspector-general United States Army) was the acting major. There were but few of the remaining officers who had had much experience in the field, they being for the most part either fresh from West Point or civil life.

It is not my purpose in this article to attempt an elaborate description of the campaign ending in the disastrous battle of Bull Run, for this has been done by far abler hands, but rather to relate the part taken in it by the little force to which I had the honor to belong, together with such incidents as will be likely, I trust, to interest the general reader. In order, however, to render my narrative intelligible, it will be necessary, here and there, to describe with as light a touch as I may, such dispositions of troops, etc., as may be requisite to throw into relief the role performed by the actors in my little drama.

Five companies, only, of the Third Infantry had succeeded, a few weeks previously, in withdrawing from Texas (where they were stationed before the war), the remaining ones having been taken prisoners at Indianola by an overwhelming force of Confederates, and afterwards paroled. They rejoined the regiment the ensuing year. I afterwards heard some of the older officers say that when this was effected, the enlisted men of these paroled companies were reported “Present or accounted for,” though many received tempting offers of commissions in the Confederate service.

The battalion which we have just seen as about to commence its march (1) formed a portion of the First Brigade (Porter’s), Second Division (Hunter’s). The troops composing the remainder of this brigade were: a battalion of seven companies of regular cavalry, belonging to the First and Second Regiments, and Second Dragoons, under the command of Major (now General) Innis Palmer, a battalion of marines under Major Reynolds, the Eighth, Fourteenth, and Twenty-seventh New York Infantry, and Griffin’s battery of the Fifth United States Artillery.

Before proceeding with our narrative it will not be amiss, perhaps, to take a glance at the city of Washington as it then appeared. But for the handsome public buildings scattered here and there, the place presented all the characteristics of a southern town,—and a second-rate one at that,—and bore no resemblance to the beautiful city of to-day. The streets were wretchedly paved and lighted, and, in spots, an air of shabbiness—not to say dilapidation—prevailed.

The troops that since the “call” of the President had been pouring into the city were, in part, the organized militia of the different States, and, in part, volunteers. All having been mustered into the United States service, however, this distinction was but a technical one. The streets of the city fairly swarmed with these troops; mounted orderlies galloped hither and yon, the music of the bands of incoming regiments filled the air, the hotel corridors were filled with embryo brigadiers, and all was excitement, bustle, and seeming confusion. I remember, but a few brief weeks before the period of which I write, to have met daily, General (then major in the adjutant-general’s department) McDowell on his way to muster in the latest arrived battalions. He was always in the full dress of that day,—i.e., the soft felt hat with ostrich feathers, epaulets, and sash; and I recall the impression made upon me by his fine physique and soldierly appearance.

So far as I am informed, the First Bull Run campaign was the only one in which the troops represented—regulars, militia, and volunteers— preserved their distinctive names, and, to a certain extent, uniforms. The last-named feature gave to the columns rather a parti-colored, not to say variegated, appearance. I recall that the Fourteenth New York, for instance (familiarly known as the Fourteenth Brooklyn), wore a semi-zouave uniform. The Twelfth New York Volunteers wore the full-dress hat of the regular infantry. There were a few regiments uniformed in gray,—Wisconsin and Minnesota troops,—and this fact gave rise during the battle to the report that one or more of these organizations were fired upon by our own men. I am under the impression also that some of the companies wore the old-fashioned “swallow-tail.”

But to resume. The march to Centreville was necessarily a tedious one. The troops were, as a body, raw, and almost all of them inexperienced in field service. So far as drill was concerned, most of them had some knowledge of company and battalion movements. But in regard to marching, target-practice, and the thousand and one details of practical soldiering, they were utterly, and necessarily so, uninstructed. The regular troops had quite a number of old soldiers in their ranks, with the usual sprinkling of recruits. The paucity of their numbers—so far, at least, as the cavalry and infantry were concerned— prevented their being an important factor in the attack, but it was far otherwise, as we shall see, in the retreat.

Leaving out the element of inexperience—or rawness, if you will— of the volunteer troops engaged in this campaign, I have always been of the opinion that they were an exceptionally fine body of men, and that their conduct on the field of battle was, under the circumstances in which they were placed, all that could possibly be expected of them. They only did, indeed, what veteran troops had done, upon occasion, in similar cases from time immemorial.

Of the battalion of marines, consisting of about three hundred and fifty, rank and file, all, excepting about a dozen non-commissioned officers, were raw recruits; and of the commissioned officers there were comparatively few of experience. Their veteran major (Reynolds), being keenly alive to this fact, let no opportunity slip of endeavoring to get them into shape, and the novel spectacle of battalion drills by moonlight, after a tedious day’s march, was presented several times, much to the interest and amusement of our men. The good result of this, however, was satisfactorily demonstrated on the field of battle.

The march of the 16th was necessarily a short one, the evening of the 17th finding us in the vicinity of Fairfax Court-House. During this day’s march—a hot and dusty one, I remember—a private belonging to some organization ahead of us passed us at “double-quick” on his way to the front. I have never forgotten his appearance. Like many another commencing his campaign experience, he had prepared for the march by literally packing himself, and beside the regulation knapsack, haversack, canteen, blanket, and rifle, he appeared to carry an assorted cargo of “a little of everything.” As he passed us with pots rattling, etc., he turned a jolly red face toward the column and exclaimed, “Lord, Jee! I wisht I was a mule!” The roar of laughter that followed seemed greatly to refresh and speed him on his way.

The close of the day’s march on the 18th found us in bivouac near Centreville. I cannot now recall whether it was during that night, or that of the 19th, that the following incident occurred: As a distinguished general officer, describing the rout of the Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville, said, “somebody fired a gun” (but not the enemy, who was some distance away), and straightway such a fusilade across our camp began—apparently from every direction—that we were fain to look about for any shelter that might present itself. One of the officers’ “strikers” who was leisurely crossing the camp-ground, apparently oblivious to the fact that anything unusual was going on, had his march suddenly arrested by Captain D , who shouted “Lie down, you d— fool!”—which he proceeded to do instanter. He had been taught to obey orders, but not to avoid friendly bullets in an enemy’s country. It was one of the hottest fires I ever experienced.

While here, also, we witnessed a scene novel to most of us, and probably the last of its kind that took place in our army. It was the punishment, by whipping, of two deserters. Before the war this was the penalty prescribed for desertion in time of peace, and these criminals had committed the act some time previously. The battalion was drawn up in square, the punishment taking place within it. I will not enlarge on this scene further than to say it was a very painful one. A young officer, who displayed conspicuous gallantry in action a couple of days thereafter, fainted in ranks. One of the volunteers inquired of an officer of the Third, “If I, too, should desert, would I receive such punishment?” He was answered, “No, you would be shot!” But he did not seem to think this would be an improvement.

Having previously had many associations with the navy, I had a personal acquaintance with several of the older officers of the battalion of marines, from whom I received numerous invitations to meals, which, as they lived very well, to say nothing of their genial manners and hearty hospitality, I was very glad to accept. No one had tents, of course, but in some mysterious way they had been able to carry along tables. Though we dined and supped, therefore, alfresco, these appliances of civilization—with the addition of real tumblers, etc.— were most acceptable. I remember that at Centreville, after supper one evening, having permission to be absent from our own tattoo, I remained to hear the half-score or so of little marine drummers and fifers “sound off” that call. The field music of the corps used to be (and I presume still is) excellent, and during the two or three days we were at Centreville the performance of tattoo attracted crowds of volunteers, who evinced their appreciation of the music by loud clapping of hands, etc.

Major (afterwards General) George Sykes was an officer for whom I have always had an ardent admiration. He was a born soldier, and displayed conspicuous ability in every position in which he was placed. He possessed in a high degree that union of soldierly qualities that, while holding his men well in hand and under perfect control, enabled him to effect some decisive stroke with the least possible damage to his command. Thus his troops were in course of the war frequently called upon to enact upon the field of battle a dual or triple role,—to assist in opening the engagement, then to be withdrawn to the reserve, and finally (as at both Bull Runs, first and second) to make the final charge of the day. His troops seemed imbued with something of the order of his own daily life and demeanor, influenced by the same regularity and discipline, of which the ever-buttoned coat and spotless white glove were the outward symbols. As a man, he was upright and chivalrous; as a companion, courteous and—to his intimates—genial.

THE BATTLE

Day had not yet broken on the morning of July 21,1861, when our little force was paraded in readiness for the march to the battle-field; but, owing to the tardy march of troops in front, our division did not reach Centreville, about a mile distant, until after four o’clock, and it was some time after sunrise before we crossed Cub Run, on the Warrenton turnpike, and turned to the right on the “wood road” leading to Sudley Ford, with the “objective” of turning the Confederate left. This delay in the movement of the column in our front was particularly unfortunate, as the result proved, as this circumstance, coupled with the fact that the distance to be traversed was greater than the general-in-chief was led to expect, and the impossibility of concealing the movement of so large a column on a dusty road not especially favored topographically for this purpose, turned what had been intended as a “manoeuvre-march” into a simple “manoeuvre.” It will be remembered that McDowell’s original plan was to attempt to turn the Confederate right, and that this was abandoned for the reasons, as he himself says in his official report, that, upon examination, the roads on that flank ” were too narrow and crooked for so large a body to move over, and the distance around too great to admit of it with any safety.” Further, that the affair at Blackburn’s Ford, on the 18th, showed the enemy was too strong there to admit of forcing a passage without great loss, and if successful “would bring us in front of his strong position at Manassas, which was not desired.” And again, it has been stated that a demonstration in any direction was delayed by the non-arrival of subsistence stores (rations), which did not arrive until the night of the 19th and were distributed on the 20th.

The weather was extremely hot, and although the wood through which we now marched furnished here and there some protection from the fierce rays of the sun, yet its very denseness shut out the breeze and made the heat almost intolerable. The Second Brigade (Burnside’s) slowly preceded us under these circumstances, and it must have been fully ten o’clock before we arrived in the vicinity of Sudley Ford, probably eight or nine miles from our point of departure on the Warrenton turnpike. Turning south we speedily saw the smoke from the fire of the troops on the Confederate left, resting at that time on the Sudley road and the high ground north of the valley of Young’s Branch. The troops engaged were afterwards understood to be South Carolina and Louisiana regiments under General Evans, and opposed to them was Burnside’s second brigade of our division, which “opened the ball.” Just at this time an order reached Sykes to bring his battalion forward in support of Burnside. Before doing so he made us a short address. It was to the point, and gave us to understand that there would probably be some work for us to do. Shortly before this time, also, the first soldier I ever saw wounded in action passed us,—a cavalryman shot in the sword arm. The Sudley and Newmarket road, by which the column was now marching, was thickly wooded between the command and the creek (Bull Run) for a distance of about a mile, and then the country becomes more open on both sides of the road, gradually clearing into a series of undulating or rolling fields extending as far as the Warrenton turnpike, distant from the ford about two miles. Young’s Branch crosses the turnpike near the intersection of the two roads named, and it was in the more or less open space in this vicinity that the battle raged the fiercest.

We moved along at double time until, striking the open space referred to, we formed line, and swinging forward our left, charged through a belt of timber, taking several prisoners. Just previously we passed Rickett’s splendid battery, belonging to Franklin’s brigade of the Third (Heintzleman’s) Division. It was drawn to one side to allow us to pass, (2) and poor “Dang” Ramsay attracted our attention by waving his cap which he had placed on his sheathed sabre. He was killed shortly after this.

It was upon emerging from this wood, as I remember, that the battalion found itself opposite a masked battery posted near a house in the vicinity of the junction of the Warrenton turnpike and the Sudley road, and supported by an infantry force in position among the trees around it. The three left companies of the battalion were deployed as skirmishers under Captain Dodge, Eighth Infantry (now colonel Eleventh Infantry), and gallantly advancing to the attack were soon hotly engaged. The remainder of the battalion advanced across an open plain, the right skirting a belt of heavy timber. Having arrived at the apex of the angle formed by the southern limit of this wood with its eastern side, we changed direction to the right, and wheeling into line took up position to support the Rhode Island battery. This battery was served and handled with marked gallantry.

The troops on the Confederate left at this time consisted, as afterward appeared, of Evans’s demi-brigade, supported by Bee’s brigade posted near the historic Henry house, and afterward further strengthened, when the Confederate left fell back, by Hampton’s Legion and other troops.

By some Confederate writers the “turning column” has been estimated as about eighteen thousand strong. The official returns for July 16 and 17 give the total strength of the Second and Third Divisions as twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five, from which it is to be presumed that on the day of the battle the usual number of non-effectives (the sick, etc.) must be deducted, as well as one entire regiment of the Third Division (the Fourth Michigan) not engaged.

The position of affairs on our right at this time was about as follows:

The Second Division (Hunter’s) hotly engaged; the Second (Burnside’s) Brigade on the right; the Third (Heintzleman’s) Division rapidly taking position on our left. The Rhode Island battery, which was the first one in position, was on the right, the two boat-howitzers attached to the Seventy-first New York Regiment on its left. A few hundred yards to the left, at intervals, Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were posted in the order named. Arnold’s battery came into action a little later, and was posted on the left centre. From the position, of affairs, the brunt of the fighting was sustained, so far as artillery was concerned, by these batteries, and nobly they did their work. They were superbly handled.

Griffin’s battery was supported by the marines, and Rickett’s by the Fire Zouaves (Eleventh New York), with the Fourteenth New York as a reserve support.

The battalion of regular cavalry—all there was of this arm in the column—was posted slightly in rear of the extreme right. History recounts the distinguished part played by this little force—seven companies—both in the action and in assisting to cover the retreat.

The First Division (Tyler’s) was posted as follows: Richardson’s brigade at Blackburn’s Ford, the other three (Sherman’s, Schenck’s, and Keyes’s) at or near the Stone Bridge. The Fifth Division (Miles’s) was held in reserve, and at no time engaged, except in slight skirmishing on the retreat. The Fourth Division (Runyon’s) was several miles to the rear.

It was originally intended, I believe, that the Third Division should turn off to the left, by a road supposed to be about midway between the Warrenton turnpike and Sudley Ford; but as such a road did not exist, this division followed the Second to the ford. This suppositious road was to lead to an equally suppositious ford east of Sudley’s.

After a stout resistance the Confederate left gave way, and was pressed back with such energy as speedily to throw it into confusion.

Meanwhile, Sherman’s and Keyes’s brigades having, accidentally as it appeared, discovered a ford on the run above the Stone Bridge, advanced and took an active part in the conflict.

The engagement now became general along the line. Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were brought farther to the front. The arrival of Jackson’s command, and of some of the fresh troops of the Army of the Shenandoah just arrived, enabled the Confederates to rally their shattered battalions, and by taking the offensive in turn, to pierce our centre and recover some of their lost ground.

It was now after two o’clock. Our right, though checked, was readily rallied and put in order for another forward movement. The delay required to effect this probably enabled the Confederates to have at hand, an hour later, Elzey’s brigade and the other fresh troops, now rapidly advancing from Manassas Station. Our line again advanced, and recovered the plateau upon which were situated the Henry and Robinson houses, but was again repulsed, with the loss of nearly the whole of Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries, the intrepid cannoneers being mostly shot down at their guns, while their supports fell back in disorder. The strong flanking position held by us on the right, however, enabled us still to hold our grip there, until the troops on our left were relieved and put in order for what was to be the final charge of the day on our part.

Up to this time, I believe it to be generally conceded that the fortunes of the day were in our favor. Even with the last advantage gained by the Confederates, we still retained our hold on the right so tenaciously as to enable us to reform a line of battle, presenting a firm and bold front. But the accession of fresh troops to the Confederate ranks afforded them the means of renewing the offensive so energetically that the result was inevitable. Moving around our right, under cover of the woods there, our flank began to yield, and before an advance of the whole Confederate line our men at length gave way, and in a twinkle were seized with a panic that, beginning in a retreat, degenerated into a rout.

Our battalion, which had remained under a hot fire for over an hour in support of the Rhode Island battery,—many of our men assisting in working it,—gradually worked its way farther to the right, the necessity for its longer stay in support of the battery having ceased, as the fiercest fighting was now developing in that direction. The line on this flank had extended somewhat in the manoeuvre for position.

Sykes now received an order to advance and cover the retreat of the troops in this part of the field. Shortly after getting in motion our little force was joined by a small detachment of what I now believe to have been Minnesota troops. They evidently must have been “spoiling for a fight,” at any rate, and had just left friends not so anxious for another round or two as they were. These men (uniformed, singularly enough, in gray) fell in on our left, and gallantly advanced to the front with us, and remained until we were ordered to form square. I then lost sight of them.

Though the number of troops engaged in this movement was insignificant, I have often thought that the order and regularity in which the men marched, and their gallant and determined bearing, must have excited the surprise, if not admiration, of our foe in the light of the events that preceded.

All was lost! The whole field, so far as the eye could reach, was covered with panic-stricken and flying men. The battalion advanced to the hill opposite, one upon which a house stood (probably Chinn’s, to the right and rear of the Henry house), where, being threatened with cavalry, it formed square. It remained in that position until, all of our men having fallen back, it was withdrawn in line-of-battle, suffering meanwhile severely from the fire of a section of artillery which was particularly attentive so long as it had a knowledge of our whereabouts. Being, on its march, still threatened by cavalry, the battalion, upon reaching the crest of another hill, faced about, opened fire, and held them in check. By this time the guns of the Confederates seemed from every height to converge their fire upon us, but by avoiding the road, the dust raised by the little column was so inconsiderable that our march was masked, and we were thus enabled to reach Centreville without further loss.

The reports of the different military commanders, as well as the accounts given by historians, agree in warmly praising the conduct of the regular infantry in this action. General McDowell says, “The battalion of regular infantry alone moved up the hill opposite to the one with the house, and there maintained itself until our men could get down to and across the Warrenton turnpike,” etc. General Barnard, the Compte de Paris, Swinton, and General Beauregard mention the conduct of the battalion in substantially the same terms.

The loss to the battalion, considering the small number engaged, was heavy, aggregating (killed, wounded, and missing) eighty-three. Lieutenant William Dickinson (now captain retired), acting adjutant of the battalion of the Third Infantry, was wounded and taken prisoner, as was also Lieutenant (now major Fourth Infantry) Jacob F. Kent.

I recall—the outcome of my inexperience—that in passing through these woods, I turned to Sykes and asked, “What do you make of this, major?” “Looks very much like a rout, lieutenant!” he replied, in the dry and somewhat nasal tone habitual to him.

Truly there is scarcely a step from the sublime to the ridiculous. I never think now of this incident without amusement: when the battalion formed square, as has been related, one of our friends in gray— apparently about six and a half feet high and slim in proportion— jumped up in the air and exclaimed frantically, “They’re trying to flank us! they’re trying to flank us!” His manner was so excited, and his appearance so outre (I think he wore a shako, which had slipped to the back of his head) that, if I had not been in a slightly mixed state of mind myself, I think I should have laughed outright. As it was, he made such a row that I felt strongly inclined to use some strong language. But all the same, he was a gallant fellow.

As we marched through Centreville we met the Fifth Division drawn up and seemingly in perfect order. I recollect that one regiment was singing “John Brown’s body.”

The fatigue of that terrible march, the gloom that settled like a pall upon the participants, can never be forgotten by them. General Sykes says in his official report, “Our officers and men were on their feet from 10 P.M. on the 20th until 10 A.M. on the 22d.” I must have fallen asleep (3) while marching, for I found myself with a strange regiment (I think the Twelfth New York Volunteers) when day broke. My command had halted for a short rest at Fairfax Court-House, and soon overtook me, after I had “fallen out” upon discovering my mistake.

The sun was high in the heavens when our worn-out officers and men reached camp at Arlington Heights, and after breaking ranks,— for the battalion had come “all the way through” in perfect order,— just threw their exhausted bodies down in the nearest shade that could be found.

Although, after the final charge of the Confederates on our right, with its attendant circumstances, there was no doubt in the mind of our leaders as to the final result, it would appear that the Confederate commanders were not at first prepared to decide upon the character of the reverse. So far as the disaster on our right, with its attendant circumstances, was concerned, there could be but one opinion. But was it a bona fide rout? It was, unquestionably. But were the Confederate leaders sure of it at first? We had heavy columns—of which fact they were doubtless aware—in reserve, as has been seen. The hardest part of the fighting had been done by the “turning column” and Keyes’s and Sherman’s brigades of Tyler’s division. Mr. Jefferson Davis writes to General Beauregard, under date of August 4, 1861, “You will not fail to remember that, so far from knowing that the enemy was routed, a large part of our forces was moved by you in the night of the 21st to repel a supposed attack upon our right, and the next day’s operations did not fully reveal what has since been reported of the enemy’s panic.”

So far as an advance upon Washington was concerned, it seems to have formed no part of the plan of the Confederate general-in-chief, nor of Mr. Davis,—at any rate at that time,—and this for what appear to have been good strategical reasons. Indeed, General Johnston makes a statement to that effect. He says, in his official report of the battle, “The apparent firmness of the United States troops at Centreville, who had not been engaged, which checked our pursuit; the strong forces occupying the works near Georgetown, Arlington, and Alexandria; the certainty, too, that General Patterson, if needed, would reach Washington with his army of thirty thousand men sooner than we could, and the condition and inadequate means of the army in ammunition, provisions, and transportation, prevented any serious thoughts of advancing against the capital.”

As to the numbers engaged on both sides, the official returns of the troops composing General McDowell’s army reported an aggregate of thirty-five thousand seven hundred and thirty-two. Of these about eighteen thousand—or let us say, at the outside, twenty thousand— were actively engaged. The Confederate field-return of the First Corps (Army of the Potomac) reports an aggregate of twenty-one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and the number actually engaged as nine thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven; but the return of casualties shows losses in organizations not embraced in this return. Of the Army of the Shenandoah engaged, General Beauregard reports the number as eight thousand three hundred and thirty-four. The reader can draw his own inference.

A few days after the battalion of regular infantry was re-established in camp, President Lincoln, accompanied by General McDowell, came over to review it. In their passage down the line they drew rein in front of the colors, when the general, turning to Mr. Lincoln, said, “Mr. President, these are the men who saved your army at Bull Run,”—doubtless an extravagant compliment. The President, looking keenly up and down the line, replied, “I’ve heard of them.”

This was all; but it made a powerful impression upon all present, as it more than compensated for the effect of the injurious reports rife in Washington upon our arrival there after the battle, viz., that “the regulars had run.”

Notes:

(1) This force was characterized by General Beauregard in his article in the November (1884) number of the Century as “a small but incomparable body of regular infantry.”

(2) If I remember correctly, it was this battery that was drawn by West Point horses.

(3) I believe this is not a very uncommon circumstance. I had done the same thing once before (in the “Patterson Campaign”) on the return march from Hagerstown to Williamsport.

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McDowell’s Advance to Bull Run – James B. Fry

6 02 2010

McDOWELL’S ADVANCE TO BULL RUN

BY JAMES B. FRY, BREVET MAJOR-GENERAL, U. S. A. (AT BULL RUN, CAPTAIN AND ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL ON McDOWELL’S STAFF).

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 167-193

As President Buchanan’s administration was drawing to a close, he was forced by the action of the South to decide whether the power of the general Government should be used to coerce into submission States that had attempted to secede from the Union. His opinion was that the contingency was not provided for, that while a State had no right to secede, the Constitution gave no authority to coerce, and that he had no right to do anything except hold the property and enforce the laws of the United States.

Before he went out of office the capital of the nation seemed to be in danger of seizure. For its protection, and in order to consult about holding Southern forts and arsenals, General Scott was in December called to Washington, from which he had been absent since the inauguration of Pierce, who had defeated him for the presidency. Jefferson Davis, Pierce’s Secretary of War, and General Scott had quarreled, and the genius of acrimony controlled the correspondence which took place between them. Notwithstanding the fact that on account of his age and infirmities he was soon overwhelmed by the rush of events, General Scott’s laurels had not withered at the outbreak of the war, and he brought to the emergency ability, experience, and prestige. A high light in the whole military world, he towered above the rest of our army at that time professionally as he did physically. As the effect of his unusual stature was increased by contrast with a short aide-de-camp (purposely chosen, it was suspected), so was his exalted character marked by one or two conspicuous but not very harmful foibles. With much learning, great military ability, a strict sense of justice, and a kind heart, he was vain and somewhat petulant. He loved the Union and hated Jefferson Davis.
 
By authority of President Buchanan, Scott assembled a small force of regulars in the capital, and for the first time in the history of the country the electoral count was made and a President was inaugurated under the protection of soldiery. But before the inauguration of Lincoln, March 4th, the secession movement had spread through the “cotton-belt” and delegates from the secession States had met as a congress at Montgomery, Alabama, February 4th. On the 8th they had organized the “Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America,” and on the 9th had elected Jefferson Davis President and Alexander H. Stephens Vice-President.

When the news of the firing upon Sumter reached Washington, President Lincoln prepared a proclamation, and issued it April 15th, convening Congress and calling forth 75,000 three-months militia to suppress combinations against the Government. The Federal situation was alarming. Sumter fell on the 13th of April, and was evacuated on the 14th. Virginia seceded on the 17th, and seized Harper’s Ferry on the 18th and the Norfolk Navy Yard on the 20th. On the 19th a mob in Baltimore assaulted the 6th Massachusetts volunteers as it passed through to Washington, and at once bridges were burned and railway communication was cut off between Washington and the North.

Lincoln had had no experience as a party leader or executive officer, and was without knowledge of military affairs or acquaintance with military men. Davis at the head of the Confederacy was an experienced and acknowledged Southern leader; he was a graduate of the Military Academy; had commanded a regiment in the Mexican war; had been Secretary of War under President Pierce, and had been chairman of the Military Committee in the United States Senate up to the time he left Congress to take part with the South. He was not only well versed in everything relating to war, but was thoroughly informed concerning the character and capacity of prominent and promising officers of the army. There was nothing experimental in his choice of high military commanders. With but few exceptions, those appointed at the beginning retained command until they lost their lives or the war closed.

The Southern States, all claiming to be independent republics after secession, with all their governmental machinery, including militia and volunteer organizations, in complete working order, transferred themselves as States from the Union to the Confederacy. The organization of a general government from such elements, with war as its immediate purpose, was a simple matter. Davis had only to accept and arrange, according to his ample information and well-matured judgment, the abundant and ambitious material at hand in the way that he thought would best secure his purposes. Lincoln had to adapt the machinery of a conservative old government, some of it unsuitable, some unsound, to sudden demands for which it was not designed. The talents of Simon Cameron, his first Secretary of War, were political, not military. He was a kind, gentle, placid man, gifted with powers to persuade, not to command. Shrewd and skilled in the management of business and personal matters, he had no knowledge of military affairs, and could not give the President much assistance in assembling and organizing for war the earnest and impatient, but unmilitary people of the North.

Officers from all departments of the Federal civil service hurried to the Confederacy and placed themselves at the disposal of Davis, and officers from all the corps of the regular army, most of them full of vigor, with the same education and experience as those who remained, went South and awaited assignment to the duties for which Davis might regard them as best qualified. All Confederate offices were vacant, and the Confederate President had large if not absolute power in filling them. On the other hand, the civil offices under Lincoln were occupied or controlled by party, and in the small regular army of the Union the law required that vacancies should as a rule be filled by seniority. There was no retired list for the disabled, and the army was weighed down by longevity; by venerated traditions; by prerogatives of service rendered in former wars; by the firmly tied red-tape of military bureauism, and by the deep-seated and well-founded fear of the auditors and comptrollers of the treasury. Nothing but time and experience—possibly nothing but disaster—could remove from the path of the Union President difficulties from which the Confederate President was, by the situation, quite free. In the beginning of the war, the military advantage was on the side of the Confederates, notwithstanding the greater resources of the North, which produced their effect only as the contest was prolonged.

After the firing of the first gun upon Sumter, the two sides were equally active in marshaling their forces on a line along the border States from the Atlantic coast of Virginia in the east to Kansas in the west. Many of the earlier collisions along this line were due rather to special causes or local feeling than to general military considerations. The prompt advance of the Union forces under McClellan to West Virginia was to protect that new-born free State. Patterson’s movement to Hagerstown and thence to Harper’s Ferry was to prevent Maryland from joining or aiding the rebellion, to re-open the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and prevent invasion from the Shenandoah Valley. The Southerners having left the Union and set up the Confederacy upon the principle of State rights, in violation of that principle invaded the State of Kentucky in opposition to her apparent purpose of armed neutrality. That made Kentucky a field of early hostilities and helped to anchor her to the Union. Missouri was rescued from secession through the energy of General F. P. Blair and her other Union men, and by the indomitable will of Captain Lyon of the regular army, whose great work was accomplished under many disadvantages. In illustration of the difficulty with which the new condition of affairs penetrated the case-hardened bureauism of long peace, it may be mentioned that the venerable adjutant-general of the army, when a crisis was at hand in Missouri, came from a consultation with the President and Secretary Cameron, and with a sorry expression of countenance and an ominous shake of the head exclaimed, “It’s bad, very bad; we’re giving that young man Lyon a great deal too much power in Missouri.”

Early in the contest another young Union officer came to the front. Major Irvin McDowell was appointed brigadier-general May 14th. He was forty-three years of age, of unexceptionable habits and great physical powers. His education, begun in France, was continued at the United States Military Academy, from which he was graduated in 1838. Always a close student, he was well informed outside as well as inside his profession. Distinguished in the Mexican war, intensely Union in his sentiments, full of energy and patriotism, outspoken in his opinions, highly esteemed by General Scott, on whose staff he had served, he at once secured the confidence of the President and the Secretary of War, under whose observation he was serving in Washington. Without political antecedents or acquaintances, he was chosen for advancement on account of his record, his ability, and his vigor.

Northern forces had hastened to Washington upon the call of President Lincoln, but prior to May 24th they had been held rigidly on the north side of the Potomac. On the night of May 23d-24th, the Confederate pickets being then in sight of the Capitol, three columns were thrown across the river by General J. K. F. Mansfield, then commanding the Department of Washington, and a line from Alexandria below to chain-bridge above Washington was intrenched under guidance of able engineers. On the 27th Brigadier General Irvin McDowell was placed in command south of the Potomac.(1)

By the 1st of June the Southern Government had been transferred from Montgomery to Richmond, and the capitals of the Union and of the Confederacy stood defiantly confronting each other. General Scott was in chief command of the Union forces, with McDowell south of the Potomac, confronted by his old classmate, Beauregard, hot from the capture of Fort Sumter.

General Patterson, of Pennsylvania, a veteran of the war of 1812 and the war with Mexico, was in command near Harper’s Ferry, opposed by General Joseph E. Johnston. The Confederate President, Davis, then in Richmond, with General R. E. Lee as military adviser, exercised in person general military control of the Southern forces. The enemy to be engaged by McDowell occupied what was called the “Alexandria line,” with headquarters at Manassas, the junction of the Orange and Alexandria with the Manassas Gap railroad. The stream known as Bull Run, some three miles in front of Manassas, was the line of defense. On Beauregard’s right, 30 miles away, at the mouth of Aquia Creek, there was a Confederate brigade of 3000 men and 6 guns under General Holmes. The approach to Richmond from the Lower Chesapeake, threatened by General B. F. Butler, was guarded by Confederates under Generals Huger and Magruder.  On Beauregard’s left, sixty miles distant, in the Lower Shenandoah Valley and separated from him by the Blue Ridge Mountains, was the Confederate army of the Shenandoah under command of General Johnston. Beauregard’s authority did not extend over the forces of Johnston, Huger, Magruder, or Holmes, but Holmes was with him before the battle of Bull Run, and so was Johnston, who, as will appear more fully hereafter, joined at a decisive moment.

Early in June Patterson was pushing his column against Harper’s Ferry, and on the 3d of that month McDowell was called upon by General Scott to submit” an estimate of the number and composition of a column to be pushed toward Manassas Junction and perhaps the Gap, say in 4 or 5 days, to favor Patterson’s attack upon Harper’s Feny.” McDowell had then been in command at Arlington less than a week, his raw regiments south of the Potomac were not yet brigaded, and this was the first intimation he had of offensive operations. He reported, June 4th, that 12,000 infantry, 2 batteries, 6 or 8 companies of cavalry, and a reserve of 5000 ready to move from Alexandria would be required. Johnston, however, gave up Harper’s Ferry to Patterson, and the diversion by McDowell was not ordered. But the public demand for an advance became imperative—stimulated perhaps by the successful dash of fifty men of the 2d United States Cavalry, under Lieutenant C. H. Tompkins, through the enemy’s outposts at Fan-fax Court House on the night of June 1st, and by the unfortunate result of the movement of a regiment under General Schenck toward Vienna, June 9th, as well as by a disaster to some of General Butler’s troops on the 10th at Big Bethel, near Fort Monroe. On the 24th of June, in compliance with verbal instructions from General Scott, McDowell submitted a “plan of operations and the composition of the force required to carry it into effect.” He estimated the Confederate force at Manassas Junction and its dependencies at 25,000 men, assumed that his movements could not be kept secret and that the enemy would call up additional forces from all quarters, and added: ” If General J. E. Johnston’s force is kept engaged by Major-General Patterson, and Major-General Butler occupies the force now in his vicinity, I think they will not be able to bring up more than 10,000 men, so we may calculate upon having to do with about 35,000 men.” And as it turned out, that was about the number he “had to do with.” For the advance, McDowell asked “a force of 30,000 of all arms, with a reserve of 10,000.” He knew that Beauregard had batteries in position at several places in front of Bull Run and defensive works behind the Run and at Manassas Junction. The stream being fordable at many places, McDowell proposed in his plan of operations to turn the enemy’s position and force him out of it by seizing or threatening his communications. Nevertheless, he said in his report:

“Believing the chances are greatly in favor of the enemy’s accepting battle between this and the Junction and that the consequences of that battle will be of the greatest importance to the country, as establishing the prestige in this contest, on the one side or the other, —the more so as the two sections will be fairly represented by regiments from almost every State,—I think it of great consequence that, as for the most part our regiments are exceedingly raw and the best of them, with few exceptions, not over steady in line, they be organized into as many small fixed brigades as the number of regular colonels will admit, … so that the men may have as fair a chance as the nature of things and the comparative inexperience of most will allow.”

This remarkably sound report was approved, and McDowell was directed to carry his plan into effect July 8th. But the government machinery worked slowly and there was jealousy in the way, so that the troops to bring his army up to the strength agreed upon did not reach him until the 16th.

Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac at Manassas consisted of the brigades of Holmes, Bonham, Ewell, D. R. Jones, Longstreet, Cocke and Early, and of 3 regiments of infantry, 1 regiment and 3 battalions of cavalry, and 6 batteries of artillery, containing in all 27 guns, making an aggregate available force on the field of Bull Run of about 23,000 men. Johnston’s army from the Shenandoah consisted of the brigades of Jackson, Bee, Bartow, and Kirby Smith, 2 regiments of infantry not brigaded, 1 regiment of cavalry (12 companies), and 5 batteries (20 guns), making an aggregate at Bull Run of 8340.(2)

McDowell’s army consisted of 5 divisions, Tyler’s First Division, containing 4 brigades (Keyes’s, Schenck’s, W. T. Sherman’s, and Richardson’s); Hunter’s Second Division, containing 2 brigades (Andrew Porter’s and Burnside’s); Heintzelman’s Third Division, containing 3 brigades (Franklin’s, Willcox’s, and Howard’s); Runyon’s Fourth Division (9 regiments not brigaded); and Miles’s Fifth Division, containing 2 brigades (Blenker’s and Davies’s),—10 batteries of artillery, besides 2 guns attached to infantry regiments, 40 guns in all, and 7 companies of regular cavalry. Of the foregoing forces, 9 of the batteries and 8 companies of infantry were regulars, and 1 small battalion was marines. The aggregate force was about 35,000 men. Runyon’s Fourth Division was 6 or 7 miles in the rear guarding the road to Alexandria, and, though counted in the aggregate, was not embraced in McDowell’s order for battle.(3)

There was an ill-suppressed feeling of sympathy with the Confederacy in the Southern element of Washington society; but the halls of Congress resounded with the eloquence of Union speakers. Martial music filled the air, and war was the topic wherever men met. By day and night the tramp of soldiers was heard, and staff-officers and orderlies galloped through the streets between the headquarters of Generals Scott and McDowell. Northern enthusiasm was unbounded. “On to Richmond” was the war-cry. Public sentiment was irresistible, and in response to it the army advanced. It was a glorious spectacle. The various regiments were brilliantly uniformed according to the aesthetic taste of peace, and the silken banners they flung to the breeze were unsoiled and untorn. The bitter realities of war were nearer than we knew.

McDowell marched on the afternoon of July 16th, the men carrying three days’ rations in their haversacks; provision wagons were to follow from Alexandria the next day. On the morning of the 18th his forces were concentrated at Centreville, a point about 20 miles west of the Potomac and 6 or 7 miles east of Manassas Junction. Beauregard’s outposts fell back without resistance. Bull Run, flowing south-easterly, is about half-way between Centreville and Manassas Junction, and, owing to its abrupt banks, the timber with which it was fringed, and some artificial defenses at the fords, was a formidable obstacle. The stream was fordable, but all the crossings for eight miles, from Union Mills on the south to the Stone Bridge on the north, were defended by Beauregard’s forces.   The Warrenton Turnpike, passing through Centreville, leads nearly due west, crossing Bull Run at the Stone Bridge. The direct road from Centreville to Manassas crosses Bull Run at Mitchell’s Ford, half a mile or so above another crossing known as Blackburn’s Ford. Union Mills was covered by Ewell’.s brigade, supported after the 18th by Holmes’s brigade; McLean’s Ford, next to the north, was covered by D. R. Jones’s brigade; Blackburn’s Ford was defended by Longstreet’s brigade, supported by Early’s brigade; Mitchell’s Ford was held by Bonham’s brigade, with an outpost of two guns and an infantry support east of Bull Run; the stream between Mitchell’s Ford and the Stone Bridge was covered by Cocke’s brigade; the Stone Bridge on the Confederate left was held by Evans with 1 regiment and Wheat’s special battalion of infantry, 1 battery of 4 guns, and 2 companies of cavalry.(4)

McDowell was compelled to wait at Centreville until his provision wagons arrived and he could issue rations. His orders having carried his leading division under Tyler no farther than Centreville, he wrote that officer at 8:15 A. M. on the 18th, “Observe well the roads to Bull Run and to Warrenton. Do not bring on an engagement, but keep up the impression that we arc moving on Manassas.” McDowell then went to the extreme left of his line to examine the country with reference to a sudden movement of the army to turn the enemy’s right flank. The reconnoissance showed him that the country was unfavorable to the movement, and he abandoned it. While he was gone to the left, Tyler, presumably to ” keep up the impression that we were moving on Manassas,” went forward from Centreville with a squadron of cavalry and two companies of infantry for the purpose of making a reconnoissance of Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s fords along the direct road to Manassas. The force of the enemy at these fords has just been given. Reaching the crest of the ridge overlooking the valley of Bull Run and a mile or so from the stream, the enemy was seen on the opposite bank, and Tyler brought up Benjamin’s artillery, 2 20-pounder rifled guns, Ayres’s field battery of 6 guns, and Richardson’s brigade of infantry. The 20-pounders opened from the ridge and a few shots were exchanged with the enemy’s batteries. Desiring more information than the long-range cannonade afforded, Tyler ordered Richardson’s brigade and a section of Ayres’s battery, supported by a squadron of cavalry, to move from the ridge across the open bottom of Bull Run and take position near the stream and have skirmishers ” scour the thick woods ” which skirted it. Two regiments of infantry, 2 pieces of artillery, and a squadron of cavalry moved down the slope into the woods and opened fire, driving Bonham’s outpost to the cover of intrenchments across the stream. The brigades of Bonham and Longstreet, the latter being reenforced for the occasion by Early’s brigade, responded at short range to the fire of the Federal reconnoitering force and drove it back in disorder. Tyler reported that having satisfied himself “that the enemy was in force,” and ascertained ” the position of his batteries,” he withdrew. J This unauthorized reconnoissance, called by the Federals the affair at Blackburn’s Ford, was regarded at the time by the Confederates as a serious attack, and was dignified by the name of the “battle of Bull Run,” the engagement of the 21st being called by them the battle of Manassas. The Confederates, feeling that they had repulsed a heavy and real attack, were encouraged by the result. The Federal troops, on the other hand, were greatly depressed. The regiment which suffered most was completely demoralized, and McDowell thought that the depression of the repulse was felt throughout his army and produced its effect upon the Pennsylvania regiment and the New York battery which insisted (their terms having expired) upon their discharge, and on the 21st, as he expressed it, “marched to the rear to the sound of the enemy’s cannon.” Even Tyler himself felt the depressing effect of his repulse, if we may judge by his cautious and feeble action on the 21st when dash was required. (5)

The operations of the 18th confirmed McDowell in his opinion that with his raw troops the Confederate position should be turned instead of attacked in front. Careful examination had satisfied him that the country did not favor a movement to turn the enemy’s right. On the night of the 18th the haversacks of his men were empty, and had to be replenished from the provision wagons, which were late in getting up. Nor had he yet determined upon his point or plan of attack. While resting and provisioning his men, he devoted the 19th and 20th to a careful examination by his engineers of the enemy’s position and the intervening country. His men, not soldiers, but civilians in uniform, unused to marching, hot, weary, and footsore, dropped down as they had halted and bivouacked on the roads about Centreville. Notwithstanding Beauregard’s elation over the affair at Blackburn’s ford on the 18th, he permitted the 19th and 20th to pass without a movement to follow up the advantage he had gained. During these two days, McDowell carefully examined the Confederate position, and made his plan to manoeuvre the enemy out of it. Beauregard ordered no aggressive movement until the 21st, and then, as appears from his own statement, through miscarriage of orders and lack of apprehension on the part of subordinates, the effort was a complete fiasco, with the comical result of frightening his own troops, who, late in the afternoon, mistook the return of one of their brigades for an attack by McDowell’s left, and the serious result of interfering with the pursuit after he had gained the battle of the 21st.

But Beauregard, though not aggressive on the 19th and 20th, was not idle within his own lines. The Confederate President had authorized Johnston, Beauregard’s senior, to use his discretion in moving to the support of Manassas, and Beauregard, urging Johnston to do so, sent railway transportation for the Shenandoah forces. But, as he states, “he at the same time submitted the alternative proposition to Johnston that, having passed the Blue Ridge, he should assemble his forces, press forward by way of Aldie, north-west of Manassas, and fall upon McDowell’s right rear,” while he, Beauregard, “prepared for the operation at the first sound of the conflict, should strenuously assume the offensive in front.” “The situation and circumstances specially favored the signal success of such an operation,” says Beauregard. An attack by two armies moving from opposite points upon an enemy, with the time of attack for one depending upon the sound of the other’s cannon, is hazardous even with well disciplined and well-seasoned troops, and is next to fatal with raw levies. Johnston chose the wiser course of moving by rail to Manassas, thus preserving the benefit of “interior lines,” which, Beauregard says, was the “sole military advantage at the moment that the Confederates possessed.”

The campaign which General Scott required McDowell to make was undertaken with the understanding that Johnston should be prevented from joining Beauregard. With no lack of confidence in himself, McDowell was dominated by the feeling of subordination and deference to General Scott which at that time pervaded the whole army, and General Scott, who controlled both McDowell and Patterson, assured McDowell that Johnston should not join Beauregard without having “Patterson on his heels.” Yet Johnston’s army, nearly nine thousand strong, joined Beauregard, Bee’s brigade and Johnston in person arriving on the morning of the 20th, the remainder about noon on the 21st. Although the enforced delay at Centreville enabled McDowell to provision his troops and gain information upon which to base an excellent plan of attack, it proved fatal by affording time for a junction of the opposing forces. On the 21st of July General Scott addressed a dispatch to McDowell, saying: “It is known that a strong reenforcement left Winchester on the afternoon of the 18th, which you will also have to beat. Four new regiments will leave to-day to be at Fairfax Station to-night. Others shall follow to-morrow — twice the number if necessary.” When this dispatch was penned, McDowell was fighting the “strong reenforcement” which left Winchester on the 18th. General Scott’s report that Beauregard had been reenforced, the information that four regiments had been sent to McDowell, and the promise that twice the number would be sent if necessary, all came too late — and Patterson came not at all.(6)

During the 19th and 20th the bivouacs of McDowell’s army at Centreville, almost within cannon range of the enemy, were thronged by visitors, official and unofficial, who came in carriages from Washington, bringing their own supplies. They were under no military restraint, and passed to and fro among the troops as they pleased, giving the scene the appearance of a monster military picnic.(7)  Among others, the venerable Secretary of War, Cameron, called upon McDowell. Whether due to a naturally serious expression, to a sense of responsibility, to a premonition of the fate of his brother who fell upon the field on the 21st, or to other cause, his countenance showed apprehension of evil; but men generally were confident and jovial.

McDowell’s plan of battle promulgated on the 20th, was to turn the enemy’s left, force him from his defensive position, and, “if possible, destroy the railroad leading from Manassas to the Valley of Virginia, where the enemy has a large force.” He did not know when he issued this order that Johnston had joined Beauregard, though he suspected it.  Miles’s Fifth Division, with Richardson’s brigade of Tyler’s division, and a strong force of artillery was to remain in reserve at Centreville, prepare defensive works there and threaten Blackburn’s Ford. Tyler’s First Division, which was on the turnpike in advance, was to move at 2:30 A. M., threaten the Stone Bridge and open fire upon it at daybreak. This demonstration was to be vigorous, its first purpose being to divert attention from the movements of the turning column. As soon as Tyler’s troops cleared the way, Hunter’s Second Division, followed by Heintzelman’s Third Division, was to move to a point on the Warren ton Turnpike about 1 or 2 miles east of Stone Bridge and there take a country road to the right, cross the Run at Sudley Springs, come down upon the flank and rear of the enemy at the Stone Bridge, and force him to open the way for Tyler’s division to cross there and attack, fresh and in full force.

Tyler’s start was so late and his advance was so slow as to hold Hunter and Heintzelman 2 or 3 hours on the mile or two of the turnpike between their camps and the point at which they were to turn off for the flank march. This delay, and the fact that the flank march proved difficult and some 12 miles instead of about 6 as was expected, were of serious moment. The flanking column did not cross at Sudley Springs until 9:30 instead of 7, the long march, with its many interruptions, tired out the men, and the delay gave the enemy time to discover the turning movement. Tyler’s operations against the Stone Bridge were feeble and ineffective. By 8 o’clock Evans was satisfied that he was in no danger in front, and perceived the movement to turn his position. He was on the left of the Confederate line, guarding the point where the Warrenton Turnpike, the great highway to the field, crossed Bull Run, the Confederate line of defense. He had no instructions to guide him in the emergency that had arisen. But he did not hesitate. Reporting his information and purpose to the adjoining commander, Cocke, and leaving 4 companies of infantry to deceive and hold Tyler at the bridge, Evans before 9 o’clock turned his back upon the point he was set to guard, marched a mile away, and, seizing the high ground to the north of Young’s Branch of Bull Run, formed line of battle at right angles to his former line, his left resting near the Sudley Springs road, by which Burnside with the head of the turning column was approaching, thus covering the Warrenton Turnpike and opposing a determined front to the Federal advance upon the Confederate left and rear.(8) In his rear to the south lay the valley of Young’s Branch, and rising from that was the higher ridge or plateau on which the Robinson house and the Henry house were situated, and on which the main action took place in the afternoon. Burnside, finding Evans across his path, promptly formed line of battle and attacked about 9:45 A. M. Hunter, the division commander, who was at the head of Burnside’s brigade directing the formation of the first skirmish line, was severely wounded and taken to the rear at the opening of the action. Evans not only repulsed but pursued the troops that made the attack upon him. Andrew Porter’s brigade of Hunter’s division followed Burnside closely and came to his support. In the mean time Bee had formed a Confederate line of battle with his and Bartow’s brigades of Johnston’s army on the Henry house plateau, a stronger position than the one held by Evans, and desired Evans to fall back to that line; but Evans, probably feeling bound to cover the Warrenton Turnpike and hold it against Tyler as well as against the flanking column, insisted that Bee should move across the valley to his support, which was done.

After Bee joined Evans, the preliminary battle continued to rage upon the ground chosen by the latter. The opposing forces were Burnside’s and Porter’s brigades, with one regiment of Heintzelman’s division on the Federal side, and Evans’s, Bee’s, and Bartow’s brigades on the Confederate side. The Confederates were dislodged and driven back to the Henry house plateau, where Bee had previously formed line and where what Beauregard called “the mingled remnants of Bee’s, Bartow’s, and Evans’s commands” were re-formed under cover of Stonewall Jackson’s brigade of Johnston’s army.

The time of this repulse, as proved by so accurate an authority as Stonewall Jackson, was before 11:30 A. M., and this is substantially confirmed by Beauregard’s official report made at the time. Sherman and Keyes had nothing to do with it. They did not begin to cross Bull Run until noon. Thus, after nearly two hours’ stubborn fighting with the forces of Johnston, which General Scott had promised should be kept away, McDowell won the first advantage; but Johnston had cost him dearly.

During all this time Johnston and Beauregard had been waiting near Mitchell’s Ford for the development of the attack they had ordered by their light upon McDowell at Centreville. The gravity of the situation upon their left had not yet dawned upon them. What might the result have been if the Union column had not been detained by Tyler’s delay in moving out in the early morning, or if Johnston’s army, to which Bee, Bartow, and Jackson belonged, had not arrived?

But the heavy firing on the left soon diverted Johnston and Beauregard from all thought of an offensive movement with their right, and decided them, as Beauregard has said, “to hurry up all available reinforcements, including the reserves that were to have moved upon Centreville, to our left, and fight the battle out in that quarter.” Thereupon Beauregard ordered “Ewell, Jones, and Longstreet to make a strong demonstration all along their front on the other side of Bull Run, and ordered the reserves, Holmes’s brigade with six guns, and Early’s brigade, to move swiftly to the left,” and he and Johnston set out at full speed for the point of conflict, which they reached while Bee was attempting to rally his men about Jackson’s brigade on the Henry house plateau. McDowell had waited in the morning at the point on the Warrenton Turnpike where his flanking column turned to the right, until the troops, except Howard’s brigade, which he halted at that point, had passed. He gazed silently and with evident pride upon the gay regiments as they filed briskly but quietly past in the freshness of the early morning, and then, remarking to his staff, “Gentlemen, that is a big force,” he mounted and moved forward to the field by way of Sudley Springs. He reached the scene of actual conflict somewhat earlier than Johnston and Beauregard did, and, seeing the enemy driven across the valley of Young’s Branch and behind the Warrenton Turnpike, at once sent a swift aide-de-camp to Tyler with orders to “press the attack” at the Stone Bridge. Tyler acknowledged that he received this order by 11 o’clock. It was Tyler’s division upon which McDowell relied for the decisive fighting of the day. He knew that the march of the turning column would be fatiguing, and when by a sturdy fight it had cleared the Warrenton Turnpike for the advance of Tyler’s division, it had, in fact, done more than its fair proportion of the work. But Tyler did not attempt to force the passage of the Stone Bridge, which, after about 8 o’clock, was defended by only four companies of infantry, though he admitted that by the plan of battle, when Hunter and Heintzelman had attacked the enemy in the vicinity of the Stone Bridge, “he was to force the passage of Bull Run at that point and attack the enemy in flank.”(9) Soon after McDowell’s arrival at the front, Burnside rode up to him and said that his brigade had borne the brunt of the battle, that it was out of ammunition, and that he wanted permission to withdraw, refit and fill cartridge-boxes. McDowell in the excitement of the occasion gave reluctant consent, and the brigade, which certainly had done nobly, marched to the rear, stacked arms, and took no further part in the fight. Having sent the order to Tyler to press his attack and orders to the rear of the turning column to hurry forward, McDowell, like Beauregard, rushed in person into the conflict, and by the force of circumstances became for the time the commander of the turning column and the force actually engaged, rather than the commander of his whole army. With the exception of sending his adjutant-general to find and hurry Tyler forward, his subsequent orders were mainly or wholly to the troops under his own observation. Unlike Beauregard, he had no Johnston in rear with full authority and knowledge of the situation to throw forward reserves and reinforcements. It was not until 12 o’clock that Sherman received orders from Tyler to cross the stream, which he did at a ford above the Stone Bridge, going to the assistance of Hunter. Sherman reported to McDowell on the field and joined in the pursuit of Bee’s forces across the valley of Young’s Branch. Keyes’s brigade, accompanied by Tyler in person, followed across the stream where Sherman forded, but without uniting with the other forces on the field, made a feeble advance upon the slope of the plateau toward the Robinson house, and then about 2 o’clock filed off by flank to its left and, sheltered by the east front of the bluff that forms the plateau, marched down Young’s Branch out of sight of the enemy and took no further part in the engagement. McDowell did not know where it was, nor did he then know that Schenck’s brigade of Tyler’s division did not cross the Run at all.

The line taken up by Stonewall Jackson upon which Bee, Bartow, and Evans rallied on the southern part of the plateau was a very strong one. The ground was high and afforded the cover of a curvilinear wood with the concave side toward the Federal line of attack. According to Beauregard’s official report made at the time, he had upon this part of the field, at the beginning, 6500 infantry, 13 pieces of artillery, and 2 companies of cavalry, and this line was continuously reenforced from Beauregard’s own reserves and by the arrival of the troops from the Shenandoah Valley.

To carry this formidable position, McDowell had at hand the brigades of Franklin, Willcox, Sherman, and Porter, Palmer’s battalion of regular cavalry, and Ricketts’s and Giiffin’s regular batteries. Porter’s brigade had been reduced and shaken by the morning fight. Howard’s brigade was in reserve and only came into action late in the afternoon. The men, unused to field service, and not yet over the hot and dusty march from the Potomac, had been under arms since midnight. The plateau, however, was promptly assaulted, the northern part of it was earned, the batteries of Ricketts and Griffin were planted near the Henry house, and McDowell clambered to the upper story of that structure to get a glance at the whole field. Upon the Henry house plateau, of which the Confederates held the southern and the Federals the northern part, the tide of battle ebbed and flowed as McDowell pushed in Franklin’s, Willcox’s, Sherman’s, Porter’s, and at last Howard’s brigades, and as Beauregard put into action reserves which Johnston sent from the right and reinforcements which he hurried forward from the Shenandoah Valley as they arrived by cars. On the plateau, Beauregard says, the disadvantage of his “smooth-bore guns was reduced by the shortness of range.” The short range was due to the Federal advance, and the several struggles for the plateau were at close quarters and gallant on both sides. The batteries of Ricketts and Griffin, by their fine discipline, wonderful daring, and matchless skill, were the prime features in the fight. The battle was not lost till they were lost. When in their advanced and perilous position, and just after their infantry supports had been driven over the slopes, a fatal mistake occurred. A regiment of infantry came out of the woods on Griffin’s right, and as he was in the act of opening upon it with canister, he was deterred by the assurance of Major Barry, the chief of artillery, that it “was a regiment sent by Colonel Heintzelman to support the battery.”(10) A moment more and the doubtful regiment proved its identity by a deadly volley, and, as Griffin states in his official report, “every cannoneer was cut down and a large number of horses killed, leaving the battery (which was without support excepting in name) perfectly helpless.” The effect upon Ricketts was equally fatal. He, desperately wounded, and Ramsay, his lieutenant, killed, lay in the wreck of the battery. Beauregard speaks of his last advance on the plateau as “leaving in our final possession the Robinson and Henry houses, with most of Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries, the men of which were mostly shot down where they bravely stood by their guns.” Having become separated from McDowell, I fell in with Barnard, his chief engineer, and while together we observed the New York Fire Zouaves, who had been supporting Griffin’s battery, fleeing to the rear in their gaudy uniforms, in utter confusion. Thereupon I rode back to where I knew Burnside’s brigade was at rest, and stated to Burnside the condition of affairs, with the suggestion that he form and move his brigade to the front. Returning, I again met Barnard, and as the battle seemed to him and me to be going against us, and not knowing where McDowell was, with the concurrence of Barnard, as stated in his official report, I immediately sent a note to Miles, telling him to move two brigades of his reserve up to the Stone Bridge and telegraph to Washington to send forward all the troops that could be spared.

After the arrival of Howard’s brigade, McDowell for the last time pressed up the slope to the plateau, forced back the Confederate line, and regained possession of the Henry and Robinson houses and of the lost batteries. But there were no longer cannoneers to man or horses to move these guns that had done so much. By the arrival upon this part of the field of his own reserves and Kirby Smith’s brigade of Johnston’s army about half-past 3, Beauregard extended his left to outflank McDowell’s shattered, shortened, and disconnected line, and the Federals left the field about half-past 4. Until then they had fought wonderfully well for raw troops. There were no fresh forces on the field to support or encourage them, and the men seemed to be seized simultaneously by the conviction that it was no use to do anything more and they might as well start home. Cohesion was lost, the organizations with some exceptions being disintegrated, and the men quietly walked off. There was no special excitement except that arising from the frantic efforts of officers to stop men who paid little or no attention to anything that was said. On the high ground by the Matthews house, about where Evans had taken position in the morning to check Burnside, McDowell and his staff, aided by other officers, made a desperate but futile effort to arrest the masses and form them into line. There, I went to Arnold’s battery as it came by, and advised that he unlimber and make a stand as a rallying-point, which he did, saying he was in fair condition and ready to fight as long as there was any fighting to be done. But all efforts failed. The stragglers moved past the guns, in spite of all that could be done, and, as stated in his report, Arnold at my direction joined Sykes’s battalion of infantry of Porter’s brigade and Palmer’s battalion of cavalry, all of the regular army, to cover the rear, as the men trooped back in great disorder across Bull Run. There were some hours of daylight for the Confederates to gather the fruits of victory, but a few rounds of shell and canister checked all the pursuit that was attempted, and the occasion called for no sacrifices or valorous deeds by the stanch regulars of the rear-guard. There was no panic, in the ordinary meaning of the word, until the retiring soldiers, guns, wagons, congressmen, and carriages were fired upon, on the road east of Bull Run. Then the panic began, and the bridge over Cub Run being rendered impassable for vehicles by a wagon that was upset upon it, utter confusion set in: pleasure-carriages, gun-carriages, and ammunition wagons which could not bo put across the Run were abandoned and blocked the way, and stragglers broke and threw aside their muskets and cut horses from then- harness and rode off upon them. In leaving the field the men took the same routes, in a general way, by which they had reached it. Hence when the men of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions got back to Centreville, they had walked about 25 miles. That night they walked back to the Potomac, an additional distance of 20 miles; so that these undisciplined and unseasoned men within 36 hours walked fully 45 miles, besides fighting from about 10 A. M. until 4 p. M. on a hot and dusty day in July. McDowell in person reached Centreville before sunset,(11) and found there Miles’s division with Richardson’s brigade and 3 regiments of Runyon’s division, and Hunt’s, Tidball’s, Ayres’s, and Greene’s batteries and 1 or 2 fragments of batteries, making about 20 guns. It was a formidable force, but there was a lack of food and the mass of the army was completely demoralized. Beauregard had about an equal force which had not been in the fight, consisting of Ewell’s, Jones’s, and Longstreet’s brigades and some troops of other brigades. McDowell consulted the division and brigade commanders who were at hand upon the question of making a stand or retreating. The verdict was in favor of the latter, but a decision of officers one way or the other was of no moment; the men had already decided for themselves and were streaming away to the rear, in spite of all that could be done. They had no interest or treasure in Centreville, and their hearts were not there. Their tents, provisions, baggage, and letters from home were upon the banks of the Potomac, and no power could have stopped them short of the camps they had left less than a week before. As before stated, most of them were sovereigns in uniform, not soldiers. McDowell accepted the situation, detailed Richardson’s and Blenker’s brigades to cover the retreat, and the army, a disorganized mass, with some creditable exceptions, drifted as the men pleased away from the scene of action. There was no pursuit, and the march from Centreville was as barren of opportunities for the rear-guard as the withdrawal from the field of battle had been.(12)  When McDowell reached Fairfax Court House in the night, he was in communication with Washington and exchanged telegrams with General Scott, in one of which the old hero said, ” We are not discouraged”; but that dispatch did not lighten the gloom in which it was received. McDowell was so tired that while sitting on the ground writing a dispatch he fell asleep, pencil in hand, in the middle of a sentence. His adjutant-general aroused him ; the dispatch was finished, and the weary ride to the Potomac resumed. When the unfortunate commander dismounted at Arlington next forenoon in a soaking rain, after 32 hours in the saddle, his disastrous campaign of 6 days was closed.

The first martial effervescence of the country was over. The three months men went home, and the three-months chapter of the war ended — with the South triumphant and confident; the North disappointed but determined.

(1) The aspect of affairs was so threatening after President Lincoln’s call of April 15th for 75,000 three-months militia, and General Scott was so averse to undertaking any active operations with such short-term troops, that, as early as May 3d, and without waiting for the meeting of Congress, the President entered upon the creation of an additional volunteer army to be composed of 42,034 three-years men, together with an increase of 22,714 regulars and 18,000 seamen.— J. B. F.

(2)  Beauregard himself has said that on the 18th of July he had along the line of Bull Run about 17,000 men; that on the 19th General Holmes joined him with about 3000 men; and that “received from Richmond between the 18th and 21st about 2000 more”; and that Johnston brought about 8000 more, the advance arriving “on the morning of the 20th and the remainder about noon of the 21st,” making his whole force, as he states it, “nearly 3000 men of all arms.” The figures are probably under the mark, as Hampton’s Legion, McRea’s regiment, a North Carolina “regiment and two battalions of Mississippi and Alabama” joined between the 17th and 21st. Beauregard’s force may fairly be placed at 32,000; and the opposing armies, both in the aggregate and in the parts engaged, were nearer equal in that than in any other battle in Virginia.— J. B. F.

(3)  The average length of service of McDowell’s men prior to the battle was about sixty days.  The longest in service were the three-months men, and of these he had fourteen regiments.— J. B. F.

(4)  The state of General Beauregard’s mind at the time is indicated by the following telegram on the 17th of July from him to Jefferson Davis: “The enemy has assaulted 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 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 reinforcements at the earliest possible instant and by every possible means.” The alarm in this dispatch and the apprehension it shows of McDowell’s “overwhelming” strength are not in harmony with the more recent assurance of the Confederate commander, that through sources in Washington treasonable to the Union, and in other ways, he “was almost as well informed of the strength of the hostile army in my [his] front as its commander.”—J. B. F.

(5)  The casualties in the affair were: Union, 1 officer and 18 enlisted men killed ; 1 officer and 37 enlisted men wounded ; 26 enlisted men missing,— aggregate, 83. Confederate (Beauregard in his official report of 1861), “15 killed and 53 wounded men, several of whom have since died.”— J. B. F.

(6)  On the 17th of July Patterson, with some 16,000 three-months men, whose terms began to expire on the ii4th, was at Charlestown, and Johnston, with about the same number, was at Winchester. On that day General Scott telegraphed Patterson, “McDowell’s first day’s work has driven the enemy behind Fairfax Court House. Do not let the enemy amuse and delay you with a small force in front while he reenforces the Junction with his main body.” To this Patterson replied at half past 1 o’clock in the morning of the 18th, stating his difficulties and asking, “Shall I attack?” General Scott answered on the same day: “I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy,” or that you “at least had occupied him by threats and demonstrations. You have been at least his equal and I suppose superior in numbers. Has he not stolen a march and sent reinforcements toward Manassas Junction?”  Patterson replied on the same day (18th), “The enemy has stolen no march upon me. I have caused him to be reenforced”; and at 1 o’clock P.M. on that day he added : “I have succeeded, in accordance with the wishes of the General-in-Chief, in keeping General Johnston’s force at Winchester.” At the very hour that Patterson was writing this dispatch Johnston’s advance was leaving Winchester. On the 18th Johnston telegraphed to Richmond that Patterson was at Charlestown, and said: “Unless he prevents it, we shall move toward General Beauregard to-day.” He moved accordingly, and the Confederate armies were united for battle. It rested, however, with higher authority than Patterson to establish between his army and McDowell’s the relations that the occasion called for. In considering the requirements for McDowell’s movement against Manassas, General Scott gave great weight to the general and irresistible fear then prevailing in Washington that the capital might be seized by a dash. Its direct defense was the first purpose of the three months militia. The Potomac at Washington was itself a strong barrier, and with the field-works on its south bank afforded security in that quarter. The danger was thought to be from the Shenandoah, and that induced the Government to keep Patterson in the valley. Indeed, on the 30th of June Colonel C. P. Stone’s command was ordered from Point of Rocks to Patterson at Martinsburg, where it arrived on the 8th of July; whereas the offensive campaign against Manassas, ordered soon after, required Patterson to go to Stone, as he proposed to do June 21st, instead of Stone to Patterson. The campaign of McDowell was forced upon General Scott by public opinion, but did not relieve the authorities from the fear that Johnston might rush down and seize Washington. General Scott, under the pressure of the offensive in one quarter and the defensive in another, imposed upon Patterson the double task, difficult if not impossible, of preventing Johnston from moving on the capital and from joining Beauregard. If that task was possible, it could have been accomplished only by persistent fighting, and that General Scott was unwilling to order; though in his dispatch of the 18th in reply to Patterson’s question, “Shall I attack?” he said, “I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy.” Prior to that, his instructions to Patterson had enjoined caution. As soon as McDowell advanced, Patterson was upon an exterior line and in a false military position. Admitting that he might have done more to detain Johnston, bad strategy was probably more to blame for the result than any action or lack of action on Patterson’s part.— J. B. F.

(7)  The presence of senators, congressmen, and other civilians upon the field on the 21st gave rise to extravagant and absurd stories, in which alleged forethought and valor among them are contrasted with a lack of these qualities in the troops. The plain truth is that the non-combatants and their vehicles merely increased the confusion and demoralization of the retreat.—J. B. F.

(8)  Evans’s action was probably one of the best pieces of soldiership on either side during the campaign, but it seems to have received no special commendation from his superiors.—J. B. F.

(9)  After the affair at Blackburn’s Ford on the 18th and Tyler’s action in the battle of the 21st, a bitterness between Tyler and McDowell grew up which lasted till they died. As late as 1884, McDowell, writing to me of Tyler’s criticism of him after the war, said, “How I have been punished for my leniency to that man! If there is anything clearer to me than anything else with reference to our operations in that campaign, it is that if we had had another commander for our right we should have had a complete and brilliant success.”—J. B. F.

(10)  Griffin himself told rao so as we rode together after leaving Centreville. He and I were classmates and warm friends.— J. B. F.

(11)  I left the field with General Franklin. His brigade had dissolved. We moved first northerly, crossed Bull Run below the Sudley Spring Ford, and then bore south and east. Learning by inquiries of the men I passed that McDowell was ahead of me, I leftFranklin and hurried on to Centreville, where I found McDowell, just after sunset, rearranging the positions of his reserves.—J. B. F.

(12)  The revised losses are as follows: Federal, 16 officers and 444 enlisted men killed; 78 officers and 1046 enlisted men wounded; 50 officers and 1262 enlisted men missing; 25 pieces of artillery and a large quantity of small arms. Confederate, 25 officers and 362 enlisted men killed; 63 officers and 1519 enlisted men wounded; 1 officer and 12 enlisted men missing.—J. B. F.

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#18b – Col. George S. Burnham

21 08 2009

Unpublished Report

Report of Colonel George L. Burnham, First Connecticut Volunteers

Photocopy from Connecticut State Library in Site Owner’s Collection (*)

Fort Corcoran near Washington, DC

July 24th, 1861

Sir, I have the honor to report that we started from our Bivouac at Centreville at 2 O’Clock on the morning of the 21st of July, keeping the Warrentown Turnpike for about four miles, my regiment leading the Brigade.  There the Brigade was ordered to file off the road into the fields to allow troops to pass, the Brigade being held in reserve that day. After waiting some three hours, we filed again into the road.  Proceeding some two miles we again halted for a short time.  We then were ordered to advance.  Emerging from the woods through which we passed we were opened upon with a very heavy fire of shells from some two or three of the enemies batteries.  The troops dropping at the flash of the guns, most of the shells went over us, but few doing any serious damage.  Advancing at the double quick obliquely to [the] right of the road, we passed the building afterwards used as a hospital.  I met Gen. McDowell [and] was ordered by him to march by the left flank (we then were marching by the right.)  Passing through a narrow strip of woods we came in full view of the enemy, upon whom we immediately opened fire, and as well as I could judge, with considerable effect.  We then were ordered to march by the Left Flank, following the Connecticut 2d.  Being very hotly attacked by the enemies fire we kept well under the hill which protected our men to a great degree.  We were ordered to charge on one of the batteries but it was countermanded by yourself as [it] was evident that it would be a perfect annihilation of our men.  We then made attacks on the enemy whenever a favorable opportunity presented itself. 

About 4 O’Clock we had orders to change our position marching by the right flank, the Conn. 2d filing past.  Proceeding to the Hospital we learnt of the rout of our Army.  My regiment kept in most excellent good order, although hotly pressed by the enemies fire.  Reaching the woods we soon after met the enemies Cavalry in full charge, but my regiment standing its ground and one of our guns opening fire on them, they soon left us.  Coming up soon after with the N. Y. 2d under command of the Lieut. Colonel (the Colonel being absent) who placed his regiment with my own under my command, but had gone but a short distance when seeing Gen. Schenck the commander of their Brigade I placed myself and regiment under his command for a short time.

Reaching Cub Run I vainly tried to rescue the Parrot gun which was mired [by the] side of the road.  Fording the stream the staff of our color State Color was shot in two, but our colors on that day were not dishonored, but were brought off the field.

We then came up to Col. Miles Brigade which were held as reserve, and most nobly did he do his duty.  His presence with his Brigade held in most admirable order revived the [drooping?] spirits of the tired and retreating soldiers who immediately took fresh courage.  And the enemies Cavalry which up to this time and had pressed most earnestly and severely on our troops concluded it was time for them to retire, which they did much to our satisfaction.  We then marched into our old Bivouac Grounds in Centreville in as good order as when we first reached them the day Thursday before. 

Consoling ourselves that we were the first Regiment in the field, of the Brigade, and the last (as far as I could see) of all out of it our loss being eight wounded and nine missing.  And allow me to say that the Troops could not have behaved better, faithfully obeying every order and were [easily?] handled, my adjutant being my assistant. 

Resting awhile at Centreville we were ordered back to camp at Falls Church which place we reached after daybreak the 22d.  Striking our tents according to orders we remained all day in a most drenching rain, which occasioned very much suffering among the men on account of the very fatiguing duties of the day before and the wanting of rest.  At dark marching down with the two other Conn. Regiments we took possession of the two Ohio camps (1st & 2d) where with the Conn. 3d we rested for the night.  Next morning we struck the tents and with all the Camp Equipage &c we sent to Alexandria, the Conn. 2d doing the same thing for the N.Y. 2d.  The Three Regiments then marched to Fort Corcoran arriving at about sundown, well worn out.

My men, through this severe trial, seemed to vie with each other to find the least complaint of their sufferings, excepting, of course, those who basely deserted their colors or refused to go into the field on that eventful day, those complaining the most that suffered the least.

I hope I may be excused if there is any discrepancy in the report as I have been suffering with a most painful attack of neuraligy and with which I now suffer with redoubled force owing to my recent exposure.

I have the honor to be your most obdt servant

Geo. S. Burnham

Col. 1st Regt Conn. Vol.

To Col. E. D. Keyes

Commanding First Brigade

(*) All but last two paragraph breaks not in original.  [ ] are edited into text.





William T. Sherman

28 07 2009

Colonel William. T. Sherman (while his commission as BGUSV was dated 5/17/61, he was not nominated until 8/2/61 and was confirmed three days later) commanded a brigade in Daniel Tyler’s division of McDowell’s army during the First Bull Run campaign.  He’s been in the news lately thanks to a couple of programs on The History Channel (see here and here).  The battle marked an inauspicious beginning to his storied Civil War career, and he would end up as the commanding general of the U. S. Army after his friend U. S. Grant became president.  But at Bull Run, Sherman committed his brigade in the same piecemeal fashion favored by his fellow commanders on both sides.  I’m not too hard on those fellows, because McDowell’s army of about 35,000 was the largest ever assembled on the North American continent up to that point, and the only man in the country experienced in commanding a force of even 40% its size was Winfield Scott.

As with all Union generals from Ohio, I’m finding the interrelationships surrounding Sherman and shaping his rise to brigade command somewhat labyrinthine.  Sherman briefly partnered in a law firm with members of the Ohio McCooks and his influential in-laws the Ewings.  And the colonel of the 1st OHVI in Schenck’s brigade of Tyler’s Division, Alexander McCook?  His middle name was McDowell.  Powerful Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, during this time sometimes referred to as General Chase, was from Ohio, and Sherman’s brother Thomas was elected to fill Chase’s vacated senate seat when the latter was appointed to Lincoln’s cabinet.  It doesn’t take long to realize that a non-political general was a rare bird indeed.

Brian Downey recently wrote of a post-war scandal involving Sherman and the widow of Joseph Audenried, who as a young Lt. served on the staff of Sherman’s direct superior Tyler during the campaign.  John Tidball, who was also with McDowell’s army in the summer of ‘61, would wind up on Sherman’s staff years later, when “Uncle Billy” held the highest military office in the land.  Tidball’s biography (discussed here) includes his sketch of his boss at that time which touches on Sherman’s affection for the ladies (page 415):

He was exceedingly fond of the society of ladies, and took as much delight in dancing and such pleasures as a youth just entering manhood, and with them he was as much of a lion as he was a hero with his old soldiers.

With those of the romantic age he was often sprightly upon their all absorbing topic of love and matrimony, a condition of mind that he regarded as a mere working out of the inflexible laws of nature; but while regarding it in this light he did not condemn or ridicule the romantic side of it as mere nonsensical sentimentality.  From young ladies with whom he was intimately acquainted he was fond of extracting the kiss conceded by his age and position, and which they were not loath to grant, nor upon which neither parents or beaux were disposed to frown.  By the envious it was said that in these osculatory performances he sometimes held in so long that he was compelled to breathe through his ears.

Cump, you dog!

This article was originally posted on 5/26/2007, as part of the William T. Sherman biographical sketch.





JCCW – Gen. Daniel Tyler Part I

25 07 2009

Testimony of Gen. Daniel Tyler

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 198-206

WASHINGTON, January 20, 1862.

General DANIEL TYLER sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. Will you please state what is your rank and position in the army, or what it was?

Answer. I was a brigadier general, second in command under General McDowell.

Question. You were present at the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. I was there.

Question. Please give a brief and concise statement of what you saw there, and how the battle was conducted, &c.; do this without questioning at first; I want to get particularly what, in your judgment, caused the disaster of that day.

Answer. The first great trouble was the want of discipline and instruction in the troops. The troops needed that regimental and brigade instruction which would have enabled them to act together in masses with advantage.

Question. Were there any other more proximate causes than that?

Answer. There was a great want of instruction and professional knowledge among the officers—the company and regimental officers.

Question. Well, sir, give a concise history of that battle.

Answer. I will begin back to the occupation of Falls’ Church. The first advance made by our troops, after the occupation of Alexandria, Arlington Heights, Fort Corcoran, and Roach’s Mill, was to Falls’ Church. That was made by me with the Connecticut brigade, about the 5th of June. I remained in that division, commanding the advance of the army, until the advance upon Manassas. When we advanced upon Manassas I was assigned to the command of a division of four brigades. My line of march was by Vienna to Flint Hill, and from there I had authority from General McDowell to take either the route by Fairfax Court-House, or the route by Gormantown, as my judgment should indicate. I took the advance through Gormantown, and arrived there in advance of any other division of the army, on the turnpike to Centreville. We continued our march until about 4 o’clock in the evening, and then bivouacked for the night. I think that was the first misfortune of our .movement. I think, if we had gone on to Centreville that night we should have been in much better condition the next day. I was ordered by General McDowell to take my division forward at 7 o’clock on Thursday morning and attack Centreville, he assigning me two twenty-pounders to assist in that attack. On arriving at Centreville, I found that the enemy had evacuated their fortifications, and that Cox’s division, as I was told by the people there, had passed over Stone Bridge, and Bonham, with the South Carolina and Georgia troops, had passed down by Blackburn’s Ford.

I waited there an hour and a half, getting such information as I could collect, and then, not finding General McDowell, or hearing from him, I took a squadron of cavalry and four companies of light infantry and went forward with General Richardson towards Blackburn’s Ford. After passing through the woods there we came out immediately upon Bull Run. From that point we had a very good view of Manassas. We found they had not occupied the left bank of Bull Run at all. There is a distance, along the stream there, of about a thousand yards of perfectly open country. There is not a tree until you get to Bull Run, and then it is covered with trees. I got there in the morning, with merely my staff and this squadron of cavalry and the light infantry. I was perfectly astonished to find they had not occupied that position on the left bank. It had complete control of it, so complete control that, after we got our artillery in position, we had the whole control of that valley. Beauregard, in his official report, complains that we threw shot in his hospital. We did, but we did not know it was his hospital; we thought it was his headquarters. The whole ground there, clear over almost into Manassas, was commanded by that position. This was a chain of heights, extending along the whole of this ford, and completely controlling the bottom of Bull Run.

As soon as I found out the condition of things I sent back for Ayres’s battery—Sherman’s old battery—and had it brought and put into position. After firing two or three shots they replied to us; but having only smoothbore guns they could not reach us. After the two twenty-pounders came up we had eight pieces in position, commanding the whale of that run. They could not make a move in front of the woods there without our controlling them. They made no movement at all; we could see no show of force. All we could see was some few around their battery. I then took Richardson’s brigade and filed it down there to see what there was in the bottom. This was evidently on the direct road to Manassas. They marched down through in front of the whole of that wood, without bringing any fire upon them. I sent some skirmishers into the woods, and there were some thirty or fifty shots fired from a few men.

I saw an opening where we could have a chance to get in a couple of pieces of artillery, and I ordered Captain Ayres to take a couple of his howitzers and go into that opening and throw some canister shot into the woods. The very moment he came into battery it appeared to me that there were 5,000 muskets fired at once. It appears by Beauregard’s report that he had seventeen regiments in front there. They were evidently waiting for our infantry to get into the woods there. Ayres threw some ten or fifteen canister shot in among them, but was forced to come out, which he did very gallantly, with the loss of one man and two horses. We then came on the hill, and the whole eight pieces were placed in position, and we exchanged with them 415 shots in three-quarters of an hour, our shots plunging right in among them. They fired at an angle of elevation, and the consequence was that we lost but one man; whereas our artillery was plunging right into them, and every shot had its effect.

The Rev. Mr. Hinds, who was taken prisoner on Monday after the fight, was taken down to Bonham’s camp there. He has lately been exchanged and returned, and represents their loss there at some 300 or 400 men that day. My idea was that that position was stronger than the one above. But that is a mere matter of opinion. But after this affair of Thursday that point was never abandoned. We held that point until after the battle of Sunday. Richardson’s brigade was left there, and Davies’s brigade supported him. And when General Ewell tried to cut us off at Centreville on Sunday afternoon they repulsed him. We could have made a first-rate artillery fight there on Friday morning before Johnston’s force came up. We knew of the arrival of Johnston’s forces on Friday afternoon, because we could hear the arrival of the cars up the Winchester road.

My division was stationed on Cub Run from Thursday evening, except Keyes’s brigade, which was left back at Centreville. My orders were for my division to move forward on Sunday morning to Stone Bridge, and threaten that bridge. We left our camp at half-past two o’clock in the morning, and arrived there a little past six o’clock. The fire was opened immediately after getting the division posted, say at a quarter past six o’clock. Our first fire was the signal for Richardson to open fire at Blackburn’s Ford at the same time. Under the instruction to threaten Stone Bridge, it was contemplated that Hunter and Heintzelman, after passing over by Sedley’s Church, would drive the enemy away from the front of the bridge, and enable us to repair the Stone Bridge, which General McDowell assumed to be ruined, and would be destroyed. We had a bridge framed and prepared for that purpose.

Now, at that time, when that should have been done, my division was to pass over the bridge and take part in the action in front of the bridge. About 11 o’clock, seeing that Hunter’s column was arrested on the opposite side of Bull Run, and that they were requiring assistance, I ordered over Sherman’s brigade, containing the 69th and 79th New York, a Wisconsin, and another regiment, with orders to come into line on the right of the troops that we saw attacked, which we supposed, from the appearance of them, to be Hunter’s division. They did so, and Sherman’s brigade made a very gallant attack there, and relieved Burnside’s brigade from the embarrassment they were in. General Burnside, in his official report, acknowledged that he was taken out of a very tight place.

At that time we supposed the battle to have been won. I had had no opportunity of seeing what had been done on the other side until the moment that I came into line with Keyes’s brigade on the left of Sherman’s brigade, and at that moment I saw Captain Fry, of General McDowell’s staff, standing by the fence, crying out “Victory! victory! We have done it! we have done it!” He supposed, and I supposed, and General McDowell at that time supposed, that the victory was substantially won. That was about half- past 12 o’clock. To show that he had some reason to believe that, we passed from that point with my division clear down to the Canady House on the Warrenton turnpike, driving the enemy without any show of resistance. There was hardly a gun fired. There appeared to be a general flight before us.

It was not until we got to that house that we met the enemy in any force at all. They had occupied a plateau of ground immediately above it with their batteries. Ricketts had his fight further over on the other side, while we attacked them by way of the road. At that point my brigade, after carrying the house twice, were repulsed and fell back under the hill. And at that moment, through General Keyes’s aid, who was with me, I sent verbal information to General McDowell that we were going to try to turn the batteries on the plateau by a movement below the Stone Bridge. That movement was subsequently made. We continued under the hill, advancing with the Connecticut brigade, with General Keyes’s brigade, until we reached a point considerably below the position of the enemy’s batteries on the plateau. And as Keyes faced his brigade to the right, to advance up the hill to attack the batteries, we had the first intimation of the retreat of the army by seeing them pouring over towards Sedley’s Church.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. At what time was that?

Answer. That was, perhaps, nearly three o’clock. Keyes’s brigade then faced to the left and took the same route back under the hill by which they had made the advance, recrossed Bull Run at the original point of crossing, went on up the Warrenton turnpike, at or near the hospital, and on the Centreville side of Bull Run, and continued their retreat towards Centreville. I did not see General McDowell on the field, and I did not receive any orders from him during that day.

Question. Have you anything further to state?

Answer. Nothing. I suppose you ask opinions about the panic. It has been very much discussed before military circles.

Question. We have heard various speculations as to the reason why the battle was not commenced earlier on Sunday; will you state the reason why the battle was delayed to so late an hour on that day?

Answer. The impossibility of moving an army of 22,000 men, with their ammunition, ambulances, &c., over a single turnpike.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Did not the most of the column wait in the road until Keyes’s brigade, which was back at Centreville, came up and joined you?

Answer. No, sir. The reason why the battle was delayed was this: The advancing so large an army as I have stated over one common road; and for the further reason that the country between Cub Run and Bull Run was supposed to be occupied by the enemy, and it became indispensable for the leading division, being without cavalry, and with no knowledge of the country, to move slowly, in order to protect themselves against any surprise on the part of the enemy, and force a position we had not the least conception of.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Was yours the leading division?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Were the rest of the divisions delayed by your movement?

Answer. They were not more than was absolutely necessary under the circumstances.

Question. What time did your movement commence?

Answer. At half-past two o’clock, as will appear by the official reports of Generals Schenck, Sherman, and Keyes.

Question. You were to advance how far?

Answer. To the Stone Bridge, about two and a half miles.

Question. And the other divisions turned off from the road on which you advanced before they reached Stone Bridge?

Answer. Yes, sir; some two miles from the bridge.

Question. At what time did the rear of your division reach Stone Bridge?

Answer. Keyes’s brigade, being delayed to guard the road going down to Manassas, did not reach Stone Bridge until about 11 o’clock. But that brigade was acting under the orders of General McDowell.

Question. At what time did the portion of the division under your command reach Stone Bridge?

Answer. It reached there by six o’clock, perhaps a quarter before six. We opened fire, as General Beauregard states, at six o’clock. Our time said half-past six, but I presume their time was nearer right than ours. I was there more than half an hour, posting my division, before we opened fire.

Question. Then do I understand you to say that none of the other divisions were held back by any portion of your division?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. The last part of your division had reached the point where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions were to turn off in time so as not to hold them back at all?

Answer. The two leading brigades of my division, Schenck’s and Sherman’s, arrived at the Stone Bridge in the neighborhood of and before six o’clock. Keyes’s brigade, having been detained by General McDowell’s order, arrived about eleven o’clock. Keyes’s brigade, therefore, is the only brigade that could have interfered with the movement of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions. That brigade of Keyes’s had no artillery. And so soon as General Schenck got his brigade on the line of the road, I saw the difficulty that there might be in consequence of Keyes’s brigade being left back at Centreville, having two miles of road to pass over, that they might interfere with Hunter’s column I then sent an aid back to tell General Keyes that as he had no artillery he should file immediately off the Warrenton turnpike into the fields, and immediately clear the turnpike for the use of the other columns. And I deemed it of so much importance, that after sending my aid, I rode back myself and saw the leading regiment of his brigade file into the fields, and gave him a positive order to put his brigade into the fields entirely out of the way of the other divisions. General Keyes reported to me that he did so, and I have no doubt of the fact, for I saw the leading regiment file off.

Question. Did any of the other divisions, or any portions of the other divisions, pass through a part of your division in order to get forward of them?

Answer. When Keyes’s brigade reached the road they occupied it, and Keyes’s brigade passed along parallel to the road and entirely out of their way. He was enabled to do that because he had no artillery. The others having artillery, there was no other place for them to pass, except up the road and over the bridge at Cub Run.

Question. At what time did the rear of your division—I do not mean to include Keyes’s brigade, but the rear of that which was with you that morning—pass the point where Hunter and Heintzelman turned off to the right?

Answer. We passed there before four o’clock.

Question. Or in two hours after you started?

Answer. Yes, air.

Question. Then do I understand you to say that the road was clear, so far as your division was concerned, up to the turning-off point after four o’clock, with the exception that Keyes’s portion of your division was then on that road?

Answer. Alongside the road, but off it.

Question. Why did you move first, as you were to move the shortest distance over the road?

Answer. That was the order of march by General McDowell. I did not see General McDowell or hear from him after the fight began, until we got back to Centreville.

By Mr. Odell :

Question. Did the fact of Keyes’s brigade not joining yours impede the progress of the other columns?

Answer. I do not think it did in the least.

Question. You did not receive an order from General McDowell to hasten your march?

Answer. No, sir ; I received no orders from General McDowell after I left him on Saturday night It was my suggestion to put Keyes’s brigade in the field. After seeing the head of his first regiment file into the fields, I did not wait there, but immediately pushed forward to post the other brigades at the Stone Bridge.

Question. Was there any portion of the march, with reference to Centreville Cross Roads or anything, retarded, so far as you know by your column?

Answer. No, sir; not that I know of.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Was it understood that Keyes, with his brigade, should march up and join your division in advance of the movement forward of all the other troops?

Answer. I presume so. That was the understanding—to keep the division together.

Question. I understand you to say that it was expected that Keyes should move up in advance of any other portion of the army, and join your division?

Answer. Certainly; for General McDowell said, “The first division, (Tyler’s,) with the exception of Richardson’s brigade, will move first.”

Question. That was not done, was it?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Why did he not move forward so as to keep out of the way of the remainder of the army?

Answer. He states that he did not interfere with them.

Question. You say he turned off into the field. Why could he not, with the road clear before him, if he was in advance, move forward so as to keep clear of the others?

Answer. He might, if the movements were made with perfect regularity.

Question. He had no artillery, and was first on the road. Why did he not pass over the road so as to offer no obstruction?

Answer. Because, by passing into the field he would have given the rear columns the advantage of two miles and a half of clear track, which there was a possibility might be interfered with, but which was not interfered with.

Question. Were Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns in advance of the position where Keyes turned off the main road?

Answer. .No, sir; they moved from behind Centreville on the morning of the 21st.

Question. If he was first on the road, and they were behind him, and he had nothing but infantry, why could he not have moved forward with sufficient celerity to leave the road open to the rest as fast as they advanced?

Answer. He could if the column in advance of him had moved with perfect regularity.

Question. What column was in advance?

Answer. Sherman’s brigade and Schenck’s brigade.

Question. Then it was your division which obstructed his movement forward :

Answer. We did not obstruct him at all. When I ordered Keyes into the field he had not reached the rear of my division. But seeing the possibility of an interference, I ordered him into the field.

Question. If he had marched up and joined your division, as your division then was, would the rear of his brigade have extended back to the junction of the road where the others turned off?

Answer. At the time he joined us?

Question. Yes, sir.

Answer. I think it would at that moment; but still we were all advancing.

Question. Then did you make the movement into the field with Keyes’s brigade in order to prevent that difficulty?

Answer. It was to prevent a circumstance that might occur. It was to prevent difficulty, when I knew there were two brigades in advance of him, and to carry out the instruction to march through the field. It was not that any difficulty had occurred, but to take every precaution against any such occurrence. I had not seen the head of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns, and I did not know where they were. But foreseeing the difficulty of moving 20,000 men over* one turnpike, after getting the artillery and wagons and ammunition into line, I saw that there must be difficulty, and to obviate that as far as possible I rode back and ordered Keyes, who was without artillery, to file out into the field. At that time I did not know where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns were, and I did not know that they had moved a foot.

Question. Did you see the rear of General Keyes’s column?

Answer. I did not. I only saw the leading regiment filed into the field.

Question. You do not know whether Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns was directly in the rear of Keyes’s brigade or not?

Answer. No, sir; but I wanted to provide against a contingency.

Question. At that moment you did not know the condition of things in the rear of Keyes’s command?

Answer. I did not. I had no idea where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns were. I supposed they were on the road, however, but I did not know where; but I wanted to do all in my power to remedy any possible difficulty that might occur.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. The first attack on Thursday, I understood you to say, was made by a single brigade?

Answer. It was made by four companies of a brigade. There were never more than 300 men, except artillery, engaged with the enemy at any time.

Question. Supported by a brigade?

Answer. Yes, sir; by Richardson’s brigade.

Question. Should that attack on Thursday have been made at all, unless it was followed up and made successful?

Answer. It was not an attack. It was merely a reconnoissance to ascertain what force they had there on Bull Run. It was not the intention to make an attack. And the very moment the force of the enemy was discovered, which it was important to know, ‘that moment the troops were withdrawn, and merely a cannonade kept up in order to see what effect it would have upon the men in the bottom of Bull Run. The whole affair was over before six o’clock. It was one of those advance engagements that spring np sometimes without any expectation of anything very important coming froin it.

Question. It was intended as a mere reconnoissance?

Answer. Yes, sir. After we had ascertained the force of the enemy there, I ordered Richardson to withdraw his brigade. He was very anxious to make an attack at the time, and was very confident that he could repulse them and force them out of the woods. I told him our object was not to bring on an engagement. But there was one thing very significant in that affair. Richardson’s brigade moved along the whole front of that wood, and skirted it along without being attacked, though Beauregard says he had seventeen regiments in the woods there. The reason was that Richardson was supported by the artillery on the hill, and the enemy would have suffered very severely if he had made any attack.

Question. Was it your understanding that Patterson was to hold Johnston in the valley of Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. You did not expect Johnston down there?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. Had Patterson held Johnston, what, in your judgment, would have been the result of that battle?

Answer. We should have whipped Beauregard beyond a question.

Question. Then you deem that the real cause of that defeat was the failure of Patterson to hold Johnston back?

Answer. Undoubtedly. From Blackburn’s Ford we could have a fair view of Manassas, and could see what they had there; and I have never had the least doubt that if Patterson had kept Johnston’s army out of the way we would have whipped Manassas itself.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. You think if you had driven Beauregard into and upon Manassas, you could have driven him out of it?

Answer. Yes, sir; if Johnston had been kept out of the way. There has been a great deal said about their fortifications there. It was the understanding that, from Flint Hill to Gormantown, we should find a succession of very severe abattis and batteries, which would render it a very difficult passage for our troops. We first fell in with, on advancing from Flint Hill, an abattis, which was so miserably constructed that the axe-men of one of our Maine regiments cut it out in the course of fifteen minutes, so that our brigade passed right on. We found a second one of the same character; and then we found an abandoned battery, which two rifled guns could have knocked to pieces in fifteen minutes. At Centreville all the fortifications were of exactly the same character. They were the meanest, most miserable works ever got up by military men. And I have no reason to believe that, even back as far as Manassas, they were much better constructed than they were on this side the run.

Question. Then you attribute the advantages of the enemy in that fight, and the advantages which they probably would have had at Manassas, so far as they would have had any, to the natural location of the country, rather than to any earthworks or artificial works that had been erected?

Answer. Yes, sir; at Manassas particularly. There they had an elevation in their favor, and we would have been obliged to attack them there to some disadvantage.

Question. I suppose you knew, when you moved forward to make the attack, you were moving forward with undisciplined troops; but you also knew you were to attack undisciplined troops?

Answer. We supposed our men were equal to theirs, and we found them to be so.

Question. You did not expect perfection in our movements any more than you did in theirs?

Answer. There was nothing in their troops that I saw that induced me to believe that their discipline and instruction was in any way superior to ours.

Question.  Do you know the particulars of the loss of Griffin’s and Ricketts’s batteries that day?

Answer. They were on the opposite side of the hill from me, and I did not see them. But I think the loss of those two batteries created the panic.

Question. Do you think it very probable the issue of that battle would have been different if those batteries had not been lost?

Answer. I think if we could have had two good batteries there we could have done a great deal better than we did. I think the loss of those two batteries had a great effect upon us.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Did you receive from General McDowell, through his aid, Mr. Kingsbury, orders to make a more rapid advance?

Answer. No, sir; I did not.





JCCW – Gen. John G. Barnard

15 07 2009

Testimony of Gen. John G. Barnard

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 160-162

WASHINGTON, January 11, 1862.

General JOHN G. BARNARD sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. Were you at the battle of Bull Run?

Answer Yes, sir.

Question. In what capacity?

Answer I was the chief of the engineer corps of General McDowell’s army.

Question. Without going minutely into the matter, will you state concisely to what you attribute the disaster to our army in that battle?

Answer. One of the influential causes was, I think, the loss of time in getting under way the morning of the fight. The fact that the repulse turned into a disastrous defeat I attribute to the fact that our troops were all raw. General McDowell had not even time to see all his troops They were brigaded only for the march, and put under officers whom the troops had not time to know, and who had no time to know the troops; and they had not been under military training long enough to be thoroughly educated as to what they had to do. With every disposition to fight well, they had not acquired the knowledge and experience they should have had, and when they were driven back on the narrow roads, in small bodies, they became so mixed up that it was almost impossible to recognize them.

Question. You attribute the first bad phase of that battle to the fact that our troops did not get on the ground in time?

Answer. Yes, sir. I think an hour’s difference would have gained the battle. We had almost gained it as it was.

Question. What caused that delay?

Answer. There were two cause distinct from each other. One was that in the plan of attack General Tyler’s division was to move first on the Warrenton turnpike to Stone Bridge, while the really attacking column which was to turn the enemy’s left flank, and which consisted of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, had to follow Tyler until they reached the road where they were to turn off to make this detour. The road into which they were to turn was not a beaten, travelled road, but a mere country path. And Tyler’s division was not out of the way so that they could get up to that turn-off for an hour and a half later than was expected. So that, instead of getting at that point at four o’clock, the head of Hunter’s column was not able to get there until, say about half-past five. That was the first cause.

Question. What delayed Tyler’s division; did you ever know?

Answer. When General McDowell and his staff rode along after waiting for the columns to get in motion—this was at four or half past four o’clock— we found the columns standing in the road waiting for one of Tyler’s brigades to get out of camp and under motion. Perhaps there was some fault in planning it, in overlooking the fact that Tyler’s division was so large, including three brigades, and the want of experience that we all had in moving large bodies of men. But whether it was General Tyler’s fault in not getting his troops under way in time, I am not competent enough to decide. I think that after we had waited for some time General McDowell had to stop the last brigade of Tyler’s division until Hunter’s division filed past.

I said there were two causes for that delay. The second was the much longer time it took for the column of Hunter’s to get around to Sudley’s Ford than we calculated for. In going over the ground as far as we could the day before, we fell upon the enemy’s patrol, and, not liking to attract their attention that way, we did not explore the ground up to the ford. We found that the ground was perfectly free; that there was nothing to obstruct cavalry or artillery; and the guide took them by a detour, saying that we would be exposed to the enemy’s batteries if we took the shorter road. So that we were three or four hours making that march through the woods. We did not get to the ford until half past nine or ten o’clock, and we ought to have been there at six o’clock. We succeeded in our operations. We deceived the enemy as to the point we were going to attack. We turned his left flank. He actually did not know the point of attack until twelve o’clock, when he commenced accumulating his forces at that point. If we had been earlier, we should have got on the Warrenton turnpike, in the rear of Stone Bridge, before he could have got there We should have concentrated three divisions there.

Question. There was a strong brigade on Centreville Heights after the retreat began?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What would have been the effect of ordering up that force to support the retreating columns?

Answer. When I saw that there was danger of losing the battle—when I saw the first charge, the first repulse of the Zouave regiment, the first capture of Ricketts’s battery—I began to fear that we would be beaten. I had felt confident of a victory up to that time, but then I began to see the possibility of a repulse. We supposed that the Stone Bridge was unguarded, and if we were beaten, and the enemy should cross there, we would be cut off. I had got separated from General McDowell, and I hunted up the adjutant, who was behind attending to some duty, and requested him to order up the brigade at Centreville to the Stone Bridge, in order to support us there, as we supposed the division of Tyler had entirely got across the bridge. General McDowell left that brigade at Centreville as a reserve at a central point, as he was afraid that while we were operating on the enemy’s left, making this long detour to do so, the enemy would pass Blackburn’s Ford and manoeuvre up by Centreville on our left flank. I had rather overlooked that until I saw it in General McDowell’s report.  And General Beauregard says that if we had not anticipated him, he would have attacked us. He actually did send an order to General Ewell to move up and attack our communication that way; and the reason it was not done was because the order miscarried in some way, so that that part of his plan failed. If they had attacked and carried that position at the same time that we were repulsed on our left, we would have been worse off than we were.

Question. But would not have been defeated, would you, if that strong division at Centreville had been at the fight? They would have gone right through them, would they not?

Answer. If our line had held out for a half an hour longer, we would have beaten the enemy as it was, because Schenck’s brigade at the Stone Bridge was at that moment just ready to act. The enemy had made an abattis on the other side; cut down the woods for some two hundred yards back from the bridge. Two of Tyler’s brigades had crossed over to join our left. Schenck’s brigade had remained at the bridge, and Captain Alexander had cut through the abattis and was ready to move on the enemy’s right just at the moment that they received news that our men were retreating. I believe if we had held out a half an hour, or even but a quarter of an hour, longer, we should have beaten them.

Question. If Patterson had held Johnston back, what would have been the effect?

Answer. We should have beaten them. That was the only thing that saved them.

Question. At what time before the battle commenced was it understood that Patterson was not holding Johnston back?

Answer. All that I knew about it, and all, I believe, that was distinctly known in the army about it, was that we heard the railroad cars running all night long. We were near enough at Centreville to hear the locomotives at Manassas.

Question. Suppose that when Patterson turned off from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, the moment that he knew he was no longer able to hold Johnston back, he had given notice to General Scott, and that notice had come to you, what would have been the effect of it upon your councils, had you heard it the day before the battle?

Answer. I think we should have fought any way. We could not have delayed any longer; that would have done us no good. The time of the three months’ volunteers was expiring. We had made that march to fight, and I think we would have fought.

Question. Suppose you had held your own there until Patterson had followed Johnston down?

Answer. If we had received something definite—a communication of that kind—I think it is likely the determination would have been altered.

Question. I mean if that communication had been given directly from Patterson to General Scott, and from General Scott had been sent immediately to you, I suppose the effect upon your council would have been at least to wait until Patterson had followed Johnston down?

Answer. If we had received the information in a distinct form, we might have acted differently. I know that, with what information we had, it was uncertain. The question was discussed, “Shall we defer the attack?” and it was concluded that we better fight as soon as we could. We heard the railroad cars running all night, and presumed that Johnston’s forces were coming in. But the moral effect of a delay would have been bad, and that action at Blackburn’s Ford had a bad effect on the army.

Answer. Could you not have brought up 10,000 or 15,000 more troops from Washington by a little delay?

Answer. By stripping Washington entirely of all its troops we might have done so, I suppose. I do not recollect what the whole force was here then.

Question. General Tyler was sent around to make a reconnoissance merely, as we have been told, not to make an attack, on the 18th?

Answer. He was not expected to go further than Centreville, I think. I think he was not expected to make any attack at all.

Question. Seeing that he did make an attack, he should have carried those batteries, should he not, if he could have done so? And if he had, would it not have cleared the way for the next battle, so that you could have turned their left?

Answer. He ought not to have made the attack at all without knowing that he could do something. He ought to have made the attack with the intention of carrying the position, or not have made it at all. I was on the spot, and warned him twice that it was not intended to fight a battle there; that it was on the straight road to Manassas, at one of the strongest crossings on Bull Run, and that it was evident the enemy was moving up his force to meet us there. And as he had no orders to fight, and as there was no plan to fight there, I did all I could to get him to desist. I had no objection to his opening his artillery fire, for that was a sort of reconnoissance, to make them show just what they were. But I had no idea that they were going to march down to the Run and fight as they did.





JCCW – Gen. Henry W. Slocum

3 06 2009

Testimony of Gen. Henry W. Slocum

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 53-54

WASHINGTON, D. C., December 28, 1861.

General HENRY W. SLOCUM sworn and examined.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Were you in the battle of Bull Run ?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. In what command?

Answer. I had a regiment there.

Question. What regiment?

Answer. The 27th New York regiment.

Question. To which division of the army were you attached ?

Answer. To General Hunter’s.

Question. Then you occupied the extreme right?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. The final attack made by Johnston’s reserves was made upon your division, was it not?

Answer. Yes, sir; it was.

Question. Will you, very briefly, and as concisely as possible, describe the position of your force at that time, and for an hour and a half before the arrival of Johnston’s reserves?

Answer. I was wounded at two o’clock, and taken off the field, about the time Johnston’s forces came on it.

Question. Then you were not a witness to that attack?

Answer. No, sir; I was not a witness to the final rout of our army.

Question. When you were wounded and taken off the field was it your opinion that you had the advantage of the enemy?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And you have not learned anything since to change your opinion of that?

Answer. No, sir. I supposed, when they took me to the hospital, that the day was ours.

By Mr. Johnson:

Question. What did you understand to be the amount of that last re-enforcement of Johnston’s?

Answer. I have been informed that it was about 4,000 men.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Can you tell me how far Schenck’s brigade was from your troops at that time?

Answer. No, sir; I cannot tell where it was.

Question. All you know about was the action of Hunter’s division?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. You were in Hunter’s division and rested at Centreville, did you not?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Do you remember why it was you rested there an hour, or an hour and a half, on Sunday morning?

Answer. I never understood that. I understood that there was some confusion among the troops ahead of us. Somebody was in their way, I understood. It was a very unfortunate resting spell.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. But for that you would have won the day?

Answer. Yes, sir; I think so.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. It changed the position of the enemy entirely, did it not?

Answer. It gave them this time to bring up their re-enforcements and rout us. If we had been there an hour sooner we should have carried the day. I was wounded on their strongest position. The place where I was wounded was where they had their best batteries at the time we came on the field; they had retired from that position, and left it entirely, and were probably a mile from us.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. At the time you were wounded?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And were in rout—retreating?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Your regiment was camped in this city, in the open square back of Willard’s Hotel, for some time, was it not?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And you started from there the morning of the advance?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. You crossed the Long Bridge?

Answer. Yes, sir; and went down to join McDowell’s column just below the Long Bridge, going out by Bailey’s Cross Roads.

Question. You rested there once one night?

Answer. We rested the first night at Anandale.

Question. And proceeded the next morning?

Answer. Yes, sir.





JCCW – Gen. Irvin McDowell Part II

27 05 2009

Testimony of Gen. Irvin McDowell

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 41-47

WASHINGTON, January 23, 1862.

General IRVIN McDOWELL recalled and examined.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. There are one or two points in relation to the battle of Bull Run upon which the committee desire you to make some further explanation. You state in your official report, under date of August 4, 1861, that there was delay in the first division in getting on the road on the morning of the battle, and that this was a great misfortune. Will you please state more fully in relation to that delay?

Answer. In my general order, No. 22, of July 20, 1861, providing for the movement of the several divisions to attack the enemy, it was arranged that General Tyler’s division should move at half past two a. m., precisely, on the Warrenton turnpike to threaten the possession of the bridge. General Tyler’s division consisted of four brigades, three only of which moved at this time, as directed in the order referred to. Schenck’s and Sherman’s brigades were one mile from Centreville on the road from Centreville to the Stone Bridge—on the right and left of the road; Keyes’s brigade was about a half a mile to the east of Centreville, on the right of the same road going west; the second division—Hunter’s—was about two miles from Centreville, and to the east of it. This division was ordered to move at two o’clock a. m. precisely. Heintzelman’s division was two miles distant from Centreville, and east of it, on what is called the old Braddock road. This division was to move at half past two a. m. precisely. Heintzelman’s division consisted of the brigades of Wilcox, Franklin, and Howard. Hunter’s division consisted of the brigades of Burnside and General Andrew Porter. All these divisions had the road in common, from the encampment of Sherman’s and Schenck’s brigades to the point where the road to Sudley’s Springs turned off to to the right—at a blacksmith’s shop—a little over a mile. Tyler was to move at half past two a. m., and Hunter was to move half an hour earlier, so that he might close up on Tyler’s division. Heintzelman was to move at half past two a. m., so as to fall in the rear of Hunter’s division. Tyler was expected to get over the ground, between the encampment of his advanced brigade and where the road turned off to the right at the blacksmith shop, in time to offer no obstructions to the road, which was to be used in common by all the divisions. I was sick during the night and morning, and did not leave my headquarters—a little over a mile, perhaps a mile and a quarter, east of Centreville—until I thought all the divisions were fully in motion, so as to give myself as much rest as possible. When I had got beyond Centreville about a mile, I passed the troops lying down and sitting down on the wayside. Upon asking why they did not move forward, the reply came to me that the road was blocked up. I saw some men coming from the left of the road through a cornfield into the road. When I asked to what regiment they belonged, they said the 2d New York, which formed a part of Schenck’s brigade. I went forward, urging the troops to move on, until I got to the blacksmith’s shop, where the road turned off to Sudley’s Springs. I was making every effort, personally and by my aides, to have the road cleared, in order that Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions might take up their march to the right by way of Sudley’s Springs, to carry out the plan of battle.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Whose division blocked up the road?

Answer. The first division, General Tyler’s division. Major, now General, Barnard, who was the chief of engineers on my staff, in his report to me, dated July 29, 1861, says as follows: “You are aware of the unexpected delay. The two leading brigades of Tyler’s did not clear the road for Hunter to this point (blacksmith shop, where the road turned to the right) until half past five.” That was three hours after the time fixed to start.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. What was the distance from the encampment of Tyler’s leading brigades to the blacksmith shop?

Answer. About a mile. I directed one of my staff to notice when General Tyler commenced firing. It was six o’clock. Colonel, now General Heintzelman, in his report to me of July 31, states as follows:

“At Centreville we found the road filled with the troops, and were detained three hours to allow the divisions of Generals Tyler and Hunter, to pass. I followed them with my division immediately in rear of the latter.”

I will mention that General Tyler in moving forward as the troops were then moving forward—some 18,000 men—was so supported that it was felt that he might move with confidence and promptness upon the road. I have been thus particular in making this explanation because General Tyler has written me a letter, complaining that my report does him injustice, and asking me to set him right in reference to this matter of delay. Under the circumstances I did not feel that I could make any change. He also stated that he received no orders from me during the day.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. I notice in your report that you state that you sent an aide-de-camp to General Tyler to direct him to press forward his attack, as large bodies of the enemy were passing in front of him to attack the division which had crossed over. Will you state what this order was, and by whom it was sent?

Answer. I sent an order to General Tyler to press forward the attack from a point near where this road that turns off at the blacksmith shop crosses Bull Run, near Sudley’s Springs. I sent Lieutenant Kingsbury, my aide-de-camp, to General Tyler to press forward his attack, because I saw columns of dust, indicating large bodies of troops, moving up in front of General Tyler’s division, and as but a small part of Hunter’s division had, at that time, crossed Bull Run, I was afraid he would be crushed before we could get a sufficient body of troops forward to support him. Lieutenant Kingsbury reported to me that he had gone to General Tyler, and found General Tyler, with his aide-de-camp, near a tree, in the branches of which he had some men observing the troops of the enemy coming up on the opposite side. Lieutenant Kingsbury reported to me that he had told General Tyler it was my order he should press forward his attack, and General Tyler replied, “What does he mean? Does he mean that I shall cross the stream?” Lieutenant Kingsbury said : “I give you the message exactly as it was given to me;” to which General Tyler returned answer, “I have a great mind to send some” regiment, or brigade, or something, “across the stream ” Lieutenant Kingsbury made me a written report of this, which ,I mislaid.  And while I was waiting at the blacksmith shop to see which direction the battle was to take I also sent an order to General Tyler by my then aide-de-camp, Major Wadsworth, now General Wadsworth.

By Mr. Gooch :

Question. When was Keyes’s brigade ordered to move?

Answer. General Tyler states, in his report, that it was ordered to move at two o’clock in the morning. I did not give any orders to General Keyes, but to Tyler. General Tyler was ordered to move at 2 1/2 a. m. He must have given the order to bring up his rear brigade at two o’clock. General Keyes says: “In compliance with the orders of Brigadier General Tyler, I have the honor to report my operations, leaving my camp at Centreville at two o’clock a. m.”

Question. You were aware, when you gave the order to General Tyler, that Keyes’s brigade was encamped at Centreville?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Was there anything between Keyes’s brigade and the remainder of General Tyler’s division?

Answer. Nothing.

Question. Was there anything to prevent Keyes’s brigade from moving up and joining the rest of the division?

Answer. There ought to have been nothing. There was, because I believe Hunter’s division got into the road before him.

Question. Then if he was interrupted or obstructed in moving up and joining the remainder of Tyler’s division, whose fault was it?

Answer. It must either have been his fault in getting off so late, if he was ordered to move at 2 o’clock by General Tyler, or the fault of some of Hunter’s division in going too soon.

Question. The intention was that the whole of General Tyler’s division should move from the point where Sherman and Schenck were encamped, and on the Warrenton turnpike, at 2 1/2 o’clock?

Answer. Yes, sir. This brigade of Keyes’s had, in consequence of previous movements, become dislocated from the other two, but that, practically, had no effect upon the march of Sunday morning. What I wished to do was to post this force of Tyler’s at or near the Stone Bridge, and under the cover of his force make this flank movement to the right.

Question. Can you state whether or not Schenck’s and Sherman’s brigades had moved forward past the point where the road turns off at the blacksmith shop in time to give the road to the other divisions as they came up ?

Answer. They had not; that is just the point.

Question. Then the other divisions of the army were held back, not only by Keyes’s brigade, but by the other brigades of Tyler’s division?

Answer. Keyes did not hold them back; he went into the field and they came up.

Question. Then they were held back by Schenck’s and Sherman’s brigades?

Answer. Yes, sir; by the slow movement of that part of the force.

Question. It has been said that General Tyler ordered Keyes’s brigade up to join him prior to the day of the battle, and that order was countermanded by you, and the brigade remained back where it was.

Answer. That may have been, but it is a matter of no sort of consequence whatever. I do not know whether that was so or not. But it was of no consequence, because General Tyler and the whole of his forces were ahead; the others were behind.

Question. Would there have been any advantage in stationing the several divisions differently; that is, having some divisions which had further to march stationed where Tyler’s was?

Answer. No, sir; Tyler got his position there logically from the way the force marched to Centreville. Tyler was to throw himself between Fairfax Court-House and Centreville. Hunter started from Anandale, and behind Tyler; Miles was below, and Heintzelman further below still. When Tyler moved forward to Centreville and commenced the fight at Blackburn’s Ford the other divisions were behind. Now to have changed them around would simply have made an unnecessary inversion; there would have been no particular object in it. I should have ordered forward first whichever division might have occupied Tyler’s position, so that, under cover of that, I might have made my flank movement to the right with the other divisions.

Question. It was desirable, then, that a force should be at Stone Bridge before any force passed up toward Sudley’s Springs ?

Answer. I think so. I wanted a strength there, and then, under cover of that, I could move my other divisions up. Had that not been done, there was danger that the other divisions going up to Sudley’s church, having the longest distance to go, might be attacked and cut off.

Question. It was necessary that that division of the army which was to move to Stone Bridge should have the road, and reach and pass the point where the blacksmith shop stands, before the remaining portion of the army should turn off towards Sudley’s Springs?

Answer. That was part of my well determined plan. I thought that was the better way. I do not think any other would have been a safe movement.

Question. I wish to ask you whether the force you left at Centreville was regarded by you as a reserve, or whether they were stationed as they were posted at the different points that day because it was necessary to have troops there to protect the rear of your army?

Answer. More the latter than the former, though partly both; to act as a reserve and, at the same time, to guard against an attack on our left or right. I remained at the turn-off by the blacksmith shop for nearly an hour, in doubt whether there would be an attack above at all. I was inclined to look for it at the left. And I have learned since that General Beauregard intended to attack me at eight o’clock, at Blackburn’s Ford; and when General Tyler commenced firing at Stone Bridge and received no response, I was in doubt. In my order for the battle I say: “The enemy has planted a battery on the Warrenton turnpike to defend the approach to Bull Run, has mined the Stone Bridge,” &c. I wanted to commence the attack on that point, which I was afraid I could not turn, and under cover of that attack to throw a large force up to the right. We expected the Stone Bridge to be a strong point, with batteries in position, regular works, &c. We expected the bridge would be blown up so that we could not use it, and I had made preparations so that the engineer should have another bridge to be used there. We were to make our move to the right and attack them under cover of this attack at the bridge.

Question. If it had not been for the disposition of the forces of Miles’s division which you made on the day of the battle, would not your whole army have been exposed and liable to be cut off?

Answer. Yes, sir; by a movement of the enemy on my left.

Question. That is, by a movement from the enemy’s right on your left?

Answer. Yes, sir; I can show you how I felt on that subject by referring you to my general order No. 22, in which I say : “The fifth division (Miles’s) will take position at the Centreville Heights ; Richardson’s brigade will, for the time, become part of his (Miles’s) division, and will continue in its present position. One brigade will be in the village, and one near the present station of Richardson’s brigade. This division will threaten Blackburn’s Ford, and remain in reserve at Centreville. The commander will open fire with artillery only, and will bear in mind that it is a demonstration only that he is to make. He will cause such defensive works, abattis, earthworks, &c., to be thrown up as will strengthen his position. Lieutenant Prime, of the engineers, will be charged with this duty.” I will also further, in relation to this same matter, give an extract from my report: “I had also felt anxious about the road from Manassas by Blackburn’s Ford to Centreville, along the ridge, fearing that while we should be in force to the front, endeavoring to turn the enemy’s position, we ourselves should be turned by him by this road; for if he should once obtain possession of this ridge, which overlooks all the country to the west to the foot of the spurs of the Blue Ridge, we should have been irretrievably cut off and destroyed. I had, therefore, directed this point to be held in force, and sent an engineer to extemporise some field-works to strengthen their position.”

Question. And you say now that you understand it was the intention of Beauregard to attack you at that point?

Answer. I have understood since that General Beauregard intended in the first place to attack me at 8 o’clock on the morning of the battle, and to attack me on my left, at this Blackburn’s Ford, or in its vicinity; and I have also understood that during the battle he did order a heavy attack to be made in that direction. An attack was made there, but not in the force he intended. It failed on account of an order which he gave one of the commanders having miscarried.

Question. Would it, in your opinion, have been judicious, at any time prior to the rout of our army, to have ordered the force, or any portion of it, stationed at Centreville on to the field of action?

Answer. I do not think it would have been judicious to have sent them one moment earlier than they were sent for. A reference to the reports of Colonel Davies, Colonel Richardson, and Hunt, of the artillery, I think, will show this. They were there having a heavy attack on the left, which would have been heavier but for the failure I have referred to. General Barnard, in his report of July 29, says:

“It will be seen from the above that the combination, though thwarted by different circumstances, was actually successful in uniting three entire brigades, (excepting the brigade of Schenck, which had just opened its way to fall on the enemy’s right at the moment when our lines finally gave way in front,) upon the decisive point.

“A fault, perhaps, it was that it did not provide earlier for bringing the two brigades of Miles (in reserve at Centreville) into action. One of his brigades (Richardson’s) actually did participate, though not on the battle-field; and in its affair on Blackburn’s Ford probably did neutralize the attack of the enemy.”

General Barnard did not then know the extent of that affair on the left. He thought that only Richardson was engaged in it. A reference to the reports of Colonel Davies, commanding a brigade under Colonel Miles, Colonel Hunt, commanding a battery of artillery, and of Colonel Miles, will show why only one brigade from Centreville was sent forward to the front. And it will show that the affair on the left was a matter of much greater importance than General Barnard seems at that time to have supposed it to be. Davies’s brigade was actually engaged, as was also that of Richardson, in repelling the attack of the enemy on the left. Colonel Miles, in his report, says that he received an order to put two brigades on the Warrenton turnpike at the bridge, and a staff officer was sent to order forward Davies’s brigade; that whilst this staff officer was executing his instructions, Davies sent word that he wanted the reserve forward where he was, as he was attacked by 3,000 of the enemy; that the staff officer, therefore, properly suspended the giving of the order, and reported immediately to Colonel Miles, and this caused him to advance with only one brigade, Blenker’s, to the position on the Warrenton turnpike.

Question. The shortest road from Manassas to Centreville was by Blackburn’s Ford?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. When the retreat of our army took place, had the way by Blackburn’s Ford not have been obstructed by the force you had placed there or near there, could not the enemy have moved forward immediately upon Centreville and cut off the retreat of your whole army?

Answer. Yes, sir; and I refer again to my report in answer to that question.

“At the time of our retreat, seeing great activity in this direction, (Blackburn’s Ford,) also firing and columns of dust, I became anxious for this place, fearing if it were turned or forced the whole stream of our retreating mass would be captured or destroyed. After providing for the protection of the retreat by Porter’s or Blenker’s brigade, I repaired to Richardson, and found the whole force ordered to be stationed for the holding of the road from Manassas by Blackburn’s Ford to Centreville on the march for Centreville under orders from the division commanders. I immediately halted it and ordered it to take up the best line of defence across the ridge that their position admitted of, and subsequently taking in person the command of this part of the army. I caused such disposition of the force as would best serve to check the enemy.”

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Was the attack on Blackburn’s Ford on Thursday, the 18th of July, made by your order?

Answer. No, sir, it was not. On July the 18th I was between Germantown and Centreville, General Tyler’s division being between my then position and Centreville. I wrote him the following note, which was carried to him by General, then Colonel, Wadsworth, my aide-de-camp:

“BETWEEN GERMANTOWN AND CENTREVILLE,

“July 18, 1861—8.15 a. m.

“BRIGADIER GENERAL TYLER—General: I have information which leads me to believe you will find no force at Centreville, and will meet with no resistance in getting there. Observe well the roads to Bull Run and to Warrenton. Do not bring on any engagement, but keep up the impression that we are moving on Manassas. I go to Heintzelman to arrange about the plan we have talked over.”

The plan was for the army to go around and attack the enemy’s right. I will give an extract from General Tyler’s report of July 27 as bearing on this question:

HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION DEPARTMENT NE. VIRGINIA,

Washington City, July 27, 1861.

“General McDOWELL, Commanding Department:

“SIR : On the 18th instant you ordered me to take my division, with the two 20-pounder rifled guns, and move against Centreville, to carry that position. My division moved from its encampment at 7 a. m. At 9 a. m. Richardson’s brigade reached Centreville, and found that the enemy had retreated the night before; one division on the Warrenton turnpike, in the direction of Gainesville, and the other, and by far the largest division, towards Blackburn’s Ford, on Bull Run.”

This order of mine that I have referred to was given to him in person by then Major Wadsworth, who also cautioned him verbally from me not to do too much in the way of keeping up the impression that we were moving on Manassas.

I will now read from General Barnard’s report of July 29. He was the chief of engineers on my staff:

“It should be borne in mind that the plan of campaign had been to turn the position and turn Manassas by the left; that is to say, that from Fairfax Court- House and Centreville we were to make a flank movement toward Sangster’s and Fairfax Station, and thence to Wolf Run Shoals, or in that direction.

“In my interview with the commanding general he said nothing to indicate any change of plan; but, on the contrary, his remarks carried the impression that he was more than ever confirmed in his plan, and spoke of the advance on Centreville as a ‘demonstration.’

“In proposing therefore to reconnoitre the enemy’s position at Blackburn’s Ford, it was not with the slightest idea that this point would be attacked; but a reconnoissance would be the carrying out of a ‘ demonstration.’

“Whilst I was awaiting Captain Alexander, l encountered Matthew C. Mitchell, who was secured as a guide. Representing himself as a Union man and a resident of that vicinity, I was engaged questioning him, when intelligence was received that General Tyler had sent back for artillery and infantry, and that the enemy was in sight before him. Riding to the front, I joined General Tyler and Colonel Richardson. Proceeding with them a short distance further, we emerged from the woods, and found ourselves at a point at which the road commences its descent to Blackburn’s Ford. The run makes here a curve or bow towards us, which the road bisects. The slopes from us towards it were gentle and mostly open. On the other side the banks of the run rise more abruptly, and are wooded down to the very edge of the run. Higher up a clear spot could be seen here and there; and still higher, higher than our own point of view, and only visible from its gently sloping towards us, an elevated plateau, comparatively open, in which Manassas Junction is situated.

“Although, owing to the thickness of the wood, little could be seen along the edge of the run, it was quite evident from such glimpses as we could obtain that the enemy was in force behind us. I represented to General Tyler that this point was the enemy’s strong position, on the direct road to Manassas Junction; that it was no part of the plan to assail it. I did not, however, object to a “demonstration,” believing that it would favor what I supposed still to be the commanding general’s plan of campaign.

“The two 20-pounders, of Parrott’s, had been ordered up. They were opened upon the enemy’s position, firing in various directions, without our being able to perceive the degree of effect they produced. They had fired perhaps a dozen rounds, when they were answered by a rapid discharge from a battery apparently close down to the run and at the crossing of the road. The 20-pounders continued their fire, directing at this battery, and Ayre’s battery was brought up and stationed on the left. The enemy’s batteries soon ceased answering. After ours had continued playing for about a half an hour, I felt it a useless expenditure of ammunition, and so stated to you, (Captain Fry, who arrived on the spot shortly before this,) and presumed General Tyler concurred in this opinion, as the firing soon ceased.

“I supposed this would be an end of the affair. But perceiving troops filing down towards the run, I thought it necessary to impress General Tyler with the fact that it was no part of the plan of the commanding general to bring on a serious engagement. I directed Captain Alexander (engineers) to state this fact to him, which he did in writing, having stated the same verbally before.”

My own order was not to bring on an engagement, and here was the chief of my engineers, and my adjutant general besides, urging the same thing on General Tyler.





JCCW – Gen. Irvin McDowell Part I

21 05 2009

Testimony of Gen. Irvin McDowell

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 35-41

WASHINGTON, D. C., December 26, 1861.

General IRVIN McDOWELL sworn and examined.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. We were instructed to make some inquiry in regard to the battle of last July. In the first place, was that battle of Bull Run decided upon in a council of war?

Answer. No, sir. I will give you in a few words the way that was done. There is much that precedes the battle that would be interesting to you gentlemen to know. Not to be too long, I will say that the general-in-chief, General Scott, called upon me verbally to submit a plan of operations to go against Manassas,and to estimate the force necessary to carry out that plan. I cannot tell the day when this was done. I could give you a copy of the plan I submitted, but unfortunately the copy I kept has not, I think, the date to it. The one I sent to him has, I think. I sent the plan to General Scott, and he read it and approved of it. I was then summoned before the cabinet. There were some general officers there : General Sandford, General Tyler, General Mansfield, and General Meigs were there. I think those were all but I am not certain. I was then called upon to read my plan of operations, and I read it.  No persons had any suggestions to make in reference to it except General Mansfield. He made some remarks, but said he had not thought about the matter, and did not know anything about it, and was not prepared to say anything in relation to it. As the plan was all approved of, without any alteration, and, I think, without any suggestion, except a slight one from General Mansfield, I then called the engineers to assist me, and gave the paper to them to discuss. They discussed it, and made no alterations, and had no suggestions to make except one. Captain Woodbury, now Major Woodbury, suggested that I should go by the right instead of by the left. I told him the reasons why I preferred to go by the left; that to go by the left was a conclusive movement, and to go by the right might not be.

Question. That is, to cut off the railroad?

Answer. Yes, sir. It was to go down by our left on their right and cut the railroad there. Your first question was as to whether there was any council of war on the plan. In reply, I said the plan was one that I submitted in compliance with verbal instructions from General Scott, and which plan received no modification either from the cabinet or from General Scott, except a mere verbal correction, changing “communications” to “communication.” Nor did any of the engineers make any suggestion, except the one I have mentioned, to go by the right instead of the left. I told him why I did not want to go in that direction, but said I was the last man in the world pledged to my own views, and if any one could tell me anything better than I could myself, I would accept it, and give him the full credit of it. Now, in regard to my plan, I had, in the first place, to assume what the enemy had in front of me. I next assumed that there would be no secret of my preparing to go against them. They would know it, and as a consequence of that they would bring up whatever disposable force they had. Therefore, it was not so much what they had here, but what they would bring here, that I was to go against. I assumed that if General Butler would keep them engaged below, and General Patterson would keep Johnson engaged above, I would then have so much to go against. To do that I asked for a certain force. They agreed to it, and gave me the force, but very late in the day. But they did not fulfil the condition with me so far as General Johnson was concerned. I had a part to play in the matter. It was but a part in a whole; it was a large part, still only a part. I had no control over the whole; that was controlled by General Scott. On several occasions I mentioned to the general that I felt tender on the subject of General Patterson and General Johnson. In reply to some suggestion once made about bringing Patterson over to Leesburg, I said if he went there Johnson might escape and join Beauregard, and I was not in a condition to meet all their forces combined. I said that I went over there with everything green. That was admitted; but they said that the other side was equally green. I said that the chances of accident were much more with green troops than with veterans, and I could not undertake to meet all their forces together. General Scott assured me—I use his own words—”if Johnson joins Beauregard he shall have Patterson on his heels.” He gave me this assurance, that there should be no question in regard to keeping Johnson’s troops engaged in the valley of Virginia. I estimated to go from Vienna with the largest force, and get in behind Fairfax Court-House; go with one force down the Little River turnpike upon Fairfax Court-House; go with one force by way of Anandale, and then go off to the south by the old Braddock road, as it is called, and then have the fourth column go south of the railroad. The railroad was then blocked up and obstructed. They had broken down the bridges and torn up the track where they could, filled in the deep cuts with earth and trees, and obstructed the road as effectually as they could. I could not at first use that railroad, though I threw the largest part of the force called reserve upon the railroad to make the communications good. The largest part of the 30,000 men were in front. I moved down Tuesday evening. When General Scott was called upon, or when the question was asked in the cabinet, when he would be ready to carry out this plan, General Scott fixed for me that day week. Up to that time General Scott never wished anything done on the other side of the river further than to merely fortify Arlington Heights. General Scott was exceedingly displeased that I should go over there. He had other plans in view, and personal plans, so far as I was concerned. And he was piqued and irritated that I was sent over there, and the more so that General Sandford was here in somewhat an equivocal position. He was here for three months, a major general of troops in New York. General Scott did not wish to give him the command here in Washington; at least I infer so because he did not put him in command, and he put him in command on the other side of the river. But General Scott was told that he must put either General Mansfield or myself over there. He wished to keep General Mansfield here, and he put me over there. The general had opposed my somewhat rapid promotion, because he thought it was doing a hurt to General Mansfield, and when I was promoted he insisted that General Mansfield should also be promoted, and date back a week before my own promotion. When I was ordered to the other side General Scott sent me two messages by his aide-de-camp and military secretary, to make a personal request of the Secretary of War not to be sent on the other side. I said I could not do that. Just appointed a general officer, it was not for me to make a personal request not to take the command which I had been ordered upon. I could not stand upon it. I had no reputation, as he had, and I refused to make any such application. So I went on the other side, and the general was cool for a great while. He did not like that I did not comply with his suggestion and ask not to be sent there. I was on the other side a long while without anything. No additions were made to the force at all. With difficulty could I get any officers. I had begged of the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Treasury, who at that time was connected with the Secretary of War in many of the plans and organizations going forward, that I should not be obliged to organize and discipline and march and fight all at the same time. I said that it was too much for any person to do. But they could not help it, or did not help it, and the thing went on until this project was broached. General Scott at the same time took occasion to say to the cabinet that he was never in favor of going over into Virginia. He did not believe in a little war by piecemeal. But he believed in a war of large bodies. He was in favor of moving down the Mississippi river with 80,000 men, of which I was to command the advance. We were to go down, fight all the battles that were necessary, take all the positions we could find, and garrison them, fight a battle at New Orleans and win it, and thus end the war. I did not think well of that plan, and was obliged to speak against it in the cabinet. I felt that it was beyond everything a hazardous thing for our paper steamboats, as you might term them, to try to go down the river on such an expedition. They have some considerable difficulty to get down safely in the most peaceable times and with all the precautions possible, and it would be exceedingly hazardous for them to undertake to go down there with a large army, with all their machinery above water and exposed, and obliged to attack works opposed to them all the way down. Here is the case of the Potomac now blockaded; we do not venture to land and attack the batteries here, though this is a wide river with a broad channel, one well known and which does not change. We attempt nothing of the sort here, and yet we were expected to go down the Mississippi a thousand miles, supply our force all the way down, attack the batteries, and be diminishing our force all the while by leaving garrisons in all the places we should deem of sufficient importance to retain. I thought the plan was full of most serious and vital objections. I would rather go to New Orleans the way that Packenham attempted to go there. I went over the river, as I have told you. General Mansfield felt hurt, I have no doubt, in seeing the command he had divided in two and a portion sent over there. I got everything with great difficulty. Some of my regiments came over very late; some of them not till the very day I was to move the army. I had difficulty in getting transportation. In fact, I started out with no baggage train, with nothing at all for the tents, simply transportation for the sick and wounded and the munitions. The supplies were to go on afterwards. I expected the men to carry supplies for three days in their haversacks. If I went to General Mansfield for troops, he said: “I have no transportation.” I went to General Meigs and he said he had transportation, but General Mansfield did not want any to be given until the troops should move. I said: “I agree to that, but between you two I get nothing.” The quartermaster begged of me not to move, because he was not ready. I said: “We must move on Tuesday;” which was one week after the time General Scott had fixed. All my force had not come over by the time he fixed. A large part came over on Sunday, and some on the very Tuesday I moved. I told the general I was not ready to go. Said I to him : “So far as transportation is concerned, I must look to you behind me to send it forward.” I had no opportunity to test my machinery; to move it around and see whether it would work smoothly or not. In fact, such was the feeling,that when I had one body of eight regiments of troops reviewed together, the general censured me for it, as if I was trying to make some show. I did not think so. There was not a man there who had ever manoeuvred troops in large bodies. There was not one in the army; I did not believe there was one in the whole country; at least, I knew there was no one there who had ever handled 30,000 troops. I had seen them handled abroad in reviews and marches, but I had never handled that number, and no one here had. I wanted very much a little time; all of us wanted it. We did not have a bit of it. The answer was: “You are green, it is true; but they are green, also; you are all green alike.” We went on in that way. But there is one thing clear beyond any doubt. If the movements which had been ordered had been carried out, we should have had no difficulty at all. My plan was simply this: It was to move out this force upon these four lines. I had to move them on four lines that had no communication with each other from the very nature of the country. But I thought I made each column strong enough to hold its own. If it could not penetrate it could stand still, and if attacked it could hold its own, while the other columns were pressing forward and trying to get behind the enemy. The roads from Alexandria radiate. One goes out to Vienna, one goes to Fairfax Court-House, one to Fairfax Station, and one further south to Pohick church. My orders were, that those on the right should go the first day—Tuesday—out to Vienna. I had taken the precaution before to send General Richardson, who commanded a brigade I had organized at Chain Bridge, out to examine the road he afterwards moved over. Generals Keyes, Schenck, Richardson, and Sherman, in all four brigades, were to be at Vienna that night. General Hunter, who commanded what I intended to be a sort of reserve, composed of General Burnside’s command and General Porter’s command, were to go on the Little River turnpike to Anandale. General Miles was to go to Anandale a little before and turn down on the Braddock road. General Heintzelman was to go out also from Alexandria on the railroad, and send up some force to Vienna to hold that point after our troops left it. The next morning General Tyler was to march from Vienna and go down upon the road towards Fairfax Court-House. General Hunter was to go forward to Fairfax Court-House direct. General Miles was to come down on the Braddock road to another road that crossed it, going from Fairfax Court-House to Fairfax Station, while Heintzelman went down below. They were to be there early in the morning, I think at 8 o’clock. At Fairfax Court-House was the South Carolina brigade. And I do not suppose anything would have had a greater cheering effect upon the troops, and perhaps upon the country, than the capture of that brigade. And if General Tyler could have got down there any time in the forenoon instead of in the afternoon the capture of that brigade was beyond question. It was but 5,000 or 6,000 men, and Tyler had 12,000, at the same time that we were pressing on in front. He did not get down there until in the afternoon; none of us got forward in time. That was due to two things, perhaps. The affair of Big Bethel and Vienna had created a great outcry against rushing into places that people did not know anything about. I think the idea of everyone was that we were to go into no such things as that; that we were to feel our way. That, perhaps, caused the march to be very, slow; because, from Vienna across the march was not more than five or six miles, and if they started by 4 o’clock in the morning they should get there by 8 o’clock. They did not get there until 3 o’clock, and the South Carolina brigade marched at 11 o’clock, so that it slipped through our hands. Then, too, the men were not used to marching; they stopped every moment to pick blackberries or to get water. They would not keep in the ranks, order as much as you pleased. When they came where water was fresh they would pour the old water out of their canteens and fill them with fresh water; they were not used to denying themselves much. They were not used to journeys on foot; the men of the north no more than the men of the south were used to going on foot much. While the men of the south were accustomed to riding horseback, those of the north rode in wagons for the shortest journeys, and they were pretty well broken down with this short march; therefore, when I wanted them to push on to Centreville, they were so broken down that they could not get more than half way there. The subsistence was to come on the next morning. Thursday morning I went off to see about making this march off to the left. That day General Tyler got involved at Blackburn’s Ford, which made it necessary to move the whole of the troops forward that day, instead of keeping them behind to draw their rations. The attack at Blackburn’s Ford had a bad effect upon our men. They were all in high spirits before that, but had not succeeded in their first attack. That attack made all wish to know what we were going to do, and where we were going to go, so that the next two days were employed by General Barnard and those under him in trying to discover where we could penetrate this line. They went out and were unsuccessful. They went out again at night, and were again unsuccessful. On Saturday about noon they reported that they had found a place. I at once gave orders to march at 6 o’clock that night, going part of the distance and stopping, and then move on early in the morning; but General Burnside, who was the furthest off, said that it would be much less fatiguing for his men to make one march instead of two, and that if we started early enough in the morning we could reach there in time. I yielded to it at once, as it was only on account of the men that I wanted to stop. I started in the morning. We got around late, it is true; there were delays about getting into the road. General Tyler was late, and General Hunter was slow in getting around; still, we substantially carried out the plan. We got over there and met the enemy; and there I found that, in addition to General Beauregard, I had General Johnston—how much of him I did not know. I learned afterwards that some 7,000 or 8,000, the bulk of his force, had arrived. Still, we were successful against both until about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when the remainder of his force came upon us upon our right when our men were tired and exhausted, and that caused the day to turn against us.

I have learned since, in relation to that movement of General Johnston, which was the fatal thing in the whole of this battle, and which General Scott assured me should not take place, or if it did General Patterson should be driving him in, that General Patterson was before General Johnston on Wednesday, and on Thursday morning, at 4 o’clock, he ordered his troops to march. I learned from General Morell—now in General Fitz-John Porter’s division, but who was then on the staff of General Sandford, who commanded under General Patterson— that they all expected that they were going right down to Winchester on Thursday, and that all the men were in the highest possible spirits at the idea of going there.and that General Sandford believed they were superior to Johnston’s force. But instead of going down to Winchester, after they got down to a place called Bunker Hill, they turned off to the left and went off towards Harper’s Ferry. Then the men became so dissatisfied that they demanded their discharge. Up to that time there had been no indications of turbulence. General Johnston, on that same day—Thursday—when he found out that Patterson had gone away, left in the afternoon between 2 and 3 o’clock, and pushed down in a masterly manner as hard as he could to join Beauregard. General Patterson in the meantime was, I am told, under the greatest possible alarm, and telegraphed all the time, and sent an officer down, who arrived on Sunday, to General Scott for re-enforcements against General Johnston, General Johnston at that very time being before me here; and General Scott was so impressed with this, that a large part of the force in Washington was ordered to go up there to join General Patterson. So completely was General Patterson outwitted that he thought General Johnston had 40,000 men there. One who was on his staff, and his adjutant general, told me that they had got records, reports, and returns to the effect that Johnston had something like 40,000 men. All I can say is, that if he had 40,000 men, I had the whole of them on me.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Do you believe he had 10,000?

Answer. I think he had from 12,000 to 15,000, and General Patterson had in the vicinity of 20,000. If he had 40,000, then I had them all. But I assume that he joined Beauregard in the first place with 8,000, and that his last re-enforcement was about 4,000.

By the chairman:

Question. When did you first learn that Johnston was released from Patterson and down here?

Answer. I first learned it in a way beyond all doubt on the field of battle. About 11 o’clock in the day I made some prisoners.

Question. Did no one tell you before?

Answer. A man came to me before. But, great God! I heard every rumor in the world, and I put them all aside unless a man spoke of his own personal knowledge. Some person came to me; I did not know who he was. I had people coming to me all the time, each one with something different. All that I paid no attention to. This person came to me and said, I think, “The news is that Johnston has joined Beauregard.” He might have said that somebody else had joined Beauregard. He did not know it himself; had heard it from others. Some one said: ” We heard the cars coming in last night.” Well, I expected that. I expected they would bring into Manassas every available man they could find. All I did expect was that General Butler would keep them engaged at Fortress Monroe, and Patterson would keep them engaged in the valley of Virginia. That was the condition they accepted from me to go out and do this work. I hold that I more than fulfilled my part of the compact because I was victorious against Beauregard and 8,000 of Johnston’s troops also. Up to 3 o’clock in the afternoon I had done all and more than all that I had promised or agreed to do; and it was this last straw that broke the camel’s back—if you can call 4,000 men a straw, who came upon me from behind fresh from the cars.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Has it not been a fact, all through this war, that our generals in front of the enemy—as was General Patterson in front of General Johnston— have been deceived as to the force of the enemy? General Patterson says that he had positive information that General Johnston had over 35,000 men, while he had only 20,000. Has this not been a bragging, lying force that they have been exhibiting along our lines all the time?

Answer. There is one thing: In war the object is to deceive the enemy as to your force and make him believe that you are stronger than you really are. I have taken the evidence of negro.men and found it very good myself. But that is a matter of judgment; you may get yourself overreached.





Col. W. T. Sherman to His Wife

2 02 2009

To Ellen Ewing Sherman

Fort Corcoran

July 24, 1861

Dearest Ellen,

On my arrival back here carried by the Shameless flight of the armed mob we led into Virginia I tried to stay the crowd, and held them in check to show at least some front to the pursuing force.  Yesterday the President & Mr. Seward visited me, and I slipped over for a few minutes last night to see your father.  John S. and Tom have seen me and promise to write you – The battle was nothing to the absolute rout that followed and yet exists, with shameless conduct the volunteers continue to flee – a Regiment the N. York 79th Scots were forming to march over to Washington, and I have commanded them to remain.  If they go in spite of all I can do there will remain here but one company of artillery 90 Strong and a Wisconsin Regiment.  And Beauregard is close at hand – so it seems to be true that the north is after all pure bluster – Washington is in greater danger now than ever.

I will stand by my Post, an illustration of what we all know that when real danger came the Politicians would clear out – The Proud army characterized as the most extraordinary on earth has turned out the most ordinary.

Well as I am sufficiently disgraced now, I suppose soon I can sneak into some quiet corner.  I was under heavy fire for hours – brushed on the Knee, & Shoulder – my horse shot through the leg, and was every way exposedand can not imagine how I escaped except to experience the mortification of a Retreat route, Confusion, and now abandonment by Whole Regiments.  I am much pressed with business regulating the flight of all save the few to remain on this side [of] the River.

Last night I received several letters from you, and took time to read them, and now trust to Tom & others to tell you of the famous & infamous deeds of Bulls Run.

Courage our people have, but no government.

W. T. Sherman

Col. Comdg.

To Ellen Ewing Sherman

Fort Corcoran July 28, [1861]

Saturday

Dearest Ellen,

I have already written to you since my return from the Unfortunate defeat at Bulls Run – I had previously conveyed to you the doubts that oppressed my mind on the Score of discipline.  Four large columns of poorly disciplined militia left this place – the Long Bridge and Alexandria – all concentrating at a place called Centreville 27 miles from Washington.  We were the first column to reach Centreville the Enemy abandoning all defenses en route.  The first day of our arrival our Commander Genl. Tyler advanced on Bulls Run, about 2 1/2 miles distant, and against orders engaged their Batteries.  He sent back to Centreville and I advanced with our Brigade, where we lay for half an hour, amidst descending shots killing a few of our men – The Batteries were full a mile distant and I confess I, nor any person in my Brigade saw an enemy.

Towards evening we returned to Centreville.

That occurred on Thursday.  We lay in camp till Saturday night by which the whole army was assembled in and about Centreville.  We got orders for march at 2 1/2 Sunday morning.  Our column of 3 Brigades – Schenck, Sherman & Keyes – to move straight along a Road to Bulls Run – another of about 10,000 men to make a circuit by the Right (Hunters) and come upon the enemy in front of us – Heintzelmans column of about similar strength also to make a wide circuit to sustain Hunter – We took the road first and about 6 A.M. came in sight of Bull Run – we saw in the grey light of morning men moving about – but no signs of batteries: I rode well down to the Stone Bridge which crosses the Stream, saw plenty of trees cut down – some brush huts such as soldiers use on picket Guard, but none of the Evidence of Strong fortifications we had been led to believe.  Our business was simply to threaten, and give time for Hunter & Heintzelman to make their circuit.  We arranged our troops to this end.  Schenck to the left of the Road, & I to the right -Keyes behind in reserve.  We had with us two six gun batteries, and a 30 pd. Gun – This was fired several times, but no answer – we shifted positions several times, firing wherever we had reason to suppose there were any troops.  About 10 or 11 o.c. we saw the clouds of dust in the direction of Hunters approach.  Saw one or more Regiments of the Enemy leave their cover, and move in that direction – soon the firing of musketry, and guns showing the engagement had commenced – early in the morning I saw a flag flying behind some trees.  Some of the Soldiers seeing it Called out – Colonel, there’s a flag – a flag of truce – a man in the Field with his dog & gun – called out – No it is no flag of truce, but a flag of defiance – I was at the time studying the Ground and paid no attention to him – about 9 oclock I was well down to the River – with some skirmishers and observed two men on horseback ride along a hill, descend, cross the stream and ride out towards us – he had a gun in his hand which he waved over his head, and called out to us, You D–d black abolitionists, come on &c. – I permitted some of the men to fire on him – but no damage was done he remained some time thus waiting the action which had begun on the other side of Bulls Run – we could See nothing, but heard the firing and could judge that Hunters column steadily advanced: about 2 P.M. they came to a stand, the firing was severe and stationary – Gen. Tyler rode up to me and remarked that he might have to Send the N.Y. 69th to the relief of Hunter – a short while after he came up and ordered me with my whole Brigade, some 3400 men to cross over to  Hunter.  I ordered the movement, led off – found a place where the men could cross, but the Battery could not follow.  We crossed the stream, and ascended the Bluff Bank, moving slowly to permit the ranks to close up – When about half a mile back from the Stream I saw the parties in the fight, and the first danger was that we might be mistaken for Secessionists & fired on – One of my Regiments had on the grey uniform of the Virginia troops – We first fired on some retreating Secessionists, our Lt. Col. Haggerty was killed, and my bugler by my side had his horse shot dead – I moved on and Joined Hunters column.  They had had a pretty severe fight – Hunter was wounded, and the unexpected arrival of my brigade seemed a great relief to all.  I joined them on a high field with a house – and as we effected the junction the secessionists took to the woods and were seemingly retreating and Gen. McDowell who had accompanied Hunter’s column ordered me to join in the pursuit – I will not attempt to describe you the scene – their Batteries were on all the high hills overlooking the ground which we had to cross, and they fired with great vigor – our horse batteries pursued from point to point returning the fire, whilst we moved on, with shot shells, and cannister over and all round us.  I kept to my horse and head of the Brigade, and moving slowly, came upon their heavy masses of men, behind all kinds of obstacles.  They knew the ground perfectly, and at every turn we found new ground, over which they poured their fire.  At last we came to a stand, and with my Regiments in succession we crossed a Ridge and were exposed to a very heavy fire, first one Regiment & then another and another were forced back – not by the bayonet but by by a musketry & rifle fire, which it seemed impossible to push our men through.  After an hour of close contest our men began to fall into confusion.  111 had been killed and some 250 wounded and the Soldiers began to fall back in disorder – My horse was shot through the foreleg – my knee was cut round by a ball, and another had hit my Coat collar and did not penetrate an aid Lt. Bagley was missing, and spite of all exertions the confusion increased, and the men would not reform – Similar confusion had already occurred among other Regiments & I saw we were gone.  Had they kept their ranks we were the Gainers up to that point – only our field Batteries exposed had been severely cut up, by theirs partially covered.  Then for the first time I saw the Carnage of battle – men lying in every conceivable shape, and mangled in a horrible way – but this did not make a particle of impression on me – but horses running about riderless with blood streaming from their nostrils – lying on the ground hitched to guns, gnawing their sides in death – I sat on my horse on the ground where Ricketts Battery had been shattered to fragments, and saw the  havoc done.  I kept my Regiments under cover as much as possible, till the last moment, when it became necessary to cross boldly a Ridge and attack the enemy by that time gathered in great strength behind all sorts of cover – The Volunteers up to that time had done well, but they were repulsed regiment by Regiment, and I do think it was impossible to stand long in that fire.  I did not find fault with them but they fell into disorder – an incessant clamor of tongues, one saying that they were not properly supported, another that they could not tell friend from foe – but I observed the gradual retreat going  on and did all I could to stop it.  At last it became manifest we were falling back, and as soon as I perceived it, I gave it direction by the way we came, and thus we fell back to Centreville some four miles – we had with our Brigade no wagons, they had not crossed the River.  At Centreville came pouring in the confused masses of men, without order or system.  Here I supposed we should assemble in some order the confused masses and try to Stem the tide – Indeed I saw but little evidence of being pursued, though once or twice their cavalry interposed themselves between us and our Rear.  I had read of retreats before – have seen the noise and confusion of crowds of men at fires and Shipwrecks but nothing like this.  It was as disgraceful as words can portray, but I doubt if volunteers from any quarter could do better.  Each private thinks for himself – If he wants to go for water, he asks leave of no one.  If he thinks right he takes the oats & corn, and even burns the house of his enemy.  As we could not prevent these disorders on the way out - I always feared the result – for everywhere we found the People against us – no curse could be greater than invasion by a Volunteer army.  No goths or vandals ever had less respect for the lives & property of friends and foes, and henceforth we ought never to hope for any friends in Virginia – McDowell & all the Generals tried their best to stop these disorders, but for us to say we commanded that army is no such thing – they did as they pleased.  Democracy has worked out one result, and the next step is to be seen – Beauregard & Johnston were enabled to effect a Junction, by the failure of Patterson to press the latter, and they had such accurate accounts of our numbers & movements that they had all the men they wanted – We had never more than 18,000 engaged, though Some 10 or 12,000 were within a few miles.  After our Retreat here, I did my best to stop the flying masses, and partially succeeded, so that we once more present a front: but Beauregard has committed a sad mistake in not pursuing us promptly.  Had he done so, he could have stampeded us again, and gone into Washington.  As it is I suppose their plan is to produce Riot in Baltimore, cross over above Leesburg, and come upon Washington through Maryland.  Our Rulers think more of who shall get office, than who can save the Country.  No body – no one man can save the country.  The difficulty is with the masses – our men are not good Soldiers – They brag, but dont perform – complain sadly if they dont get everything they want – and a march of a few miles uses them up.  It will take a long time to overcome these things, and what is in store for us in the future I know not.  I propose trying to defend this place if Beauregard approaches Washington by this Route, but he has now deferred it Some days and I rather think he will give it up.

The newspapers will tell ten thousand things none of which are true.  I have had not time to read them, but I know no one now has the moral courage to tell the truth.  Public opinion is a more terrible tyrant than Napoleon – My own hope is now in the Regulars, and if I can escape this Volunteer command I will do so, and stick by my Regular Regiment.  Gen. McClellan arrived today with Van Vliet -Stoneman, Benham – Biddle – and many others of my acquaintance.  Affecy. &c.

W. T. Sherman

[Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman's Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 121-125]








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