JCCW – Gen. Robert Patterson Part I

30 06 2009

Testimony of Gen. Robert Patterson

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 78-89

WASHINGTON, January 6, 1862

General ROBERT PATTERSON sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. Please state in as brief a manner as you can conveniently the connexion that you have had with the present war. State it in your own way without questioning at first. Give us a narrative as brief as you can properly and conveniently make it.

Answer. If any testimony has been given that affects the management of my column, I would like to have it read before I begin. I believe it is customary to have that done.

Question. We are not impeaching the conduct of any man. We are merely endeavoring to get all the light we can upon the conduct of the war. We take every man’s narrative of it, which we endeavor to keep secret, and which we request the witness to keep secret, for the present at least.

Answer. My only object is to answer anything that has been said.

Question. That would be best answered by a plain statement of the facts of the case. I will state that our purpose is not to impeach any man in any connexion he may have had with the war. What Congress expects of us, their committee, is to obtain such facts as we suppose will be useful in throwing light upon the military operations of the army, in order to apply any remedy that may be necessary. I perceive, by the documents that you have before you, that you are about entering upon what is probably a very minute narration; that might be necessary if you were accused—it might then be very proper. But we have no such object in view.

Answer. It is scarcely possible for me to give you in fewer words than I have got here the operations of the army under my command.

After some conversation in relation to the order of proceeding, on motion of Mr. Johnson the witness was allowed to pursue his own way of replying to the interrogatory of the chairman.

The witness accordingly proceeded as follows:

By general orders No. 3, from the headquarters of the army, dated 19th April, 1861, [App. No. 1,] I was appointed to the command of the department of Washington, consisting of the States of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Until the early part of June I was actively engaged in organizing, equipping, and forwarding regiments to Washington, Annapolis, and Baltimore, and in opening, occupying, and defending the lines of communication with the capital. I was then permitted to turn my attention to the organization of the column destined to retake Harper’s Ferry. The impression has been permitted to go forth from this city, and has been most extensively circulated elsewhere, that I had not obeyed orders. I have with me, and will place in your possession, documents to prove that I did all that I was ordered to do, and more than any one had a right to expect, under the circumstances in which I and my command were placed. And I defy any man, high or low, to put his finger on an order disobeyed, or even a practicable suggestion that was not carried out. My column was well conducted; there was not a false step made, nor a blunder committed. The skirmishers were always in front, and our flanks were well protected; we were caught in no trap, and fell in no ambush.  My command repeatedly offered the enemy battle, and when they accepted it in the open field we beat them; there was no defeat and no retreat with my column.

The facts in the case would have been made known immediately after I was relieved at Harper’s Ferry in July, but the publication of the documents at that time would have been most detrimental to the public interest. Some two months ago I supposed an investigation could be made without injury; and on the 1st of November I complained to the War Department of the injustice done me, and asked for a court of inquiry, or permission to publish the correspondence between the general-in-chief and myself, and of his orders to me. On the 3d of November the Assistant Secretary of War, Hon. T. A. Scott, acknowledged the receipt of my application. On the 26th of November I respectfully asked the attention of the Hon. Secretary of War to my letter; and on the 30th the Secretary replied, declining, for reasons assigned in his letter, to appoint a court of inquiry.—(Appendix No. 2.) I then requested Hon. John Sherman, senator of the United States from Ohio, who had done me the honor to serve on my staff as aide-de-camp, to offer a resolution, calling for all the correspondence and the orders. The distinguished senator did so; it passed unanimously. The Secretary of War has declined to publish the papers, as it would be incompatible with the public interests. I furnish herewith a copy of the resolution offered at my request by Senator Sherman, and the reply of the Hon. Secretary.—(Appendix No. 3.) On the 3d of June I took command at Chambersburg. On the 4th of June I was informed by the general-in- chief that he considered the addition to my force of a battery of artillery and some regular infantry indispensable. In this opinion I cordially concurred.—(Appendix No. 4.) On the 8th of June the general-in-chief sent my letter of general instructions.—(Appendix No. 5.) In this I am told, “there must be no reverse. But this is not enough. A check or a drawn battle would be a victory to the enemy, filling his heart with joy, his ranks with men, and his magazines with voluntary contributions. Take your measures, therefore, circumspectly; make a good use of your engineers and other experienced staff officers and generals, and attempt nothing without a clear prospect of success.” This was good instruction and most sensible advice; good or bad I was to obey, and I did so.

On the 13th of June the general-in-chief sent me two communications.— (Appendix Nos. 6 and 7.) In one I was informed “that Ben McCullough had two regiments of sharpshooters coming from Texas, and that he was now on the spot preparing to meet my column, and then to fall back to Harper’s Ferry.” In the other I was told ” that, on the supposition I would cross the river Monday or Tuesday next, Brigadier General McDowell would be instructed to make a demonstration from Alexandria in the direction of Manassas Junction one or two days before.”

I know not what induced this supposition. On the seventh I had written to General Scott, (Appendix No. 8,) ” that I desired in a few days to occupy the roads beyond Hagerstown and to establish my headquarters in that town, and to intrench my left flank on the Boonsboro’ road, placing there the force with which I can threaten the Maryland Heights, and, should a favorable occasion offer, storm them.”

I was therefore surprised at the suggestion, as I had said nothing about crossing the river, and had neither men nor guns sufficient for the purpose. But knowing and appreciating the great experience, skill, and sagacity of my commander, I promptly adopted measures to carry it out.

On the fifteenth I reached Hagerstown, and on the 16th two-thirds of my forces had crossed the Potomac. The promised demonstration by General McDowell in the direction of Manassas Junction was not made. On the same day, only three days after I had been told I was expected to cross, and when a large portion of my command had crossed, I received three telegrams from the general-in-chief.—(Appendix Nos. 9, 10, and 11.) The first says: “Send to me at once, all the regular troops, horse and foot with you, and the Rhode Island regiment.” The second says: “You are strong enough without the regulars with you—are most needed here; send them and the Rhode Island regiment as fast as disengaged. Keep within the above limits until you can satisfy me you ought to go beyond them.” The third is as follows: “You tell me you arrived last night at Hagerstown, and McClellan writes you are checked at Harper’s Ferry. Where are you?” On the twelfth I had informed the general (Appendix No 12) that “I regretted my command was not in condition and sufficiently strong in facing a powerful foe to detach at present a force towards Cumberland,” and “respectfully suggested that two regiments at least, if they could be devoted to that purpose, be designated to protect the road in the rear and permit Colonel Wallace to approach.”

In a letter dated 16th June (Appendix, No. 13) I informed the general that “to-day and to-morrow about 9,000 men cross to Virginia,” and submitted my desire, “first, to transfer to Harper’s Ferry my base of operations, depots, headquarters, &c.; second, to open and maintain free communication, east and west, along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; third, to hold at Harper’s Ferry, Martinsburg, and Charlestown a strong force, gradually and securely advancing as they are prepared, portions towards Winchester, &c.; fourth, to re-enforce Cumberland and move north to Romney, Morehead, &c., and operate with the column in the third proposition towards Woodstock, and cut off all communications with the west. We will thus force the enemy to retire, and recover, without a struggle, a conquered country,” &c. I also added that, “if I am permitted to carry out this plan, the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and the canal will be in operation in a week, and a free line of communication to St. Louis be established.”

On the 17th the general-in-chief telegraphed me, (Appendix No. 14:) “We are pressed here; send the troops that I have twice called for without delay.” This was imperative, and the troops were sent, leaving me without a single piece of artillery, the enemy having over twenty guns, and for the time but a single troop of cavalry, not in service over a month—the enemy with a full regiment of cavalry—and with not 10,000 infantry, all raw, the enemy having 15,000 trained infantry. It was a gloomy day and night. But I succeeded in getting my forces over the river again with the loss of only one man.

I refrain from making any comments on these extraordinary orders, except to say that I was mortified and humiliated at having to recross the river without striking a blow.  I knew that my reputation would be seriously damaged by it; the country could not understand or comprehend the meaning of the crossing and recrossing, the marching and countermarching, and that I would be censured without stint for such apparent vacillation and want of purpose. But I loved and honored my commander; I had served under him before, and had never suffered a personal feeling or interest to interfere with my loyalty and duty to him and my country. I knew that he trusted me, and I trusted him, confident that in his own time and in his own way he would put me right before the army and country.  Meanwhile I would bear the odium unjustly cast upon me, and not throw it on others.

On the 20th of June the general-in-chief asked me, (Appendix No. 15,) “without delay to propose to him a plan of operations.” On the 21st I gave him one, (Appendix No. 16,) proposing, “first, to occupy the Maryland Heights with a brigade, (2,100 men,) fortify and arm with Doubleday’s artillery, provision for twenty days, to secure against investment; second, to move all supplies to Frederick, and immediately thereafter abandon this line of operations, threatening with a force to open a route through Harper’s Ferry, this force to be the sustaining one for the command on Maryland Heights; third, to send everything else available, horse, foot, and artillery, to cross the Potomac near the Point of Rocks, and unite with Colonel Stone at Leesburg; from that point I can operate as circumstances demand and your orders require.”

Had this plan been adopted, the army of General McDowell and my own would have been precisely where they ought to have been. I would have been in a position to have aided General McDowell; to have taken and torn up, if I could not have held, a portion of “the railroad leading from Manassas to the valley of Virginia.” This would not only have destroyed “the communications between the forces under Beauregard and those under Johnston,” but it would have prevented either from throwing large re-enforcements to the other when assailed. And if I could not prevent Johnston from joining Beauregard, which I certainly could not do while stationed anywhere between Williamsport and Winchester, I could have joined McDowell in the attack on Manassas, and assailed and turned the enemy’s left. Had my suggestions been adopted, the battle of Bull Run might have been a victory instead of a defeat.

On the 23d of June I informed the general-in-chief (App. No. 17) that deserters ” were coming in daily, and all agreed in saying that the whole of the force originally at Harper’s Ferry, said to be 25,000 men, is still between Williamsport and Winchester;” that the advance of the enemy was approaching Falling Waters, the remainder in a semicircle, all within four hours of the advance. I added, “that this force might soon annoy me; if so, I would not avoid the contest they may invite.”

On the 25th I was directed (App. No. 18) to “remain in front of the enemy while he continued in force between Winchester and the Potomac; if his superior or equal in force, I might cross and offer him battle.” On the 27th General Scott informed me (App. No. 19) that “he had expected I was crossing the river that day in pursuit of the enemy.” What could have induced this expectation it would have been difficult to imagine. On the 4th of June the general-in-chief had told me that “a battery of artillery and some regular infantry to be added to my force was indispensable,” and both had been taken away. On the 8th of June he had told me I must “attempt nothing without a clear prospect of success.” And on the 16th he had told me to “keep within the above limits until I could satisfy the general-in-chief that I ought to go beyond them.” It is true Major Doubleday had three siege guns, movable only in favorable ground, and that Captain Perkins had six field guns, not rifled; but they could not be moved, as he had no harness, and did not get any until the 29th. Both had asked for rifled guns, and had been informed in letter of the 27th of June (App. No. 20) that “the ordinary guns which have been furnished the battery are considered as sufficiently effective by the general-in-chief.” On the 28th of June I informed the general-in-chief (App. No. 21) that “Captain Newton, of the engineers, a most intelligent and reliable officer, had returned, after two days’ absence, and reported General Johnston to have 15,000 men and twenty to twenty four guns and a large cavalry force, and thinks General Negley, whose brigade is on my left near Sharpsburg, will be attacked, the river being fordable at almost every point.” And I might have added that on the 20th General Cadwalader had reported the enemy as having twenty guns; “they were counted as they passed.” To meet this force of 16,000 men and twenty- two guns, I had but 10,000 volunteer infantry, 650 cavalry and artillery, and six guns; the artillery being nearly all recruits, the horses untrained, and still without harness for the battery. In the same letter I informed General Scott that I had “repeatedly asked for batteries, and ought to have had one for each brigade; that I had neither cavalry nor artillery enough to defend the fords of the river, and that I would not, on my own responsibility, cross the river and attack without artillery a force so much superior in every respect to my own, but would do so cheerfully and promptly if the general-in-chief would give me explicit orders to that effect.” In the same letter I asked for the troops that had “been taken from me, and a number of field guns equal to those of the insurgents,” that I might be enabled ” to choose my point of attack and offer battle to the enemy;” adding that if “the general-in-chief would give me a regiment of regulars and an adequate force of artillery I would cross the river and attack the enemy, unless his force was ascertained to be more than two to one.” No regulars were sent me, and but one field battery of artillery, leaving me greatly inferior in that important arm. The number of my troops has always been overestimated. There were twelve regiments ordered to join me—say, one Delaware and three New Jersey on the 24th of May, two New York regiments on the 30th of May, two Ohio and two northern regiments on the 4th of June, and two Pennsylvania regiments on the 10th of June—but they did not do so. I crossed the Potomac on the 2d of July with less than 11,000 men and six guns, the enemy having 16,000 men, mostly confederate troops, (not State troops,) and twenty to twenty-four guns. My largest force was accumulated at Martinsburg, and they did not exceed 19,000 men. My own estimate of their number was 18,200. When I marched from there I had to leave two regiments, taking about 16,800 men with me; and, deducting from them the sick, the rear and wagon guards, I could not have gone into action at Martinsburg with more than 15,000 men, or at any time after that with more than 13,000; and at the time Johnston marched from Winchester I could not have gone into action with 8,000 men.

On the 26th of June, anxious for the safety of Maryland and the frontiers of Pennsylvania, I had written to Major General McCall as follows:

“HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF PENNSYLVANIA,

“Hagerstown, June 26, 1861.

“MY DEAR GENERAL : If I can get permission to go over into Virginia I intend to cross the river and offer battle to the insurgents. As the regulars and Rhode Island regiment and the battery have been taken from me, I will require all the force now here, and must leave the Pennsylvania line unguarded. Please inform me how many men you could throw forward, and how soon.

“Very repectfully and truly yours.”

I will read Major General McCall’s reply:

“HARRISBURG, Sunday, June 30, 1861.

“MY DEAR GENERAL: On my return from Pittsburg, this morning, I find your note of the 26th instant, informing me of your purpose to cross the river and offer battle to the insurgents, and asking what force I can throw forward upon s the Pennsylvania line.

“In reply, I have to say that the only force (one regiment rifles, and one infantry, with a section of artillery) of my command as yet armed and equipped has been pushed forward to the support of Colonel Wallace at Cumberland, and for the protection of our border settlers in that direction; the other regiments are without clothing, arms, or equipments still, notwithstanding my efforts to fit them for the field. You will, therefore perceive how impossible it will be for me, although I much regret it, to comply with your request.

 “With great regard, very truly yours,

“GEORGE A. McCALL.”

It will be seen from the letter of General McCall that with all his efforts he had but two regiments fit for the field, and those two regiments, under Colonels Biddle and Simmons, were then beyond Bedford, “for the support of Colonel Wallace at Cumberland, and for the protection of our border settlers in that direction.” I was thus made responsible for our entire frontier from Cumberland to Edwards’s Ferry, while I had not cavalry or artillery enough to guard the fords between Hancock and Harper’s Ferry.

On the 28th of June I had used, in writing to General Scott, (App. No. 21,) the following emphatic, if not prophetic, language: ” I beg to remind the general-in-chief that the period of service of nearly all the troops here will expire within a month, and that if we do not meet the enemy with them we will be in no condition to do so for three months to come. The new regiments will not be fit for service before September, if then; meanwhile the whole frontier will be exposed.” Why did General Scott delay the; attack on Manassas until the 21st of July?

On the 29th of June the harness for Perkins’s battery arrived, and on the 30th orders were issued (App. No. 22) for a reconnoissance in force to be made early next morning.  The whole army, except camp guards, were to march with two days’ provisions, leaving tents and baggage, and to cross in two columns at Dam No. 4 and Williamsport, hoping thus to get the column crossing at Dam No. 4 in rear of the enemy encamped at Falling Waters, and to capture them; failing in that, to attack and defeat them. The troops were to commence crossing at midnight, but the ford was found impracticable, and after hours of labor and exposure to a severe rain the attempt was abandoned. The troops were then all concentrated at Williamsport, and on the next day, the 2d of July, crossed into Virginia and advanced in two columns. Just beyond Falling Waters the advance brigade of the enemy, 3,500 infantry, with artillery and a large cavalry force, all under General Jackson, were encountered, and after a sharp contest, principally with Colonel Abercrombie’s brigade, was forced back and driven before our troops for several miles, the relative loss of the enemy being very heavy.

On the 3d of July the army under my command entered and took possession of Martinsburg. There I was compelled to halt and send back for supplies, and to wait for Colonel Stone’s command, ordered on the 30th of June to join me—which he did do on the 8th of July—and for more means of transportation, without which it was impossible to advance, having wagons and teams for baggage only, and none for a supply train. The re-enforcements being without wagons only added to my difficulties.

In General McDowell’s report of the battle of Bull Run, he states that “the sending of re-enforcements to General Patterson, by drawing off the wagons, was a further and unavoidable delay.” There is no doubt that the gallant general believed that what he said was true. But it may be as well to inform the committee that the re-enforcements sent from Washington to me amounted to three regiments, under General Sanford; that they came without wagons, and that General Scott informed me I would have “to furnish transportation for them.” Not one wagon, horse, mule, or set of harness was sent from Washington to me. All the transportation I had was furnished under my own orders by the energetic efforts of my efficient deputy quartermaster general, Colonel Crosman.

On the 4th of July I informed the general-in-chief (App. No. 23) that I had halted to bring up supplies; that my transportation was entirely inadequate; that “the terms of the three months volunteers was about to expire, and that they would not, in any number, renew their service, though I thought the offer should be made” to them. I also informed the general-in-chief that General Johnston, with from 15,000 to 18,000 foot, 22 guns, and 650 artillery, were within seven miles of me, my own force consisting of 10,000 foot, 6 guns, and 650 cavalry, in a hostile country, a river in the rear, and not over two days’ supplies.

On the 5th, the general-in-chief informed me (App. No. 24) that he had ordered certain regiments to join me, adding “you will have to provide transportation for them.” These troops were greatly needed, but they increased the difficulty as regarded transportation, which, as the general-in- chief had been informed, was not over half sufficient for the troops then at Martinsburg. On the same day I informed General Scott that large re-enforcements had come in to General Johnston from Manassas, and being much inferior to the enemy in men and guns, I ordered Colonel Stone (App. No. 25) to join my column at the earliest moment.

On the 7th, General Scott informed me (App. No. 26) that he could “not yet say on what day he would attack the enemy in the direction of Manassas Junction; he hoped, however, to be ready before the end of the week.”

On the 8th of July Colonel Stone’s command arrived, and the following orders to advance were immediately issued. The object being to attack the enemy at Winchester:

“HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT of PENNSYLVANIA,

“Martinsburg, Fa., July 8,1861.

“General Order—Circular.]

“The troops will move to-morrow morning in the following order:

“The 1st (Thomas’s) brigade, with the Rhode Island battery temporarily attached thereto, will advance by the Winchester turnpike, accompanied by one squadron of cavalry.

“The 7th (Stone’s) brigade, with Perkins’s battery attached thereto, will take the main street of the town, by the court-house, and will continue on the road parallel and east of the Winchester turnpike. One company of cavalry will be attached to this command.

“The 1st (Cadwalader’s) division will follow the march of Thomas’s brigade; Doubleday’s battery will advance with this division; one regiment of which will be detailed for its guard, to accompany wherever it may be ordered.

“The 2d (Keim’s) division will pursue both routes, General Negley’s brigade following the march of Colonel Stone, and Colonel Abercrombie’s and Colonel Wynkoop’s that of General Cadwalader..

“The 28th and 19th New York regiments will be temporarily attached to General Keim’s division.

“General Keim will detail a strong rear guard of his division for the wagon train. The rear guard will march on the flanks and rear of the train, and will be re-enforced by a squadron of cavalry. General Keim will detail a competent field officer to command the rear guard.

“The wagons will advance in one train in the rear of the troops, and will be required to keep closed.

“The troops of the several divisions and brigades will keep closed.

“By order, &c.”

About midnight the order was countermanded, as some of the troops that had arrived under Colonel Stone that day were reported so weary and footsore as to be quite unable to endure the fatigue of a further march and be in a condition to fight.

On the next morning, the 9th of July, finding from conversation with some of my officers that the opposition to my plan of advancing upon Winchester, made known by the circular, appeared to be very strong and decided, I was induced, before renewing the order, to call a council of all the division and brigade commanders, the engineer officers, and chiefs of the departments of supply. I submitted to the council my instructions, orders, and the following statement:

“This force was collected originally to retake Harper’s Ferry. That evacuated, it was directed to remain as long as Johnston remained in force in this vicinity. Threatening, as he was, either to move to the aid of the force attacking Washington, or annoying the frontier of Maryland, this army was permitted to cross the Potomac and offer battle. If accepted, so soon as Johnston was defeated, to return and approach Washington.

“The enemy retires, for what? Is it weakness, or a trap? Can we continue to advance and pursue if he retires? If so, how far?  When shall we retire? Our volunteer force will soon dwindle before us, and we may be left without aid. If our men go home without a regular battle, a good field-fight, they will go home discontented, will not re-enlist, and will sour the minds of others. We have a long line to defend, liable at any moment to be cut off from our base and depot, and to a blow on our flank. Our forces must not be defeated, not checked in battle, or meet with reverses. It would be fatal to our cause.

“A force threatens Washington. If we abandon our present position Johnston will be available to aid. The command has been largely re-enforced to enable us to sustain our position, to clear the valley to Winchester, to defeat the enemy if he accepts battle, and to be in position to aid General McDowell, or to move upon Washington, Richmond or elsewhere, as the general-in-chief may direct. General Sanford, with two rifled guns and three regiments, will be up to-morrow. Our force will then be as large as it ever will be, under the prospect of losing a large portion of our force in a few days by expiration of service. What shall be done?”

The result of the deliberation is given in the following minutes, taken at the time by Major Craig Biddle, of the staff:

“Minutes of council of war, held July 9, 1861, at Martinsburg, Va.

“Colonel Crosman, quartermaster, thought 900 wagons would be sufficient to furnish subsistence, and to transport ammunition to our present force. The calculation for the original column was 700 wagons, of which 500 were on hand, and 200 expected. The great difficulty will be to obtain forage for the animals, the present consumption being twenty-six tons daily.

“Captain Beckwith, commissary. The question of subsistence is here a question of transportation. Thus far no reliance has been placed on the adjacent country. A day’s march ahead would compel a resort to it. As far as known those supplies would be quite inadequate.

”Captain Simpson, topographical engineers. The difficulty of our present position arises from the great facility the enemy has to concentrate troops at Winchester from Manassas Junction. By the railroad 12, 000 men could be sent there in a day, and again sent back to Manassas. Our forces should combine with the forces at Washington.

“Captain Newton, engineers. Our present position is a very exposed one. General Johnston can keep us where we are as long as he pleases, and at any time make a ‘demonstration on our rear. Our whole line is a false one. We have no business here, except for the purpose of making a demonstration. He threatens us now. We should be in a position to threaten him. We should go to Charlestown, Harper’s Ferry, Shepherdstown, and flank him.

“Colonel Stone. It is mainly a question for the staff. Our enemy has great facility of movement, and to extend our line would be accompanied with great danger. Johnston should be threatened from some other point. We might leave two regiments here, two guns at Shepherdstown, and proceed to Charlestown, and threaten from that point.

“General Negley, ditto to Captain Newton.

“Colonel Thomas approves of a flank movement to Charlestown.

“Colonel Abercrombie the same.

“General Keim the same.

“General Cadwalader opposed to a forward movement.”

On the day the council was held I wrote to the general-in-chief (App. No. 27) that I was deficient in supply trains; that my difficulties would increase as I advanced. This was the great want of my army; and on the 7th, 12th, 16th, and 21st of June, and the 4th and 5th of July, I had written to General Scott very fully on this subject. I refer to it here to show why I could not move when and where I wished. Colonel Crosman, the efficient quartermaster of my army, had done all that could be done, and more than 1 had supposed could be accomplished; but the troops sent from Washington and elsewhere, with the exception of the Rhode Island regiment, had brought no transportation with them. The enemy, though far superior in number of men and guns, had retired in succession from one position to another. I wrote that “his design evidently was to draw our force on as far as possible from the base, and then to cut our line or to attack with large re-enforcements from Manassas.” In view of all these difficulties, I presented to the general-in-chief a plan by which I “proposed to move my force to Charlestown, establish my depot at Harper’s Ferry, and connect with the Maryland shore by a bridge of boats,” which I had caused to be gathered in a safe place. I also desired to know when the general-in-chief “wished me to approach Winchester, and on what day the attack would be made on Manassas;” and I requested that the general-in-chief would indicate the day, by telegraph thus: “Let me hear from you on ——.”

On the 11th of July I received from the general-in-chief the following telegram:

“WAR DEPARTMENT,

“Washington, July 11, 1861.

“Major General PATTERSON,

“Martinsburg, Virginia.

“The author of the following ia known, and he believes it authentic :

“WASHINGTON, July 9, 1861.

“The plan of operations of the secession army in Virginia contemplate the reverse of the proceedings and movements announced in the express of yesterday and Saturday. A schedule that has come to light meditates a stand and an engagement by Johnston, when he shall have drawn Patterson sufficiently far back from the river to render impossible his retreat across it on being vanquished, and an advance then by Johnston and Wise conjointly upon McClellan, and after the conquest of him, a march in this direction to unite, in one attack upon the federal forces across the Potomac, with the army under Beauregard at Manassas Junction, and the wing of that army, the South Carolina regiments chiefly, now nine (9) miles from Alexandria. Success in each of these three several movements is anticipated, and thereby not only the possession of the capital is thought to be assured, but an advance of the federal troops upon Richmond prevented.

The plan supposes that this success will give the confederate cause such prestige, and inspire in it such faith, as will insure the recognition of its government abroad, and at the same time so impair confidence in the federal government as to render it impossible for it to procure loans abroad, and very difficult for it to raise means at home. Real retreats, which have been anticipated, it will be seen, are by this plan altogether ignored. According to it, fighting and conquest are the orders”

This paper speaks for itself—comment is needless. Yet one cannot avoid raising the question, how the general-in-chief could ask or expect me to attack General Johnston’s large force of men and guns in their intrenched camp at Winchester in less than a week after he had officially informed me that “a schedule that had come to light meditates a stand and an engagement by Johnston, when he shall have drawn Patterson sufficiently far back from the river to render impossible his retreat across it, after being vanquished.” That this was the plan agreed upon by the confederate generals there is no doubt; and it was a judicious one. Information of a similar kind had come in from various quarters. My most experienced officers of the regular service, with whom I fully and freely consulted—Colonels George H. Thomas, Abercrombie, and Crosman, Major Fitz-John Porter, Captains Newton, Beckwith, and many others, men of long service, merit, and great experience—all concurred in the opinion that I was too far advanced at Martinsburg; that Johnston had fallen back for no other purpose than to lure me on; that Johnston had a trap set somewhere, and that, if not very cautious, I would fall into it. Each of the above-named distinguished officers not only approved warmly of the management of my command, but opposed, both in and out of council, a further advance from Martinsburg. With their opposition to an advance well known, five of the number have since been made brigadier generals.

On the 12th of July, not hearing from the general-in-chief, the substance of my letter of the 9th was repeated by telegraph. The general-in-chief was also informed that I considered “a regiment of regulars, and more if possible, essential to give steadiness to my column, and to carry on active operations against a determined opposition.” The necessity of this will be manifest when it is known that nearly all of Johnston’s army were confederate troops, well disciplined and well commanded. I also stated that “many of my men were barefooted, and could not be employed on active service.” Colonel Menier had reported the 3d Pennsylvania as unable to march for want of shoes.

On the same day, the 12th of July, General Scott telegraphed me, (App. No. 28 :) “Go where you propose in your letter of the 9th instant. Let me hear from you on Tuesday.” That is, “go to Charlestown ; we shall attack Manassas on Tuesday ; I wish you to approach Winchester on that day.” That was our translation of the whole matter.

On Saturday, the 13th of July, General Scott telegraphed me, (App. No. 29 :) “I telegraphed you on yesterday. If not strong enough to beat the enemy early next week, make demonstrations to detain him in the valley of Winchester ; but if he retreats in force towards Manassas, and it would be hazardous to follow him, then consider the route via Keyes’s Ferry, Hillsboro’, and Leesburg.” On the same day I informed General Scott that “Johnston is in position beyond Winchester to be re-enforced, and his strength doubled just as I could reach him ;” and that I “would rather lose the chance of accomplishing something brilliant than by hazarding my column to destroy the fruits of the whole campaign to the country by defeat. If wrong, let me be instructed.”— (App. No. 30.)

This correspondence is very plain. It can hardly be misunderstood by the most obtuse intellect. Any one who can read plain English can comprehend it.  I proposed to my superior to go to Charlestown. I am ordered to do so. In my letter of instructions I am told “there must be no reverse, no check, no drawn battle.” I am told “take your measures circumspectly, and attempt nothing without a clear prospect of success.” These instructions had not been rescinded or modified, and I was bound to obey them. Had I disobeyed and been defeated, as I most certainly would have been— and in this opinion I am sustained by every officer of the regular army serving with me, and, so far as I am informed, by all or nearly all the officers of volunteers—I would have deserved the severe censure which has so unjustly been cast upon me. I preferred the performance of my plain duty to a distinction which could have been gained only by the sacrifice of my men, and with great detriment to the cause in which I was engaged. I informed my commander of the difficulties and dangers of my position, the strength and great advantages of my antagonist, and that I would not, on my own responsibility, hazard my column and the interests of the country by a defeat—asking “if wrong, let me be instructed.” If my superior thought differently, and that an attack should be made, why did he not assume the responsibility of his station and give the order? There was not one person in that column, from myself down to the youngest drum-boy, who would not most cheerfully have gone into battle, knowing that every individual would be killed, if they believed the interest and honor of the country required the sacrifice, or if General Scott had ordered it. Although I asked to be instructed, no instructions were given. I therefore inferred, as my opinions were not overruled, that I was right, especially as I was actually ordered to go to Charlestown.

On the 14th I informed General Scott (App. No. 31) that on the morrow I would advance to Bunker Hill preparatory to the other movement—that is, preparatory to going to Charlestown. “If an opportunity offers, I will attack, but unless I can rout I will be careful.” General Scott was therefore thoroughly informed of what I was doing and intended to do one week before the battle of Manassas.

On Monday, the 15th, leaving two regiments—one being unable to march for want of shoes—to guard Martinsburg, I marched with the remainder of my army to Bunker Hill, forcing the enemy’s cavalry before me, killing one and taking some prisoners.

On Tuesday, the 16th, the day General Scott said he was going to attack Manassas, and desired a demonstration, a reconnoissance in force was made, driving the enemy’s pickets into Winchester. This, with a loss on the part of the enemy of several killed and wounded, was reported the same day to the general-in-chief, who was informed (App. No. 32) that the reconnoissance found the road from Bunker Hill to Winchester  “blocked by fallen trees and fences placed across it.” And “a sketch of the works of defence, prepared by Captain Simpson,”a very reliable officer, was sent him. This sketch showed that the works erected and the guns mounted were of the most formidable character. The general-in-chief was also informed on the same day that on “to-morrow we would move to Charlestown;” that preparations had already “been commenced to occupy and hold Harper’s Ferry; that the time of a large number of the men would expire s that week, and they would not remain;” and “that after securing Harper’s Ferry I would, if the general-in-chief desired, advance with the remainder of my troops via Leesburg, and desired to be informed if this proposition met with the approval of the general-in-chief.” From this it will be seen that I did all that I was ordered to do, and at least as much, if not a great deal more, than any one had a right to expect.

On Tuesday, the 16th, according to General Scott’s promise, Manassas was to be attacked. I expected, and had a right to expect, that as I had performed my part in delaying Johnston in Winchester, General Scott would have performed his, and assail Manassas. If anything had occurred to render the attack on Manassas inexpedient on that day, then General Scott should have informed me and directed me to continue my demonstrations, which could have been done just as easily from Charlestown as from Martinsburg; or he should have given me the order to march at once with all my force to Leesburg, as suggested by me, and delayed the attack on Manassas until I had arrived and been joined in the battle. The neglect or omission to do either is inexplicable. I kept General Scott well informed of all my movements. It was due to me, and necessary for the success of our armies, that I should have been equally well informed of the movements of corps with which it was expected I should co-operate.

On the 17th of July I again informed General Scott (App. No. 33) that the “term of 18 of my 26 regiments would expire within seven days, commencing to-morrow;” that “I could rely on none of them renewing their service;” and “that I must be at once provided with efficient three years men, or withdraw entirely to Harper’s Ferry.” Here was direct information that I could not hold Johnston, and that unless troops were sent me to take the place of those whose time was up, I could not even remain at Charlestown, but would have to fall back to Harper’s Ferry. If troops could not be spared to re-enforce me, why was I not then ordered with my entire command to march to Leesburg and unite with McDowell in the assault on Manassas?

[At the request of the witness, the further examination was postponed until to-morrow.]





Manassas National Battlefield Park Photos May 2009

19 06 2009

These images were recorded on May 29-30, 2009; for the most part in the company of fellow blogger Craig Swain.  Click on the thumbs for larger images.

 01---Brownell01a---Ricketts

Visitor’s Center (VC) displays of Francis Brownell’s musket and 11th NY uniform worn at the occupation of Alexandria; Capt. James B. Ricketts’s sword and sash worn at First Bull Run.

 03---Bartow02---Bartow04---Bartow05-Bartow

Francis Bartow monument on the Henry Hill Trail; trees marking the site of the base to an earlier monument to Bartow erected in September 1861; two images of the base.

07---Henry-House06---Henry-Grave08---Matthews-Hill-From-Hen

The Henry House; Judith Henry grave; view north to Matthews Hill from the Henry House.

10---Ricketts11---Ramsey-Marker12---7th-GA13---7th-GA14---Ricketts

View south along Ricketts’ line toward VC; site of death of Lt. Ramsey of Ricketts’ Battery; two images of 7th GA marker near Ricketts’ guns; view north along Ricketts’ line toward Matthews Hill.

15---Signal-Hill16---Signal-Hill

Two views of the monument at Signal Hill in Manassas, marking the position of E. P. Alexander’s signal station.  The earthworks to the rear of the monument are off limits.

19---Path-to-Mayfield-Fort20---Mayfield-Fort

Entry to the path leading to Mayfield Fort in Manassas, part of Beauregard’s system of defensive earthworks; Mayfield Fort.

21---Blackburn's-Ford22---Blackburn's-Ford23---Blackburn's-Ford24---Blackburn's-Ford

Parking lot on north side of Blackburn’s Ford; three views from north to south side of ford, panning to west.

25---Cub-Run26---Cub-Run28---Cub-Run27---Cub-Run

View west along Warrenton Pike (Lee Highway) toward Cub Run (new bridge is lighter pavement); view west to run; view east to run; view of run from the west.

29---Reynolds30---Reynolds

View south from Reynolds’ RI Battery on Mattews Hill south to Henry Hill; view east along Reynolds’ line.

31--Stovall32---Stovall33---Stovall

View east along Stone Bridge Trail toward the monument Private George T. Stovall of the 8th GA; two views of the marker.

34---Carter-Cemetery35---Carter-Cemetery

Two views of the Carter Family Cemetery on the Stone Bridge Trail, both looking south.

36---Farm-Ford

Area marked as Farm Ford on Bull Run, where the brigades fo Sherman and Keyes crossed.  NPS Ranger Jim Burgess believes the actual ford lies about 200 yards upstream from here.

37---Imboden38---Imboden-to-Dogan

View north to Matthews Hill from Imboden’s position on Henry Hill, Reynolds’ guns in the distance; view northwest to Dogan’s Ridge from Imboden’s position, Dogan House in the distance.

40---Entry-to-Sudley-Rd-Tra39---Sudley-Rd-Trace41---Sudley-Rd-Trace

Entrance to original Sudley Road trace near the VC, looking south with Sudley Rd to the right; the trace looking north to the VC; the trace looking south.

42---Stone-House46---Stone-House44---Stone-House45---Stone-House

The Stone House at the intersection of the Sudley-Manassas Rd and the Warrenton Pike – view north from the Pike; view southwest from the rear of the house; two interior images.

47---Buck-Hill48---Buck-Hill49---Buck-Hill

Buck Hill to the north of the Stone House – view south to Henry Hill; view north to Matthews Hill; view east toward the Stone Bridge.

52---Chinn-Ridge

Chinn Ridge looking north – the area of the repulse of Col. O. O. Howard’s brigade.

50---Thornberry51---Thornberry

The Thornberry House near Sudley Springs – Union soldiers took shelter in this house (much changed from the original) after the battle.





Time Line

30 05 2009

CHRONOLOGY*

(All times are approximate and are based on those given in the after action reports by unit commanders, in testimony before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, or in postwar reminiscences.)

*From Ballard, T. First Bull Run Staff Ride Guide

27 May 1861

  • Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell is assigned command of the Department of Northeastern Virginia and the military forces camped in and around Washington.

9 July 1861

  • McDowell’s military force, called the Army of Northeastern Virginia, is scheduled to march to Manassas Junction on this day, but a lack of sufficient supplies delays the movement.

16 July 1861

  • McDowell’s army begins its march toward Manassas Junction. By evening Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler’s division has reached Vienna, Col. David Hunter’s and Col. Dixon S. Miles’ divisions have arrived at Annandale, and Col. Samuel P. Heintzelman’s division is at Pohick Creek.

17 July 1861

  • Commanding the Confederate Army of the Potomac at Manassas Junction, Brig. Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard informs the Confederate War Department of McDowell’s advance and asks for reinforcements.
  • Confederate authorities order the independent brigade of Brig. Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes at Fredericksburg to reinforce Beauregard.
  • In Richmond Col. Wade Hampton’s independent Hampton Legion is also ordered to Manassas Junction.
  • At Leesburg the 8th Virginia Infantry of Col. Philip St. George Cocke’s brigade is ordered to Manassas Junction.

1130:

  • The head of McDowell’s army, Tyler’s division, reaches Fairfax Courthouse.

18 July 1861

0100:

  • At Winchester General Joseph E. Johnston receives a telegram from the Confederate War Department informing him of McDowell’s advance and directing him to go to Beauregard’s assistance “if practicable.”

1100:

  • Tyler’s division arrives at Centreville. Tyler moves a portion of Col. Israel B. Richardson’s brigade south of Centreville and instigates a lively skirmish in what becomes known as the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford.

1200:

  • Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah departs Winchester for Manassas Junction.
  • Hunter’s and Miles’ divisions arrive near Fairfax Courthouse, and Heintzelman’s division near Sangster’s Station (near what is now Clifton).
  • Unaware of Tyler’s skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford, McDowell personally reconnoiters the area around Sangster’s Station, searching for a location to turn the Confederate right flank.
  • In the evening Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson’s brigade, leading Johnston’s army, camps near Paris, Virginia, seventeen miles from Winchester, while the remainder of the army halts along the Shenandoah River.
  • Although the skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford provided McDowell with intelligence about Confederate positions and strength, he fears the skirmish has caused the Confederates to reinforce their right flank. McDowell orders his engineers to reconnoiter north of the Stone Bridge, on the Confederate left.

19 July 1861

0900:

  • After arriving at Piedmont Station, Jackson’s brigade departs for Manassas Junction.

1500:

  • Col. Francis S. Bartow’s brigade departs Piedmont Station for Manassas Junction.
  • Johnston directs his cavalry and artillery to continue to Manassas Junction by road.

20 July 1861

0700:

  • Johnston boards a train for Manassas Junction, along with Brig. Gen. Barnard E. Bee and portions of Bee’s brigade.
  • Brig. Gen. E. Kirby Smith remains at Piedmont Station to expedite the transportation of the remainder of Johnston’s army.

1200:

  • Johnston and Bee arrive at Manassas Junction. After Johnston suggests an attack against McDowell’s army, Beauregard proposes to attack the Union left flank at Centreville. Johnston requests that Beauregard put the plan in writing.
  • Hunter’s, Heintzelman’s, and Miles’ divisions arrive at Centreville. Brig. Gen. Theodore Runyon’s division guards the railroad from Alexandria.
  • McDowell’s engineers discover the undefended Sudley Ford and Poplar Ford, north of the Stone Bridge. McDowell plans an attack for the following day. Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions will march around the Confederate left, crossing at Sudley and Poplar fords, while other troops create diversions at the Stone Bridge and Blackburn’s Ford.

21 July 1861

0230:

  • McDowell’s army begins its march against Beauregard. Tyler’s division (with the exception of Richardson’s brigade), followed by Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, march west on the Warrenton Turnpike. Richardson’s brigade, along with Col. Thomas A. Davies’ brigade of Miles’ division, moves toward Blackburn’s Ford. Col. Louis Blenker’s brigade of Miles’ division remains at Centreville in reserve.
  • Beauregard submits his plan to attack the Union left flank at Centreville to Johnston, who approves it.

0530:

  • Tyler’s division clears the Cub Run Bridge and Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions follow. After crossing Cub Run, Hunter and Heintzelman turn north from the turnpike toward Sudley and Poplar fords.

0600:

  • Tyler arrives in front of Stone Bridge and opens fire with his 30- pounder rifle on Col. Nathan G. Evans’ brigade.

0700:

  • Concerned about the artillery fire near the Stone Bridge, Johnston orders Bee, Bartow, and Jackson to move closer to the Confederate left to be able to provide support if needed. Beauregard also sends the newly arrived Hampton Legion to the left.

0800:

  • Johnston and Beauregard place themselves on a hill to the rear of Brig. Gen. Milledge L. Bonham’s brigade in anticipation of Beauregard’s flank attack.

0830:

  • Signal officer Capt. E. Porter Alexander discovers the Union column marching toward Sudley Ford to outflank the Confederate left and reports the movement to Evans and Johnston.
  • Evans moves the bulk of his command from the Stone Bridge to Matthews’ Hill to block the Union flank march.
    Although Johnston is apprehensive that the Union troops reported north of the Stone Bridge may be those of Patterson’s army arriving from the Shenandoah Valley, he continues with the plan to attack Centreville.

0930:

  • Hunter’s division arrives at Sudley Ford. After a short delay the column crosses Bull Run and continues south. Instead of crossing at Poplar Ford, Heintzelman’s division follows Hunter’s division.

1030:

  • The head of Hunter’s column, Col. Ambrose E. Burnside’s brigade, engages Evans’ command on Matthews’ Hill.

1100:

  • As the firing increases on the Confederate left, Johnston and Beauregard ride toward Henry Hill.
  • Col. Andrew Porter’s brigade of Hunter’s division arrives on Matthews’ Hill, moving onto nearby Dogan Ridge.
  • Capt. Charles Griffin’s and Capt. James D. Ricketts’ batteries arrive on Dogan Ridge.
  • The brigades of Bee and Bartow (with Bee in command of both units) arrive on Henry Hill and shortly thereafter both brigades move to Matthews’ Hill to support Evans.

1130:

  • Col. William T. Sherman’s and Col. Erasmus Keyes’ brigades of Tyler’s division cross Bull Run, just north of the Stone Bridge. Sherman continues toward Matthews’ Hill, Keyes, accompanied by Tyler, moves to Young’s Branch, east of the Stone house.
  • Col. William B. Franklin’s and Col. Orlando B. Willcox’s brigades of Heintzelman’s division arrive on Matthews’ Hill. Col. Oliver O. Howard’s brigade is close behind.
  • Outflanked, Evans, Bee, and Bartow are forced to withdraw from Matthews’ Hill and fall back to Henry Hill.
  • The Hampton Legion arrives near the Robinson house on Henry Hill.
  • Hearing the increased firing coming from the left flank, Johnston scraps Beauregard’s attack plan and rides toward Henry Hill. Beauregard follows.

1200:

  • Jackson’s brigade arrives on Henry Hill.
  • Johnston and Beauregard arrive on Henry Hill.
  • Jackson is slightly wounded.

1300:

  • Keyes is ordered to attack Henry Hill near the Robinson house. He sends two of his four regiments forward, but they are driven back. Keyes’ entire brigade withdraws to the vicinity of the Stone Bridge.

1400:

  • Griffin’s and Ricketts’ batteries move from Dogan Ridge to Henry Hill. Griffin unlimbers north of the Henry house and Ricketts south of the house.

1430:

  • Griffin moves two guns of his battery to the right of Ricketts, where the 33d Virginia Infantry captures the guns. The remainder of Griffin’s battery withdraws from Henry Hill.
  • The 14th Brooklyn recaptures Griffin’s two guns.
  • The 4th and 27th Virginia Infantries, with assistance from the 49th Virginia Infantry, 6th North Carolina Infantry, and two companies of the 2d Mississippi Infantry, capture Ricketts’ battery and Griffin’s two guns.
  • The 1st Michigan Infantry attempts and fails to recapture Ricketts’ guns.
  • The 11th Massachusetts Infantry recaptures Ricketts’ battery, and the 4th and 27th Virginia Infantries fall back to their former positions.
  • The 5th Virginia Infantry, Hampton Legion, 4th Alabama Infantry, and 7th Georgia Infantry recapture Ricketts’ guns.
  • Bee is mortally wounded and Bartow is killed. Ricketts is wounded and captured. The 11th Massachusetts Infantry falls back to the Manassas-Sudley Road.

1500:

  • Sherman’s brigade begins an attack against Henry Hill, and Howard’s brigade moves to Chinn Ridge.
  • The 13th New York Infantry skirmishes with the Hampton Legion around the Henry house.
  • The 2d Wisconsin Infantry unsuccessfully assaults Henry Hill.
  • The 79th New York Infantry unsuccessfully assaults Henry Hill. The regiment commander, Col. James Cameron, brother of the Secretary of War, is killed.
  • Sherman’s last regiment, the 69th New York Infantry, along with the 38th New York Infantry of Willcox’s brigade, assault Henry Hill and recapture Ricketts’ and Griffin’s guns. Col. Wade Hampton is severely wounded.
  • The 18th Virginia Infantry of Cocke’s brigade, along with remnants of several other Confederate units on Henry Hill, recaptures the Union guns. Sherman’s and other Union units near Henry Hill withdraw to the Warrenton Turnpike.

1530:

  • Two regiments of Howard’s brigade arrive on Chinn Ridge. Two other regiments remain in reserve near the Warrenton Turnpike.

1600:

  • Col. Arnold Elzey’s and Col. Jubal A. Early’s brigades arrive on Chinn Ridge. General Smith briefly takes command of Elzey’s brigade but is wounded and Elzey resumes command.
  • Howard brings forward his other two regiments to Chinn Ridge.
  • With the assistance of 150 troopers of Col. J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry, the brigades of Elzey and Early outflank Howard’s brigade and drive it back to the Warrenton Turnpike.

1700:

  • Retreat of the Union Army begins.




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.





JCCW – Report of the Committee

9 05 2009

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 2, pp. 3-8

BULL RUN

The joint committee on the conduct of the war submit the following report, with accompanying testimony, in relation to the battle of Bull Run, in July, 1861:

So long a time has elapsed, and so many important events have occurred in the progress of the war, since the campaign which ended with the battle of Bull Run, in July, 1861, that your committee do not deem it necessary to go very much into detail in their report. The testimony they submit herewith is very voluminous, and fully covers all the points of interest connected with that campaign. They therefore submit a brief report, confining their attention principally to the causes which led to the defeat of our army in that battle.

That which now appears to have been the great error of that campaign was the failure to occupy Centreville and Manassas at the time Alexandria was occupied, in May. The position at Manassas controlled the railroad communication in all that section of country. The forces which were opposed to us at the battle of Bull Run were mostly collected and brought to Manassas during the months of June and July. The three months’ men could have made the place easily defensible against any force the enemy could have brought against it; and it is not at all probable that the rebel- forces would have advanced beyond the line of the Rappahannock had Manassas been occupied by our troops.

The next cause of disaster was the delay in proceeding against the enemy until the time of the three months’ men was so nearly expired. In that respect the movement was made too late rather than too soon, and the enemy were allowed time to collect their forces at Manassas and to strengthen the position by defensive works. The reason why the movement was so long delayed is shown, to some extent, by the testimony, to which your committee would direct the attention of those who desire to examine that point.

And when the movement was finally determined upon, much was needed to render the troops efficient. There had been but little time devoted to disciplining the troops and instructing them, even as regiments; hardly any instruction had been given them in reference to brigade movements, and none at all as divisions. When General McDowell reviewed eight regiments together—the only instance previous to the battle, so far as the evidence shows, that even that number of troops were manoeuvred in one body—he was charged with desiring to make a show.

General McDowell was instructed, verbally, by General Scott, to prepare and submit a plan of operations against the enemy at Manassas. This plan was considered in cabinet meeting, and agreed to; and the 9th of July was fixed upon by General Scott as the day when the army should move.

The plan of General McDowell was to move out in the direction of Centreville, and endeavor to turn the enemy’s right with a portion of his force, and destroy his communication by railroad with Richmond. He asked that a certain number of troops be given him to operate against the force which it was estimated that Beauregard had under his command. He was assured that the enemy below should be kept occupied by General Butler, who was in command at Fortress Monroe; and that the enemy under Johnston, in the Winchester valley, should be held there by General Patterson. Some days before the battle, upon expressing some fears in regard to the force under Johnston being detained by Patterson, he was assured by General Scott that “if Johnston joined Beauregard, he should have Patterson on his heels.”

The movement did not commence until the 16th of July, a week later than the time first decided upon. The transportation was deficient, and General McDowell had to depend upon others to see that supplies were forwarded to him in time. The march was slow, one reason being that, since the affair at Vienna, near Alexandria, and at Big Bethel, near Fortress Monroe, a fear of “masked batteries” caused hesitation in regard to advancing upon points concerning which there was a want of information. There was some delay, on the march, in consequence of the want of complete discipline among some of the troops. They were not sufficiently under control of officers to be prevented from leaving the ranks and straggling.

The affair at Blackburn’s Ford, on Thursday, the 18th, being more extensive than General McDowell had ordered, drew the attention of the enemy to that point; and, in consequence of the preparations they made there to meet any attempt of General McDowell to turn their position in that direction, it became necessary to adopt another line of operations. General McDowell determined to make the attempt to turn their right, and steps were taken to secure the necessary information. It was not until Saturday that the information which General McDowell desired was obtained.

He then issued orders for the troops to move the next morning, the 21st, some at two o’clock and some at half-past two. The division of General Tyler was in the advance, and was ordered to proceed directly out to Stone Bridge, and take up position there. General Hunter’s and General Heintzelman’s divisions were to follow, and when they reached a road leading to the right, about a mile in advance of General Tyler’s camp, they were to turn off and proceed in the direction of Sudley’s Church, and endeavor to turn the enemy’s left. The movement to the right was intended to be made under cover of General Tyler’s force at Stone Bridge.

But there was much delay in the movements of the troops that morning. Tyler’s division did not pass the point, where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions were to turn off, until after the time designated. Some of the troops were delayed for three hours, affording time to the enemy to discover the movement and make preparations to meet it.

Notwithstanding these disadvantages, our forces were successful during the fore part of the day, although Beauregard had been re-enforced by some of Johnston’s forces from Winchester. Our troops were very much fatigued. The day was exceedingly warm; the roads were dusty; and they had been some hours longer on the march than had been anticipated. In the afternoon additional re- enforcements arrived from Johnston’s army, and suddenly attacked our right and threw it into disorder.

About the same time two of our batteries (Ricketts’s and Griffin’s) were captured by the enemy, and our entire force began to fall back in great confusion. In regard to the capture of the batteries, it appears by the testimony that they were ordered to take an advanced and exposed position, and were not sufficiently supported. Not long after they were placed in position, a rebel regiment appeared in their immediate vicinity. Captain Griffin states that he took them to be rebels from the first, and directed one of his lieutenants to open upon them with canister. But Major Barry, chief of artillery, coming up at the time, told him that they were some of our own troops coming to the support of the batteries, and directed him not to fire upon them. The battery was accordingly turned in another direction, and, almost immediately after, this regiment of the enemy opened fire upon it, disabling the horses, and killing and wounding most of the men at the guns. That completed the discomfiture of our troops, and the day which had opened upon our success, closed upon a defeated and retreating army.

A division, under Colonel Miles, had been stationed at Centreville, partly for the purpose of a reserve, and partly to guard against any flank attack. The enemy did attempt a movement upon our left, but were promptly met and checked by our forces there.

The principal cause of the defeat on that day was the failure of General Patterson to hold the forces of Johnston in the valley of the Shenandoah. He had a force of about 23,000 men; while the force of the enemy opposed to him, according to the best evidence your committee could obtain, did not exceed from 12,000 to 15,000 men. General Patterson testifies that he was satisfied that Johnston had from 35,000 to 40,000 men, and over 60 guns. He also states that a large number of his troops were anxious to return home; that their time had about expired, and he could not persuade them to remain. There is considerable testimony to show that the troops became dissatisfied, and refused to remain, only when they learned that their movement from Bunker Hill on the 17th of July was a retreat, and not an advance upon the enemy; that while they supposed they were being led to the attack, little, if any, complaint was made, and they were in excellent spirits.

In reference to the orders given to General Patterson, and the object to be accomplished by his operations, there seems to be no question. That object was to prevent Johnston from joining Beauregard before General McDowell could have an opportunity to attack the forces under the latter. The character of the orders is indicated by the following telegram of the 13th of July (Saturday) from General Scott to General Patterson:

“I telegraphed you yesterday, if not strong enough to beat the enemy early next week, make demonstrations so as to detain him in the valley of Winchester. But if he retreats in force towards Manassas, and it be hazardous to follow him, then consider the route via Keyes’s Ferry, Leesburg, &c.”

General Scott had, the day before, conveyed to General Patterson the intimation that General McDowell would commence his movement on the 16th or July, and on the 15th General Patterson advanced from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill, remaining there the 16th.

On the 17th General Scott telegraphs to General Patterson:

“I have nothing official from you since Sunday, but am glad to learn through Philadelphia papers that you have advanced. Do not let the enemy amuse and delay you with a small force in front, whilst he re-enforces the Junction with his main body. McDowell’s first day’s work has driven the enemy beyond Fairfax Court-House. The Junction will probably be carried to-morrow.”

There is no evidence at what time that despatch was received. But it could not have been received before the movement from Bunker Hill to Charlestown was made by General Patterson, for that movement commenced very early in the-morning of the 17th, the date of the despatch.

On the 18th General Scott telegraphs :

“I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy. If not, that you had felt him strongly, or at least had occupied him by threats and demonstrations. You have been at least his equal, and, I suppose, superior in number. Has he not stolen a march, and sent re-enforcements towards Manassas Junction? A week is enough to win a victory.”

To this General Patterson replies on the same day:

“The enemy has stolen no march upon me. I have kept him actively ‘ employed, and, by threats and reconnoissances in force, caused him to be re- enforced.”

General Patterson testifies as follows :

“Question. During all this time you knew that General Scott expected of you that you should either engage and beat Johnston, or detain him in the valley of Winchester; or, in the event that he should come down by a route where you could not follow him, that you should follow him via Keyes’s Ferry and Leesburg ?

“Answer. Yes, sir.

“Question. And yet, when you were at Charlestown, you found yourself not in a condition to do either. Now, my question is : Why did you not communicate that fact to General Scott ?

” Answer. There was no occasion for it, in my judgment. He knew my condition, and to have added to the information he already had would have been a waste of time and paper. I had informed him of my condition, and it was his business to order me what to do. I had asked him : ‘ Shall I attack ?’ It was not my business to say anything beyond that.”

When asked if the telegram of the 18th, from General Scott, did not show that he still deemed it was of the first importance that he (Patterson) should detain Johnston there, General Patterson replies:

“I looked upon that telegraph, and so did every gentleman upon my staff, as nothing more nor less than an exhibition of bad temper.”

General Patterson also testifies:

“Question. You say you could have attacked on the 18th if ordered to do so. You knew the necessity of detaining Johnston, and you must have inferred from the telegraph of General Scott that he expected or required of you that you should do something in that direction. Why did you not do all that yon could to detain him without an order?

” Answer. Because I could not go up there without fighting, as I could not fall back again. I had no reason to believe that that telegram was not written in the morning in reply to mine of that morning, [1.30 a. m., asking ' Shall I attack?'] General Scott did not fight that day, and there was no more occasion for my going up and perilling my men without an order, than of doing anything entirely uncalled for—not the slightest occasion for it. ******* If General Scott did not fight, and saw the necessity for my acting, I repeat it was his business to give the order.”

In another place he testifies:

“Question. When you found you were in no condition to detain Johnston, was it not all important that that fact should have been communicated to General Scott; not the fact that you could not fight Johnston, but that you could not detain him, that your strength was insufficient for that, and that he could not rely upon his being kept back?

“Answer. I never supposed, for a moment, that General Scott believed for the fifty-fifth part of a second that I could hold him.”

General Patterson further testifies :

“Question. You were not threatening Johnston at Charlestown so as to prevent his joining Beauregard at Manassas?”

“Answer. No, sir. I remained there because I was ordered to remain in front of him until he left.

” Question. You knew at that time that you were not offering any obstacle to his going down to Manassas ?

“Answer. Perfectly: I knew I had not the means to do it.

“Question. Why did you not communicate that fact to General Scott immediately ?

” Answer. I did communicate my condition, and where I was.

“Question. When?

“Answer. On the 16th I wrote him in detail from Bunker Hill. On the 17th I wrote again. And on the 18th I gave him all the information necessary. And it was his business to order me, not my business to make any further suggestions to him.

“Question. Did you communicate to him by telegraph?

“Answer. Certainly. I sent three telegrams to him on the same day.

“Question. On what day ?

“Answer. On the 18th, at half-past one in the morning, I telegraphed him my condition, and asked him if I should attack. To have sent further information to him would have been rather impertinent, and he would have so considered it.

*********

“Question. Why did you not inform him that you were not then in a condition to offer any obstacle to Johnston’s joining Beauregard ?

“Answer. I would have considered it rather a reflection on him to have told him so. He knew my condition.”

General Scott testifies:

“But, although General Patterson was never specifically ordered to attack the enemy, he was certainly told and expected, even if with inferior numbers, to hold the rebel army in his front on the alert, and to prevent it from re-enforcing Manassas Junction, by means of threatening manoeuvres and demonstrations— results often obtained in war with half numbers.”

Instead of doing that, however, General Patterson came down to Bunker Hill, remained there over the day when he had been given to understand the advance would be commenced by General McDowell; and early the next morning, without waiting to hear how far General McDowell had advanced, or whether he had advanced at all, left the neighborhood of Winchester, where the enemy was, and turned off to Charlestown, where, as he himself says, he had no means to offer any obstacle to Johnston’s joining Beauregard whenever he chose. Johnston at once took advantage of the opportunity thus afforded him, and re-enforced Beauregard in season to inflict a defeat upon our forces at Bull Run.

Johnston started the greater portion of his forces from Winchester on the 18th; some of the testimony shows that a portion started on the afternoon of the 17th. General Patterson, though only some twenty miles distant from Winchester, and under orders to prevent the enemy from re-enforcing Beauregard, did not discover that Johnston had left Winchester until two days afterwards, when he telegraphed, on the 20th, to General Scott that re-enforcements had left there.

In reference to deferring the attack upon Beauregard, when the arrival of Johnston’s forces had become known, General McDowell says that the information that he received was too indefinite, mere rumor, and he could not tell how much credit to give to it. The arrival of the cars during the night preceding the battle was not certain evidence of the arrival of Johnston’s forces; for it was expected that re-enforcements would be hurried up to the enemy from every direction possible. And he had been assured that “if Johnston joined Beauregard, Patterson should be on his heels.”

General Scott testifies on that point:

“As connected with this subject, I hope I may be permitted to notice the charge made against me on the floors of Congress, that I did not stop Brigadier General McDowell’s movement upon Manassas Junction after I had been informed of the re-enforcement sent thither from Winchester, though urged to do so by one or more members of the cabinet. Now, it was, at the reception of that news, too late to call off the troops from the attack. And, besides, though opposed to the movement at first, we had all become animated and sanguine of success. And it is not true that I was urged by anybody in authority to stop the attack which was commenced as early, I think, as the 18th of July.”

B. F. WADE, Chairman





LINKS

12 03 2009

CIVIL WAR BLOGROLL





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]





Old Bull Run Report of Fourteenth Found

15 11 2008

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 17, 1901, Page 6 (see here)

Old Bull Run Report of Fourteenth Found.

———————

Turned Over to War Veterans’ Association After Nearly Forty Years.

———————

Written By Colonel Fowler

Describes Part the Regiment Took in the First Great Battle of the Civil War.

———————

Colonel Fowler’s report to Colonel Porter of the part taken by the Fourteenth Regiment in the first battle of Bull Run, which has been lost for nearly forty years, has been found and turned over to the Wasr Veterans’ Association.  Several weeks ago it was learned that this report and a number of other papers were in a packet which had been picked up near Arlington, Va., in 1861, and could be had for the asking.  The finder, it was said, had put them away with other souvenirs of the war and only lately had learned that the survivors of the Red Legged Devils would like to have them.

The writing is as clear and distinct as though done yesterday.  Colonel Wood was wounded and captured in the battle and Lieutenant Colonel Fowler took command.  Colonel Porter was the regular Army officer in command of the brigade to which the Fourteenth was assigned.  The report reads as follows:

Report Text

The other papers were a consolidated report of the morning of July 19, ahile the regiment was on its way to the battlefield, and showing that its strength was 843 officers and men; an order from General McClellan, dated August 4, and assigning the Fourteenth, with the Twenty-second and Thirtieth New York Volunteers, to Colonel Keyes’ brigade; an order from McClellan constituting Keyes’ and Wadsworth’s brigades a division to be commanded by Brigadier General Irwin McDowell, United States Army; an order from McDowell assigning the four regiments Keyes’, which was known as the Iron Brigade, to positions.  The Fourteenth and Twenty-second were left where they were.

The other two were ordered to take position on the line with the Twenty-second.  The morning report referred to above is signed by Colonel Wood and L. L. Laidlaw, a lieutenant in G. who was acting adjutant.  In the battle of Bull Run Wadsworth was an aid on McDowell’s staff, ranking as a major.  After Woods’ injury he stuck by the Fourteenth and was breveted a colonel on the field.  He was soon made a general and he always, so the vets say, took great interest in the Fourteenth.





Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War

25 07 2008

Report of the Committee

Testimony

McDowell’s Army

Patterson’s Army

Rebel Barbarities

Report of the Committee

Testimony








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