A Volunteer at the First Bull Run – H. Seymour Hall

5 03 2010

A VOLUNTEER AT THE FIRST BULL RUN

BY COMPANION H. SEYMOUR HALL, Brevet Brigadier General U.S.V. May 4, 1892

WAR TALKS IN KANSAS: A SERIES OF PAPERS READ BEFORE THE KANSAS COMMANDERY OF THE MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED STATES, pp. 143-159

On Wednesday, April 17, 1861, after attendance at morning prayers in the chapel of Genesee College, Lima, N. Y., Truman L. Bowman and myself, both student boys who expected to graduate at the June commencement, challenged each other to enlist as soldiers in a regiment which Prof. Quinby, of Rochester University, had begun to organize at Rochester, N. Y., twenty miles away. We discontinued attendance on our recitations and imparted the project to our fellow-students, a number of whom were eager to follow our example, thus threatening to demoralize classes and considerably diminish the somewhat slender attendance in the college, so that on Monday, April 22d, the college president, Rev. J. Morrison Reid, D.D., late missionary secretary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, called a public mass-meeting of students and citizens in college chapel to capture and control these prospective soldiers. The chapel was crowded with people, and amid the most intense excitement, Doctor Reid was chosen to preside, and my friend and classmate, Charles H. Hickmott, secretary. After a most fervent and patriotic prayer, President Reid made a speech, advocating the organisation of a company to remain at home, complete our college course, drill for exercise, so as to be ready when needed; which time of need had not, in his opinion, yet come, though President Lincoln had called for 75,000 men.

The next speech followed a similar line of argument, the speaker being one whom I most admired and respected, our professor in French and German, William Wells, Ph.D., now filling the chair of modern language at Union College, Schenectady, N. Y. Others followed in the same strain, but all failed to touch the hearts of the people. Hall and Bowman were then called for, and both briefly and emphatically announced their purpose to become soldiers at once, at which the wildest enthusiasm was manifested. This was embarrassing to Doctor Reid, who looked over the audience for someone to call to his relief; observing Mr. John Mosher, the only banker in the village, the doctor asked him to give his views. Mr. Mosher rose deliberately, the people eagerly listened as he said with marked emphasis, “I have $100 to help fit out a company for immediate service.” There was small solace in this for our president, so again he sought for reinforcements, this time calling on Colonel Alexander McCane, of the War of 1812. The colonel promptly stood up, towered majestically above his fellows, planted his cane on the floor as if obeying the command, “Order arms,” and said with military brevity and vim, “I have another $100 to put with Mr. Mosher’s.” Utterly routed by this combination of finance and military strategy, Dr. Reid sought to rally his forces behind that honest farmer, Squire Calvin E. Vary, who had given several thousand of his hard-earned dollars to endow the college, was then one of its trustees, and had driven in from his farm to witness the proceedings. Says the doctor, “What does Squire Vary think?” Up rose the stalwart squire, showing his tall and massive form, and enunciated as his proposition, “All I have to say is, that I have another $100 to help those boys along, and will put with that just as much more as is necessary to organize the company. I move that this meeting be now adjourned.” Those three gentlemen then came to me and said, “Come down town with us; to-night we will hold a meeting in Concert Hall, and organize a company for immediate service.”

A meeting was held, rousing speeches by men who staid safely at home, encouraged the boys to join the company which it was resolved to organize, and while the meeting was full of enthusiasm and patriotic ardor, it was lacking in information. No one knew how to proceed or what were the pay and allowances of a soldier; none of us had ever seen a muster-roll nor a volume of tactics. The next morning I wrote out a brief pledge of enlistment, took it to a teacher of penmanship, had it beautifully copied at the top of a half-sheet of foolscap paper, pasted other half-sheets to it, and we signed our names to this, the first muster-roll of the “Lima Volunteers.” My roll filled up rapidly, and those under twenty-one years of age were required to bring the written consent of their parents before signing the roll. I find on my memorandum-book used at that time thirty-one names of boys for whom I had written out these certificates of consent for their parents to sign, and remember many others to whom I also furnished them, one-half the company at least being minors. President Reid had sent me a summons to resume attendance on my classes, to which I paid no attention, so he repeated it, coupled with the notice that I would be expelled if I did not comply, to which my reply was more emphatic than courteous; but I was not expelled. My friend General Horace Boughton, lately buried at Arlington, came out from Rochester recruiting for General Quinby’s regiment, into which he was mustered as captain. T. L. Bowman enlisted with him, and I saw Bowman no more till 1866, when he came to St. Louis, Mo., with Stilson Hutchings, as one of the Times editors, when Hutchings and Hodnett established the St. Louis Daily Times. When our ranks were full, the local citizens’ committee proposed that we elect officers, and they said that Colonel James Perkins was an experienced military man, who, in addition to his exhaustive knowledge of military science, would with his sixty years be like a father to us, and as some of us were orphans and strangers in the town, except for our few months’ residence there as students, we gladly ratified their choice.

They then proposed as lieutenant, Philo D. Phillips, who had commanded a company of “Wide-Awakes,” armed with torches, in the presidential campaign of 1860—so of course he knew all about war. As none of us knew anything about it, we also confirmed this selection, and were proud of our acquisition. Now our college, through its president and others, showed its deep interest in our welfare; not deep enough, however, to confer the degrees upon those of us who would have graduated in June had we not enlisted, as all other colleges in the North did on their students under similar circumstances, but deep enough to recommend as third officer, commissioned by the State as ensign, Thomas D. Bancroft, a student who it was claimed had served in Jim Lane’s thirty-day company that General Lane organized at Washington in March; hence Bancroft could allege experience as well as knowledge. But the boys knew Bancroft and drew the line there. They came to me and said: “You were the first one to enlist and interest others to do so, you have done all the business; the men whom we have elected captain and lieutenant have not taken part with us, nor done anything to entitle them to the places to which we have elected them; you ought to have had first place, all we can do now is to give you the next position, and we propose to make you ensign.” Knowing my entire lack of experience, I was entirely willing to remain in the ranks as I had begun, and so stated to my comrades, but they unanimously elected me. The ladies made a beautiful United States flag and presented it to the company in the Methodist church, which, large as it is, was much too small to hold the audience that gathered to witness the scene and hear the service of religious and patriotic prayer, songs, and speeches. As the ensign was supposed to have something to do with the colors, and for other reasons, it devolved upon me to receive the beautiful emblem from the hands of the ladies and to respond to the presentation speech. We soon learned that our company color could not be carried, but I kept it with the boys in every campaign and adorned our company headquarters with it in every camp, as long as I served with the company.

The ladies also made havelocks out of fine white flannel and gave each of us one to wear to protect our heads from the hot sun, and they supplied each soldier boy with an elegant pocket needle-book of their own handiwork, so liberally furnished with pins, buttons, needles, and thread that if we could have caught the Rebels asleep, we could have sewed them up so tight that they could not have fired a gun. The committee gave each man a blanket, which was trimmed and bound by the same fair hands.

When our .company was filled up to the maximum, Esquire Vary took our foolscap roll to Albany to have our company accepted by the State. Governor Morgan had called some of the members of the military committee of the Senate to advise with him, among them Dean Richmond and Erastus Corning, and when our services were tendered, all were of the opinion that no more men were needed, and that those already accepted by the State of New York could alone put down the Rebellion.

The squire was about to telegraph to us to disband, when he met Captain Joseph J. Chambers, who had recruited a company in Westchester County, and was now at the capital tendering its services to the State. Captain Chambers, whom I afterwards knew well, went before the Governor and the committee, to urge the acceptance of his own and the few other companies whose tender of service had not been accepted. He had been private secretary to Governor Myron H. Clark and was well known to Governor Morgan and his advisers. Having failed to change their decision by argument, and he could make a strong one, and was a ready speaker when aroused, though he stammered very badly at other times, he picked up a heavy chair and backed against the door of the executive chamber, saying, “B-b-b-by G-G-od! you d-d-d-don’t get out of this room t-t-t-till you accept these co-co-co-companies.” Whether for this or for some other reason, our company was accepted, and about the 30th day of April, 1861, Major C. E. Babbitt, a State officer, mustered the company into the service of the State of New York, and on the 7th day of May we were ordered to rendezvous at Elmira. I had procured a copy of Hardee’s Infantry Tactics and studied and practiced drilling, so that when thousands of people came to see us off, we could march quite like soldiers. We rode in wagons and coaches seven miles to Avon Springs, where a crowd so large and enthusiastic awaited us that we could hardly make our way to the cars. At Corning orders were received to stop off and quarter in the State Arsenal there, as there was no room for us in barracks at Elmira. By order of Captain Perkins, I proceeded to Elmira, to arrange to unite our company with some regiment, where I found several already containing five to eight companies each, their full complement of field and staff officers chosen, which gave companies joining later no voice in the selection of the regimental officers. This was not satisfactory to me, and I soon found representatives of other companies who took the same view of it that I did; consequently we formed an organization of our own, called ours the ‘”Union Regiment,” agreeing that no one should be selected for any field or staff position till ten companies were admitted. We made up that number about May 18th, near which time occurred my first meeting with General H. W. Slocum. He was in Elmira at the request of some gentlemen of another organization, expecting to be their colonel, but the election was delayed by officers who had other views. Learning something about him, and that he was a graduate of West Point, had seen service, and afterwards successfully engaged in business, I sought an introduction to him, and, without his knowledge, heartily pressed the suggestion that the officers of our regiment meet to elect a colonel. We did so, elected Slocum colonel without a dissenting voice, and sent a committee to notify him; he came in with them on their return and at once accepted.

The ten companies composing the regiment were organized in different counties of the State, as specified, and commanded at that time by Captains Joseph Chambers, Westchester County; Joseph J. Bartlett, Broome; Peter Jay, Broome; A. D. Adams, Wayne; C. C. Gardner, Dutchess; James Perkins, Lima, Livingston; C. E. Martin, Mt. Morris, Livingston; G. G. Wanzer, Monroe; H. L. Achilles, Orleans; and S. M. Harman, Allegheny. The regimental organization was then completed by our election of Captain Chambers as lieutenant-colonel and Captain Bartlett as major. Our company was ordered to Elmira and mustered into the service of the United States with the regiment for two years from the 21st of May, 1861, and Colonel Slocum at once began regular instruction and drill. This was the 27th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, and we were Company G. We learned our camp duty and the drill quite easy, but were somewhat particular about our rations in those days, and on one occasion when the beef was a little too fresh and lively, the boys of Company E securely boxed their dinner allowance, formed a procession, to the tune of “The Rogues’ March,” to an improvised cemetery in the orchard, and after a moving funeral oration by Judge Albion W. Tourgee, then a private in the company, buried their beef with all the honors of war. General Slocum, who was absent from camp, heard of it on his return. Tourgee says: “Some very strong language was indulged in, and afterwards a very nice fellow—one of those genteel fellows with a gun—came to me. He was very polite to me, and stated that the colonel wanted to see me at his quarters. I didn’t want to be rude, so I went. The colonel was smoking, not very quietly, and was talking to himself quite emphatically. He asked me if I had anything to do with ‘that operation.’ I did not know exactly to what he referred, but finally admitted that I might have been there. Then he asked me if I did not know that my conduct was derogatory to good discipline and in defiance of authority, and that upon me rested the fate of the country. I had never looked upon it in that light, and remarked that I never knew that beef had any particular rank, and that I thought it ought to be confined. He gave me a kind lecture, for which I was very thankful, and afterwards I found him a kind commander.” Our drill, spiced with similar incidents, went on till about the 8th of July, when we started for the front. At Williamsport, Pa., we found a fine supper prepared, and the enthusiasm of the people and the eagerness of the ladies to serve us with every delicacy of the table are yet well remembered. We arrived in Washington on the 10th and were quartered on Franklin Square, where were just barracks enough for our regiment. Guard-mounting, drill, target practice, and dress parade kept us busy by day, while the study of tactics and Army Regulations was the chief occupation of some of us when off duty. 

Our regimental quartermaster had been a village hotelkeeper at Lima, whose business experience in other directions was limited. When I called on him for company books and blanks, he said he had tried to get them, but they were not to be had. In looking around the city I had been to the War Department, and again I called on General George D. Ruggles, then a captain in the Adjutant-General’s office, and told him what Lieutenant Hamilton.said. He replied that car-loads of such supplies were on hand, suggesting that if I would send a man from each company, he would send the regiment a full supply. I reported the matter to Colonel Slocum, and we were soon supplied with books and blanks.

We left Franklin Square at 2 p. m., Monday, July 15th, crossed Long Bridge into Virginia, bivouacking at midnight, after what then seemed to us a tremendous march, six and one-half miles east of Fairfax Court House, momentarily expecting to meet the enemy. Under Colonel Andrew Porter, as brigade commander, we pushed on at 7 a. m., July 16th, toward Fairfax Court House, finding our road obstructed by fallen trees, which we had to remove, so that we did not reach the enemy’s works at the Court House till noon, when we found their works deserted, took possession, and remained for the night. On the morning of July 17th we advanced about half a mile beyond the village toward Centerville, where we came upon abundant evidences of the hasty flight of the enemy, blankets, tents, and arms being found plentifully strewn around in the vicinity of our camp. At this place one of our boys, a very young and slender freshman, a good soldier, found and brought to me an ancient and curious saber; the sharply curved blade is finely tempered, the ebony grip is clasped in the middle by a band of silver enlarged on one side into an oval plate bearing an eagle supporting a shield, in his talons arrows and olive branch, all beneath a constellation of thirteen stars, the silver guard terminating in a finely engraved eagle’s head of the same precious metal. I carefully preserve it, and have endeavored in vain to learn its history.

From this place we moved at 3 p. m. to within three miles of Centerville, where I made use of a tent which fell into my hands at Fairfax, upon which was marked, “Major Cabell, C. S. A.” Two hours after midnight the long roll called us out in the rain, but no enemy appeared. We remained in this place until we advanced to the attack. Our division commander, Colonel David Hunter, having his carriage and headquarters under a tree just across the road, where we saw squads of prisoners occasionally brought in. Saturday, July 20th, we received three days’ rations, with orders to cook and take them in our haversacks, and be ready to move at 2 a. m., Sunday, July 21st. Saturday night was a warm, beautiful moonlight night, and as the boys lay grouped around, they speculated whether the enemy would not retreat as he had done from Fairfax Court House, and some expressed doubts of our ever getting sight of him. I said to them that, having some acquaintance with Southern people, my opinion was that our desire to meet them would be fully satisfied.

Our discussion was closed by the first notes of the opening performance of the famous Marine Band of Washington, which accompanied our brigade, and just on the eve of battle their exquisite music was listened to in silence, and when the band finally closed with the familiar and touching strains of “Home, Sweet Home,” the eloquent silence remained unbroken till Sunday morning, July 21st, at half past 1, when we quietly aroused the men from their dreams of home and friends which many of them would never realize. Our division was the flanking column, which was to turn the enemy’s left by way of Sudley Springs and Ford, our brigade being second in line, the order of march being Griffin’s Battery; Battalion of Marines, Major John J. Reynolds; Twenty-Seventh Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, Colonel H. W. Slocum; Fourteenth New York State Militia, Colonel A. M. Wood; Eighth New York State Militia, Colonel George Lyons; Battalion Regular Infantry, Major George Sykes; one company Second Dragoons, two companies First Cavalry, four companies Second Cavalry, Major I. N. Palmer.

The road was obstructed by the troops en route to their position at the stone bridge, so that we did not cover the three miles to Centerville till 5, and it was nearly 7 when our brigade filed to the right at an old shop four miles beyond Centerville, and one-half mile beyond Cub Run Bridge on the Warrenton Turnpike, at which point the flanking movement really began. We followed an old abandoned road through the woods, which meandered somewhat near the general course of Bull Run, about two miles from it, till we came to Thornton’s, where our course changed to the southwest directly to Sudley’s Ford, which we reached about 10, having marched since 2 a. m., twelve and one-half miles only, though it seemed a great achievement at the time. Colonel A. E. Burnside’s brigade had crossed and were resting; we halted for rest and to fill our canteens before crossing Bull Run, and half an hour later, as the enemy was discovered, we crossed the ford while Burnside’s brigade was deploying. Our captain fell out exhausted as to the double quick we passed in rear of Burnside’s line, now hotly engaged, to take our place on his right. The shells of the Rebel artillery fell around us, damaging and demoralizing us slightly, the first casualty that I saw being the killing of two men of Major Sykes’ battalion by one shell. As we moved out across the open fields an incident occurred that I have a vivid recollection of, which was also witnessed by others, and which is so well recounted by Dr. W. H. Coe, now of Auburn, New York, that I will quote it from his letter to me:

“Auburn, N. Y., April 23, 1888

“General H. S. Hall:

“My dear Sir,—You will no doubt remember me as one of the original members of Company G, Twenty-seventh Regiment New York Volunteers, enlisted on Seminary Hill at Lima, April 23, 1861, nine days after the fall of Sumter. I was only a lad then, and was required to get the written consent of my parents allowing me to enlist. I attended a reunion of the Twenty-seventh at Mt. Morris last fall, at which only seven or eight of Company G were present. General Slocum was present, now slow in his motions, stocky in person, and getting white with age. I find on inquiry for this one or that one, that I am oftener answered ‘Dead’ than otherwise. I have been told that you went well up in the service after the Twenty-seventh boys came home, and that you left an arm down South. But I want to refer back to 1861, and our march from Centerville to Bull Run, and as we went on double quick across the fields in rear of the line of battle to take our place near the right of the line in such a position that we could see the hard fighting going on as we passed along, and knew that we were going into the same; then where was Captain Perkins? Poor man, he had tired out, and was not fit at his age to endure such marching; the company being led by First Lieutenant Phillips; then I well remember seeing lieutenant Phillips step back from the head of the company and say, ‘Lieutenant Hall, will you lead the company?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ said Lieutenant Hall, and immediately exchanged places with Lieutenant Phillips; and so Lieutenant Hall led the company through the first great battle of the war. I want your boys to understand this, and remember it as a bit of military history. You may have forgotten this item in the rush of changes of those days, but I distinctly remember it.”

The direction of our attack was nearly south along the Sudley and New Market Road, and as we advanced the enemy on the east of that road, under Bee, Bartow, and Evans, gallantly held their ground till our regiment was ordered to charge down the road upon their supports and turn their position by their left and rear.

Without halting, we rushed down the hill, driving infantry and artillery from their position near a stone house in the angle formed by the road we were on and the Warrenton Turnpike, and as they fell back to the heights across the turnpike we filed around the stone house facing to the rear of and advancing upon General Bee’s position, up the hill towards a grove of oak trees in which his.left was posted. At this moment the enemy, finding their left turned by us, retired by their right, and we saw them moving out of the grove parallel to our front, deliberately making signs, as if they were friends. Their colors were furled, and their gray uniforms did not sufficiently designate them, as many of our own troops wore the same color. We were yet lacking in discipline, so while some of us shouted, “Fire!” others yelled, “Don’t shoot; it is a Massachusetts regiment, or the Eighth New York.” Tall Bob Frazee at my elbow on the right of my company, with a voice like a fog-horn, shouted to them, “Show your colors,” when they shook out the Rebel flag and opened a terrific fire of musketry on us. That settled it, and gallantly and coolly directed by Colonel Slocum, Lieutenant-Colonel Chambers, and Major Bartlett, we gave them the best we had. Their batteries and reserves on our right rear across the Warrenton Pike joined in the fight, and when one company seemed somewhat nervous, Lieutenant-Colonel Chambers encouraged them by saying, “Ne-ne-ne-never mind a f-f-few shells, boys; G-G-G-God Almighty is m-m-merciful.” One lieutenant, with the large whites of his eyes showing like saucers, manfully stood his post and fired his revolver in the air. Riding up and down the rear of the regiment, the lieutenant-colonel continued his Scriptural injunctions, and noticing my company doing the most telling execution, said, “G-g-g-give it to ‘em, b-b-boys; God l-l-loves a cheerful g-g-giver.” The troops that engaged us soon passed over Young’s Branch and across the Warrenton Turnpike out of sight near the Robinson house with their main line and batteries, and as our regiment was without support, Colonel Slocum withdrew it up the hill into the grove from which the troops we had encountered came, receiving a bullet through the leg while directing the movement. Major Bartlett then assumed command of the regiment, he says by order of Colonel Slocum, and gallantly commanded us during the remainder of the action. An ambulance was brought to the grove, the colonel was put in, and, accompanied by the lieutenant of the elevated revolver, started for Washington. We were next formed in line on the ridge from which we had charged down upon the enemy around the stone house, this time advancing to the assault of the enemy on the Henry House Hill, south of the Warrenton Pike. There had been very little concert of action in the earlier part of the battle, and there was still less now, seeming to be no simultaneous advance of lines, divisions, or brigades, regiments going in here and there singly and being repulsed one by one. We advanced to the turnpike for the second time, now to the west of Sudley Road, crossed it and Young’s Branch, and moved up to the assault just as Ellsworth’s Zouaves and other regiments gave way, when we were retired in good order under a heavy fire, in rear of the ridge from which we had set out. A large body of disorganized men had gathered there, and General McDowell, accompanied by Major Wadsworth of his staff, rode up to Major Bartlett, and the general said that our regiment was so steady and reliable that he desired us to move upon the crest of the ridge as the foundation of a new line, which should show a firm front until we were relieved, and I have always thought he added, “by General Patterson, who will soon be here.”

We obeyed the order, other troops forming on our right and left, and off to the west we could see columns of soldiers moving towards us, which I supposed to be the expected relief. Soon without any apparent cause the troops on our extreme right began to pass in our rear as if of a common impulse, neither did I hear any orders for the movement, and when it reached our regiment we went with the rest. There were no signs of fright or panic, but soon ambulances, wagons, aid artillery became intermingled with the infantry, and very little semblance of organization remained. I had urged the company to keep together, and succeeded in keeping about twenty with me. We followed a road that led to a ford near the stone bridge, and forded Bull Run in plain sight of that bridge, just as the enemy’s artillery opened on the throng of men and teams crossing it, breaking down a loaded wagon almost on the center of the bridge obstructing its passage. Many of the drivers and some of the troops were seized with panic, and some teams and men wildly took to the woods. The cry of “Black Horse Cavalry!” was raised, which added to the confusion. The artillery fire did very little damage, nor did any cavalry appear to me, though I looked carefully in all directions.

As our little party was making its way steadily along near the road, an ambulance dashed past us, at the rear of which we saw our captain hanging on for dear life with one hand, his long legs flying in the air as he ran in his desperate efforts to keep up, while with the other hand he held on his shoulder several officers’ sabers. We soon came up with him lying exhausted by the side of the road, when Bob Frazee and I took his sabers, and, supporting him on each side, helped him along till two mounted officers overtook us, when I appealed to them, saying, “Gentlemen, for God’s sake can’t you give our captain a lift; he is old and completely exhausted?” One of them said, “I will,” dismounted, and we lifted Captain Perkins into his saddle. I inquired his name, which I have forgotten, but think he was assistant surgeon of the 79th Regiment, New York State Militia. Some distance further on we again came up with the captain, when Captain Seymour Pierce, then our first sergeant, and Lieutenant J. E. Briggs, then sergeant, helped him along till they got him into a wagon which took him to Washington. Our quartermaster had gone out with his horse and buggy, and Captain Perkins was riding with him when the stampede began; before this some officers of the regiment had asked to have their swords carried in the buggy, so Captain Perkins had taken charge of them. When the shelling began and the cry of “Black Horse Cavalry!” was raised, the quartermaster took through the timber with his buggy, soon broke an axle, setting our captain afoot, his appearance clinging to the ambulance being the first we had seen of him since he dropped out near the Sudley Ford in the morning. We halted at Centerville soon after dark, and lying down on the ground, I soon fell asleep. When I awoke, the sun, shining full in my face, was over an hour high. Not a sound was to be heard, so stirring myself, rising and looking around where an army was bivouacked when I had lain down the night before, not a human being, friend or foe, was in sight, except Captain E. H. Brady, then one of my sergeants. Gathering up the swords that the captain had left with me, Brady and I did not stop to pay our bill, make our toilet, or order breakfast, but steadily advanced backwards in good order towards Fairfax Court House.

We were soon overtaken by two men of the Second Wisconsin Regiment, mounted double on a confiscated horse. Seeing my extra equipment of swords, one of the men kindly offered to carry one of them for me, and I gladly handed him the first one that came to hand without noticing which or whose it was. Unfortunately, I never could remember his name, and the sword never was restored to its owner, who proved to be Lieutenant Coan, to whom it had been presented by Albion, N. Y., friends, hence its loss by his voluntary abandonment of it to the care of another was quite mortifying to him. The others I brought into Washington and restored to their owners, who seemed to take it as a matter of course that some brother officer should load up with the side-arms that they had divested themselves of on the field of battle. I never constituted myself an armor-bearer to any of them thereafter.

At Fairfax Court House many teams and wagons were abandoned; public, regimental, and officers’ property strewed the ground on all sides, in the midst of which we saw a mounted officer, whom as we came nearer I recognized to be General James S. Wadsworth, of Geneseo, N. Y., then a major of militia, serving as volunteer, aide-de-camp to General McDowell. I approached him and said, “Sir, we belong to the Lima Volunteers, from your county; can we be of any service to you?” He replied that we could help him make a train of the abandoned wagons, by getting the soldiers that were occasionally coming in to hitch up and take charge of teams, which we did, and made up quite a train, which we took into Alexandria, sending the wagons to their proper regiments. When we left Fairfax Court House, it was fully 9 a. m. of July 22d, and there was as yet no sight or sound of pursuit by the enemy. General Wadsworth was still there without one single orderly, guard, or escort, engaged in his efforts to save property and to forward such soldiers as had been left behind. It was characteristic of the man, who with his great wealth, which he had used freely to send supplies into Washington at an earlier day, never availed himself of it to avoid service, but bore a gallant soldier’s part, did a soldier’s duty, and died a soldier’s death at the head of his division in the Wilderness. We went into Alexandria without further adventure, where several men of the 27th Regiment had made their way, whom I gathered together, drew rations for, and put them in temporary quarters, reporting to the regiment by telegraph, started for our camp on Franklin Square, Washington, at 4 p. m., and reached there with thirty-five men of the regiment at 7 p. m., July 23d.

The loss of our regiment at the battle of Bull Run, in killed, wounded, and missing was 130, 60 of whom were missing. Thirty-five returned to us from Libby Prison in January, 1862, among them seven belonging to my company. The fate of the other twenty-five missing men I never knew.

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

3 03 2010

THE REGULAR INFANTRY IN THE FIRST BULL RUN CAMPAIGN.

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

BY DANGERFIELD PARKER, MAJOR NINTH US INFANTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BATTLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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Virginia Scenes in ’61 – Constance Cary Harrison

2 03 2010

VIRGINA SCENES IN ‘61

BY CONSTANCE CARY HARRISON.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 160-166

The only association I have with my old home in Virginia that is not one of unmixed happiness relates to the time immediately succeeding the execution of John Brown at Harper’s Ferry. Our homestead was in Fairfax County, at some distance from the theater of that tragic episode; and, belonging as we did to a family among the first in the State to manumit slaves,—our grandfather having set free those that came to him by inheritance, and the people who served us being hired from their owners and remaining in our employ through years of kindliest relations,— there seemed to be no especial reason for us to share in the apprehension of an uprising of the blacks. But there was the fear — unspoken, or pooh-poohed at by the men who were mouth-pieces for our community—dark, boding, oppressive, and altogether hateful. I can remember taking it to bed with me at night, and awaking suddenly oftentimes to confront it through a vigil of nervous terror, of which it never occurred to me to speak to any one. The notes of whip-poor-wills in the sweet-gum swamp near the stable, the mutterings of a distant thunder-storm, even the rustle of the night wind in the oaks that shaded my window, filled me with nameless dread. In the daytime it seemed impossible to associate suspicion with those familiar tawny or sable faces that surrounded us. “We had seen them for so many years smiling or saddening with the family joys or sorrows; they were so guileless, so patient, so satisfied. What subtle influence was at work that should transform them into tigers thirsting for our blood? The idea was preposterous. But when evening came again, and with it the hour when the colored people (who in summer and autumn weather kept astir half the night) assembled themselves together for dance or prayer-meeting, the ghost that refused to be laid was again at one’s elbow. Rusty bolts were drawn and rusty fire-arms loaded. A watch was set where never before had eye or ear been lent to such a service. In short, peace had flown from the borders of Virginia.

Although the newspapers were full of secession talk and the matter was eagerly discussed at our tables, I cannot remember that, as late as Christmastime of the year 1860, coming events had cast any definite shadow on our homes. The people in our neighborhood, of one opinion with their dear and honored friend, Colonel Robert E. Lee, of Arlington, were slow to accept the startling suggestion of disruption of the Union. At any rate, we enjoyed the usual holiday gathering of kinsfolk in the usual fashion. The old Vaucluse house, known for many years past as a center of cheerful hospitality in the county, threw wide open its doors to receive all the members who could be gathered there of a large family circle. The woods about were despoiled of holly and spruce, pine and cedar, to deck the walls and wreathe the picture-frames. On Christmas Eve we had a grand rally of youths and boys belonging to the “clan,” as they loved to call it, to roll in a yule log, which was deposited upon a glowing bed of coals in the big “red-parlor” fire-place, and sit about it after-ward, welcoming the Christmas in with goblets of egg-nog and apple-toddy.

“Where shall we be a year hence?” some one asked at a pause in the merry chat; and, in the brief silence that followed, arose a sudden spectral thought of war. All felt its presence; no one cared to speak first of its grim possibilities.

On Christmas Eve of the following year the old house lay in ruins, a sacrifice by Union troops to military necessity; the forest giants that kept watch around her walls had been cut down and made to serve as breastworks for a fort erected on the Vaucluse property as part of the defenses of Washington. Of the young men and boys who took part in that holiday festivity, all were in the active service of the South,— one of them, alas! soon to fall under a rain of shot and shell beside his gun at Fredericksburg; the youngest of the number had left his mother’s knee to fight at Manassas, and found himself, before the year was out, a midshipman aboard the Confederate steamer Nashville, on her cruise in distant seas!

My first vivid impression of war-days was during a ramble in the neighboring woods one Sunday afternoon in spring, when the young people in a happy band set out in search of wild flowers. Pink honeysuckles, blue lupine, beds of fairy flax, anemones, and ferns in abundance sprung under the canopy of young leaves on the forest boughs, and the air was full of the song of birds and the music of running waters. We knew every mossy path far and near in those woods; every tree had been watched and cherished by those who went before us, and dearer than any other spot on earth was our tranquil, sweet Vaucluse. Suddenly the shrill whistle of a locomotive struck the ear, an unwonted sound on Sunday. “Do you know what that means?” said one of the older cousins who accompanied the party. “It is the special train carrying Alexandria volunteers to Manassas, and to-morrow I shall follow with my company.” Silence fell upon our little band. A cloud seemed to come between us and the sun. It was the beginning of the end too soon to come.

The story of one broken circle is the story of another at the outset of such a war. Before the week was over, the scattering of our household, which no one then believed to be more than temporary, had begun. Living as we did upon ground likely to be in the track of armies gathering to confront each other, it was deemed advisable to send the children and young girls into a place more remote from chances of danger. Some weeks later the heads of the household, two widowed sisters whose sons were at Manassas, drove away from their home in their carriage at early morning, having spent the previous night in company with a half-grown lad digging in the cellar hasty graves for the interment of two boxes of old English silver-ware, heirlooms in the family, for which there was no time to provide otherwise. Although the enemy were long encamped immediately above it after the house was burnt the following year, this silver was found there when the war had ended; it was lying loose in the earth, the boxes having rotted away.

The point at which our family reunited within the Confederate lines was Bristoe, the station next beyond Manassas, a cheerless railway inn; a part of the premises was used as a country grocery store; and there quarters were secured for us with a view to being near the army. By this time all our kith and kin of fighting age had joined the volunteers. One cannot picture accommodations more forlorn than these eagerly taken for us and for other families attracted to Bristoe by the same powerful magnet. The summer sun poured its burning rays upon whitewashed walls unshaded by a tree. Our bedrooms were almost uninhabitable by day or night, our fare the plainest. From the windows we beheld only a flat, uncultivated country, crossed by red-clay roads, then ankle-deep in dust. We learned to look for all excitement to the glittering lines of railway track, along which continually thundered trains bound to and from the front. It was impossible to allow such a train to pass without running out upon the platform to salute it, for in this way we greeted many an old friend or relative buttoned up in the smart gray uniform, speeding with high hope to the scene of coming conflict. Such shouts as went up from sturdy throats while we stood waving hands, handkerchiefs, or the rough woolen garments we were at work upon!  Then fairly awoke the spirit that made of Southern women the inspiration of Southern men throughout the war. Most of the young fellows we knew and were cheering onward wore the uniform of privates, and for the right to wear it had left homes of ease and luxury. To such we gave our best homage; and from that time forth the youth who was lukewarm in the cause or unambitious of military glory fared uncomfortably in the presence of the average Confederate maiden.

Thanks to our own carriage, we were able during those rallying days of June to drive frequently to visit “the boys” in camp, timing the expeditions to include battalion drill and dress parade, and taking tea afterward in the different tents. Then were the gala days of war, and our proud hosts hastened to produce home dainties dispatched from the far-away plantations— tears and blessings interspersed amid the packing, we were sure; though I have seen a pretty girl persist in declining other fare, to make her meal upon raw biscuit and huckleberry pie compounded by the bright-eyed amateur cook of a well-beloved mess. Feminine heroism could no farther go.

And so the days wore on until the 17th of July, when a rumor from the front sent an electric shock through our circle. The enemy were moving forward! On the morning of the 18th those who had been able to sleep at all awoke early to listen for the first guns of the engagement of Blackburn’s Ford. Deserted as the women at Bristoe were by every male creature old enough to gather news, there was, for us, no way of knowing the progress of events during the long, long day of waiting, of watching, of weeping, of praying, of rushing out upon the railway track to walk as far as we dared in the direction whence came that intolerable booming of artillery. The cloud of dun smoke arising over Manassas became heavier in volume as the day progressed. Still, not a word of tidings, till toward afternoon there came limping up a single, very dirty, soldier with his arm in a sling. What a heaven-send he was, if only as an escape-valve for our pent-up sympathies! We seized him, we washed him, we cried over him, we glorified him until the man was fairly bewildered. Our best endeavors could only develop a pin-scratch of a wound on his right hand; but when our hero had laid in a substantial meal of bread and meat, we plied him with trembling questions, each asking news of some staff or regiment or company. It has since occurred to me that he was a humorist in disguise. His invariable reply, as he looked from one to the other of his satellites, was: “The —-Virginia, marm?  Why, of coase. They warn’t no two ways o’ thinkin’ ’bout that ar reg’ment. They just kivered tharselves with glory!”

A little later two wagonloads of slightly wounded claimed our care, and with them came authentic news of the day. Most of us received notes on paper torn from a soldier’s pocket-book and grimed with gunpowder, containing assurance of the safety of our own. At nightfall a train carrying more wounded to the hospitals at Culpeper made a halt at Bristoe; and, preceded by men holding lanterns, we went in among the stretchers with milk, food, and water to the sufferers. One of the first discoveries I made, bending over in that fitful light, was a young officer whom I knew to be a special object of solicitude with one of my comrades in the search; but he was badly hurt, and neither he nor she knew the other was near until the train had moved on. The next day, and the next, were full of burning excitement over the impending general engagement, which people then said would decide the fate of the young Confederacy. Fresh troops came by with every train, and we lived only to turn from one scene to another of welcome and farewell. On Saturday evening arrived a message from General Beauregard, saying that early on Sunday an engine and car would be put at our disposal, to take us to some point more remote from danger. We looked at one another, and, tacitly agreeing the gallant general had sent not an order but a suggestion, declined his kind proposal.

Another unspeakably long day, full of the straining anguish of suspense. Dawning bright and fair, it closed under a sky darkened by cannon-smoke. The roar of guns seemed never to cease. First, a long sullen boom; then a sharper rattling fire, painfully distinct; then stragglers from the field, with varying rumors; at last, the news of victory; and, as before, the wounded, to force our numbed faculties into service. One of our group, the mother of an only son barely fifteen years of age, heard that her boy, after being in action all the early part of the day, had through sheer fatigue fallen asleep upon the ground, where he was found resting peacefully amidst the roar of the guns.

A few days later we rode over the field. The trampled grass had begun to spring again, and wild flowers were blooming around carelessly made graves. From one of these imperfect mounds of clay I saw a hand extended; and when, years afterward, I visited the tomb of Rousseau beneath the Pantheon in Paris, where a sculptured hand bearing a torch protrudes from the sarcophagus, I thought of that mournful spectacle upon the field of Manassas. Fences were everywhere thrown down; the undergrowth of the woods was riddled with shot; here and there we came upon spiked guns, disabled gun-carriages, cannon-balls, blood-stained blankets, and dead horses. We were glad enough to turn away and gallop homeward.

With August heats and lack of water, Bristoe was forsaken for quarters near Culpeper, where my mother went into the soldiers’ barracks, sharing soldiers’ accommodations, to nurse the wounded. In September quite a party of us, upon invitation, visited the different headquarters. We stopped overnight at Manassas, five ladies, sleeping upon a couch made of rolls of cartridge-flannel, in a tent guarded by a faithful sentry. I remember the comical effect of the five bird-cages (of a kind without which no self-respecting young woman of that day would present herself in public) suspended upon a line running across the upper part of our tent, after we had reluctantly removed them in order to adjust ourselves for repose. Our progress during that memorable visit was royal; an ambulance with a picked troop of cavalrymen had been placed at our service, and the convoy was “personally conducted” by a pleasing variety of distinguished officers. It was at this time, after a supper at the headquarters of the “Maryland line” at Fairfax, that the afterward universal war-song, “My Maryland !” was put afloat upon the tide of army favor. We were sitting outside a tent in the warm starlight of an early autumn night, when music was proposed. At once we struck up Randall’s verses to the tune of the old college song, “Lauriger Horatius,”—a young lady of the party, Jennie Gary, of Baltimore, having recently set them to this music before leaving home to share the fortunes of the Confederacy. All joined in the ringing chorus; and, when we finished, a burst of applause came from some soldiers listening in the darkness behind a belt of trees. Next day the melody was hummed far and near through the camps, and in due time it had gained the place of favorite song in the army. Other songs sung that evening, which afterward had a great vogue, were one beginning “By blue Patapsco’s billowy dash,” and “The years glide slowly by, Lorena.”

Another incident of note, during the autumn of ’61, was that to my cousins, Hetty and Jennie Cary, and to me was intrusted the making of the first three battle-flags of the Confederacy. They were jaunty squares of scarlet crossed with dark blue edged with white, the cross bearing stars to indicate the number of the seceded States. We set our best stitches upon them, edged them with golden fringes, and, when they were finished, dispatched one to Johnston, another to Beauregard, and the third to Earl Van Dorn, then commanding infantry at Manassas. The banners we’re received with all possible enthusiasm; were toasted, feted, and cheered abundantly. After two years, when Van Dorn had been killed in Tennessee, mine came back to me, tattered and storm-stained from long and honorable service in the field. But it was only a little while after it had been bestowed that there arrived one day at our lodgings in Culpeper a huge, bashful Mississippi scout,—one of the most daring in the army,—with the frame of a Hercules and the face of a child. He had been bidden to come there by his general, he said, to ask, if I would not give him an order to fetch some cherished object from my dear old home—something that would prove to me “how much they thought of the maker of that flag!” A week later I was the astonished recipient of a lamented bit of finery left “within the lines,”a wrap, brought to us by Dillon himself, with a beaming face. Mounted on a load of fire-wood, he had gone through the Union pickets, and while peddling poultry had presented himself at the house of my uncle, Dr. Fairfax, in Alexandria, whence he earned off his prize in triumph, with a letter in its folds telling us how relatives left behind longed to be sharing the joys and sorrows of those at large in the Confederacy.

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The Confederate Commissariat at Manassas – L. B. Northrup

2 03 2010

THE CONFEDERATE COMMISSARIAT AT MANASSAS

BY COLONEL L. B. NORTHROP, COMMISSARY-GENERAL, C. S. A.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, p. 261

Generals Beauregard, Imboden, and Johnston in the foregoing articles [see pages 221, 239, and 250] criticise the management of my department in the matter of supplies for the Confederate army at Manassas either before or after the first battle. In the statements of these generals, there is some conflict, but they all concur in making me appear a preposterous imbecile, whom Mr. Davis was guilty of retaining. General Imboden in effect charges Mr. Benjamin with suppressing, in order to shield my incapacity, an official report of a board of officers convened by Johnston.

July 29th, 1861, General Beauregard wrote to his aides, Colonels Chesnut and Miles,—the latter read the letter in the Confederate Congress,— about his vision of capturing Washington, and thus laid the foundation of the cabal against Mr. Davis which made the Confederate Government a ”divided house.” It produced a resolution of inquiry, followed soon by a standing committee, and afterward, in January, 1865, by a unanimous resolution, in secret session of both houses, to appoint a joint select committee to investigate the condition and management of all the Bureaux of the War Department. The session of this committee on commissary affairs was held January 23d, 1865. During the war the investigations of the standing committee into my policy and methods were frequent; several were long taking testimony, for one member, H. S. Foote,—who when I was myself in prison published me as cruel to Federal prisoners,—was ever zealous to attack. Every investigation ended in approval. I have a letter from Mr. John B. Baldwin, chairman of the joint select committee, stating that he had declared in Congress, as the result of their examination, “that the commissary department of subsistence, under the control of Colonel Northrop, the Commissary-General, had been managed with a foresight and sagacity, and a far-reaching, comprehensive grasp of its business, such as we had found in no other bureau connected with the army supply, with perhaps a single exception.”

The facts are that the engineer, General Beauregard, neglected his communications, so that “troops for the battle” and “supplies” were “retarded”; but the supplies were at the depot. “Eighteen heavy cannon, called for two weeks before,” occupied unloaded cars at Fredericksburg, where there was a large supply of flour that had been accumulating since early June. Numerous cars were retained as stationary storehouses ”for provisions,” “useless baggage,” and “trunks”; one hundred and thirty-three cars were abstracted by the “military” power from the use of the railroads for two weeks and more before the battle until returned by the Quartermaster-General and Mr. Ashe, the Government agent. There was plenty of lumber available to construct a storehouse. General Beauregard was not “urgent on the Commissary-General for adequate supplies before the battle,” for there was no ground of complaint. It was after the battle, when the vision of capturing Washington had seduced him, that he tried to construct a ground of complaint anterior to the battle.

General Beauregard made but one demand on me (July 8th, by a telegram which I have) for a commissary of the old service. Lieutenant-Colonel Richard B. Lee was added; no one was removed. On the 6th day of July I ordered Fowle to buy all the corn-meal, and soon after all the bacon, he could. July 7th, Beauregard ordered him to keep in advance a two weeks’ supply for 25,000 men, and Major Noland was ready to supply any number of beeves. The findings of the Board (on which Colonel Lee sat) are incoherent as stated by Imboden. The interdictions alleged by him are refuted by Colonel Ruffin (my chief assistant), and by all the letters sent officially to me in August, 1861. I have Fowle’s detailed report of the rations at Manassas; there was plenty of provision for a march on Washington. If I had removed his commissaries as he alleges, or had “interdicted ” them as General Imboden states, General Beauregard need not have been hampered, in a country which all the generals have declared abounded in the essentials of food.

General Johnston’s comments on the commissariat are unfounded. He “requested” an increase of provisions which his commissary alone could determine, and allowed the accumulation to go on for twelve days after he knew that he had more than he wanted. When I was informed, I did what he should have done — telegraphed the shippers to stop. Two weeks before his move he promised my officer, Major Noland, the transportation deemed sufficient, and of which he had assumed direct control. Empty trains passed the meat which had been laid in piles, ready for shipment. Empty trains lay idle at Manassas for days, in spite of Noland’s efforts to get them. General Johnston says the stores of the other departments were brought off. Eight hundred new army saddles, several thousand pairs of new shoes, and a large number of new blankets were burned — Quartermaster’s stores then difficult of attainment.

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General Ewell at Bull Run – Campbell Brown

28 02 2010

GENERAL EWELL AT BULL RUN (1)

BY MAJOR CAMPBELL BROWN, AIDE-DE-CAMP AND ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL TO GENERAL EWELL.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 259-261

In General Beauregard’s article on Bull Run, in “The Century” for November [1884], is this severe criticism of one of his subordinates, the late Lieutenant-General R. S. Ewell:

“Meanwhile, in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, I had been waiting with General Johnston for the sound of conflict to open in the quarter of Centreville upon the Federal left flank and rear (making allowance, however, for the delays possible to commands unused to battle), when I was chagrined to hear from General D. R. Jones that, while he had been long ready for the movement upon Centreville, General Ewell had not come up to form on his right, though he had sent him between 7 and 8 o’clock a copy of his own order, which recited that Ewell had been already ordered to begin the movement. I dispatched an immediate order to Ewell to advance; but within a quarter of an hour, just as I received a dispatch from him informing me that he had received no order to advance in the morning, the firing on the left began to increase SO intensely as to indicate a severe attack, whereupon General Johnston said that he would go personally to that quarter.”

This contains at least three errors, so serious that they should not be allowed to pass uncorrected among the materials from which history will one day be constructed:

1. That Ewell failed to do what a good soldier would have done — namely, to move forward immediately on hearing from D. R. Jones.

2. That Beauregard was made aware of this supposed backwardness of Ewell by a message from D. R. Jones.

3. That on receiving this message he at once ordered Ewell to advance.

The subjoined correspondence, (2) now [March, 1885] first in print, took place four days after the battle. It shows that Ewell did exactly what Beauregard says he ought to have done — namely, move forward promptly; that his own staff-officer, sent to report this forward movement, carried also to headquarters the first intelligence of the failure of orders to reach him; that no such message was received from D. R. Jones as is here ascribed to him; and that the order sent back by Beauregard to Ewell was not one to advance, but to retire from an advance already begun.

It is not easy to understand these mistakes, as General Beauregard has twice given a tolerably accurate though meager account of the matter — once in his official report, and once in his biography published by Colonel Roman in 1884. Neither of these accounts can be reconciled with the later attitude.

Upon reading General Beauregard’s article, I wrote to General Fitzhugh Lee, who was Ewell’s assistant adjutant-general at Manassas, asking his recollection of what took place. I have liberty to make the following extracts from his reply. After stating what troops composed the brigade, he goes on:

“These troops were all in position at daylight on the 21st July, ready for any duty, and held the extreme right of General Beauregard’s line of battle along Bull Run, at Union Mills. As hour after hour passed, General Ewell grew impatient at not receiving any orders (beyond those to be ready to advance, which came at sunrise), and sent me between 9 and 10 A. M. to see General D. R. Jones, who commanded the brigade next on his left at McLean’s Ford, to ascertain if that officer had any news or had received any orders from army headquarters. I found General Jones making preparations to cross Bull Run, and was told by him that, in the order he had received to do so, it was stated that General Ewell had been sent similar instructions.

“Upon my report of these facts, General Ewell at once issued the orders for his command to cross the Run and move out on the road to Centreville.”

General Lee then describes the recall across Bull Run and the second advance of the brigade to make a demonstration toward Centreville, and adds that the skirmishers of Rodes’s 5th Alabama Regiment, which was in advance, had actually become engaged, when we were again recalled and ordered to “move by the most direct route at once, and as rapidly as possible, for the Lewis house” — the field of battle on the left. Ewell moved rapidly, sending General Lee and another officer ahead to report and secure orders. On his arrival near the field they brought instructions to halt, when he immediately rode forward with them to General Beauregard, “and General Ewell begged General Beauregard to be allowed to go in pursuit of the enemy, but his request was refused.”

As to the real causes of the miscarriage of General Beauregard’s plan of attack there need be little doubt. They are plainly stated by his immediate superior in command, General Joseph E. Johnston, in his official report, as being the “early movements of the enemy on that morning and the non-arrival of the expected troops” from Harper’s Ferry. He adds: ”General Beauregard afterward proposed a modification of the abandoned plan, to attack with our right, while the left stood on the defensive. This, too, became impracticable, and a battle ensued, different in place and circumstances from any previous plan on our side.”

There are some puzzling circumstances connected with the supposed miscarriage of the order for our advance. The delay in sending it is unexplained. General Beauregard says it was sent “at about 8 A. M.,” but D. R. Jones had received his corresponding order at 10 minutes past 7, and firing had begun at half-past 5.

The messenger was strangely chosen. It was the most important order of the day, for the movements of the army were to hinge on those of our brigade. There was no scarcity of competent staff-officers; yet it was intrusted to “a guide,” presumably an enlisted man, perhaps even a citizen, whose very name was unknown.

His instructions were peculiar. Time was all-important. He was ordered not to go direct to Ewell, but first to make a detour to Holmes, who lay in reserve nearly two miles in our rear.

His disappearance is mysterious. He was never heard of after receiving the order; yet his route lay wholly within our lines, over well-beaten roads and far out of reach of the enemy.

Lastly, General Beauregard, in his official report, gives as his reason for countermanding the movement begun by Ewell at 10 o’clock, that in his judgment it would require quite three hours for the troops to get into position for attack. Had the messenger dispatched at 8 been prompt, Ewell might have had his orders by 9. But at 9 we find Beauregard in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, waiting for an attack which, by his own figures, he should not have expected before 12.

It is not for me to reconcile these contradictions.

(1) This article appeared substantially as here printed in “The Century ” for March, 1885.— EDITORS.

(2) [CORRESPONDENCE.]

Union Mills, July 25th, 1861.

General Beauregard.

Sir: In a conversation with Major James, Louisiana 6th Regiment, he has left the impression on my mind  that you think some of your orders on the 21st were either not carried out or not received by me.

My flrst order of that day was to hold myself in readiness to attack — this at sunrise. About 10. General Jones sent a copy of an order received by him In which it was stated that I had been ordered to cross and attack, and on receipt of this I moved on until receiving the following:

10 &1/2 A.M.

On account of the difficulties of the ground in our front it is thought advisable to fall back to our former position.

(Addressed) General Ewell.       

(Signed) G. T. B.

If any other order was sent to me, I should like to have a copy of it, as well as the name of the courier who brought it.

Every movement I made was at once reported to you at the time, and this across Bull Run, as well as the advance in the afternoon, I thought were explained in my report sent in to-day.

If an order were sent earlier than the copy through General Jones, the courier should be held responsible, as neither General Holmes nor myself received it. I send the original of the order to fall back in the morning. The second advance in the afternoon and recall to Stone Bridge were in consequence of verbal orders.

My chief object in writing to you is to ask you to leave nothing doubtful in your report, both as regards my crossing in the morning and recall —and not to let it lie inferred by any possibility that I blundered on that day. I moved forward as soon as notified by General Jones that I was ordered and he had been.

If there was an order sent me to advance before the one I received through General Jones, it is more than likely it would have been given to the same express.

Respectfully,

R. S. EWELL. B. G.

Manassas, Va., July 26th, 1861.

General: Your letter of the 25th inst. is received. I do not attach the slightest blame to you for the failure of the movement on Centreville, but to the guide who did not deliver the order to move forward, sent at about 8 A. M. to General Holmes and then to you —corresponding in every respect to the one sent to Generals Jones, lion ha MI. and Longstreet — only their movements were subordinate to yours. Unfortunately no copy, in the hurry of the moment, was kept of said orders: and so many guides, about a dozen or more, were sent off in different directions, that it is next to impossible to find out who was the bearer of the orders referred to. Our guides and couriers were the worst set I ever employed, whether from ignorance or over-anxiety to do well and quickly I cannot say: but many regiments lost their way repeatedly on their way toward the field of battle, and of course I can attach no more blame to their commanding officers than I could to you for not executing un order which I am convinced you did not get.

I am fully aware that you did all that could have been expected of you or your command. I merely expressed my regret that my original plan could not be carried into effect, as it would have been a most complete victory with only half the trouble and lighting.

The true cause of countermanding your forward movement after you had crossed was that it was then too late, as the enemy was about to annihilate our left flank, and had to be met and checked there, for otherwise he would have taken us in flank and rear and all would have been lost.

Yours truly,

G. T. Beauregard

General R. S. Ewell, Union Mills, Va.

P. S. Please read the above to Major James. Ewell, Union Mills, Va.

N. B. The order sent you at about 8 A. M., to commence the movement on Centreville, was addressed to General Holmes and yourself, as he was to support you, but being nearer Camp Pickens, the headquarters, than Union Mills, where you were, it was to be communicated to him first, and then to you; but he has informed me that it never reached him. With regard to the order sent you in the afternoon to recross the Bull Run (to march toward the Stone Bridgei), it was sent you by General J. E. Johnston, as I am informed by him, for the purpose of supporting our left, if necessary.

G. T. B.

Do not publish until we know what the enemy is going to do—or reports are out —which I think will make it all right.

B.

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The First Battle of Bull Run – P. G. T. Beauregard

24 02 2010

THE FIRST BATTLE OF BULL RUN

BY G. T. BEAUREGARD, GENERAL, C. S. A.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 196-227

Soon after the first conflict between the authorities of the Federal Union and those of the Confederate States had occurred in Charleston Harbor, by the bombardment of Fort Sumter,—which, beginning at 4:30 A. M. on the 12th of April, 1861, forced the surrender of that fortress within thirty hours thereafter into my hands,—I was called to Richmond, which by that time had become the Confederate seat of government, and was directed to “assume command of the Confederate troops on the Alexandria line.” Arriving at Manassas Junction, I took command on the 2d of June, forty-nine days after the evacuation of Fort Sumter.

Although the position at the time was strategically of commanding importance to the Confederates, the mere terrain was not only without natural defensive advantages, but, on the contrary, was absolutely unfavorable. Its strategic value was that, being close to the Federal capital, it held in observation the chief army then being assembled near Arlington by General McDowell, under the immediate eye of the commander-in-chief, General Scott, for an offensive movement against Richmond; and while it had a railway approach in its rear for the easy accumulation of reinforcements and all the necessary munitions of war from the southward, at the same time another (the Manassas Gap) railway, diverging laterally to the left from that point, gave rapid communications with the fertile valley of the Shenandoah, then teeming with live stock and cereal subsistence, as well as with other resources essential to the Confederates. There was this further value in the position to the Confederate army: that during the period of accumulation, seasoning, and training, it might be fed from the fat fields, pastures, and garners of Loudoun, Fauquier, and the Lower Shenandoah Valley counties, which otherwise must have fallen into the hands of the enemy. But, on the other hand, Bull Run, a petty stream, was of little or no defensive strength; for it abounded in fords, and although for the most part its banks were rocky and abrupt, the side from which it would be approached offensively in most places commanded the opposite ground.

At the time of my arrival at Manassas, a Confederate army under General Joseph E. Johnston was in occupation of the Lower Shenandoah Valley, along the line of the Upper Potomac, chiefly at Harper’s Ferry, which was regarded as the gateway of the valley and of one of the possible approaches to Richmond; a position from which he was speedily forced to retire, however, by a flank movement of a Federal army, under the veteran General Patterson, thrown across the Potomac at or about Martinsburg. On my other or right flank, so to speak, a Confederate force of some 2500 men under General Holmes occupied the position of Aquia Creek on the lower Potomac, upon the line of approach to Richmond from that direction through Fredericksburg. The other approach, that by way of the James River, was held by Confederate troops under Generals Huger and Magruder. Establishing small outposts at Leesburg to observe the crossings of the Potomac in that quarter, and at Fairfax Court House in observation of Arlington, with other detachments in advance of Manassas toward Alexandria on the south side of the railroad, from the very outset I was anxiously aware that the sole military advantage at the moment to the Confederates was that of holding the interior lines. On the Federal or hostile side were all material advantages, including superior numbers, largely drawn from the old militia organizations of the great cities of the North, decidedly better armed and equipped than the troops under me, and strengthened by a small but incomparable body of regular infantry as well as a number of batteries of regular field artillery of the highest class, and a very large and thoroughly organized staff corps, besides a numerous body of professionally educated officers in command of volunteer regiments, (1) — all precious military elements at such a juncture.

Happily, through the foresight of Colonel Thomas Jordan,—whom General Lee had placed as the adjutant-general of the forces there assembled before my arrival,—arrangements were made which enabled me to receive regularly, from private persons at the Federal capital, most accurate information, of which politicians high in council, as well as War Department clerks, were the unconscious ducts. On the 4th of July, my pickets happened upon and captured a soldier of the regulars, who proved to be a clerk in the adjutant-general’s office of General McDowell, intrusted with the special duty of compiling returns of his army—a work which he confessed, without reluctance, he had just executed, showing the forces under McDowell about the 1st of July. His statement of the strength and composition of that force tallied so closely with that which had been acquired through my Washington agencies, already mentioned, as well as through the leading Northern newspapers (regular files of which were also transmitted to my headquarters from the Federal capital), that I could not doubt them.

In these several ways, therefore, I was almost as well advised of tho strength of the hostile army in my front as its commander, who, I may mention, had been a classmate of mine at West Point. Under those circumstances I had become satisfied that a well-equipped, well-constituted Federal army at least 50,000 strong, of all arms, confronted me at or about Arlington, ready and on the very eve of an offensive operation against me, and to meet which I could muster barely 18,000 men with 29 field-guns. (2)

Previously,—indeed, as early as the middle of June,—it had become apparent to my mind that through only one course of action could there be a well-grounded hope of ability on the part of the Confederates to encounter successfully the offensive operations for which the Federal authorities were then vigorously preparing in my immediate front, with so consummate a strategist and military administrator as Lieutenant-General Scott in general command at Washington, aided by his accomplished heads of the large General Staff Corps of the United States Army. This course was to make the most enterprising, warlike use of the interior lines which we possessed, for the swift concentration at the critical instant of every available Confederate force upon the menaced position, at the risk, if need were, of sacrificing all minor places to the one clearly of major military value—there to meet our adversary so offensively as to overwhelm him, under circumstances that must assure immediate ability to assume the general offensive even upon his territory,, and thus conquer an early peace by a few well-delivered blows.

My views of such import had been already earnestly communicated to the proper authorities; but about the middle of July, satisfied that McDowell was on the eve of taking the offensive against me, I dispatched Colonel James Chesnut, of South Carolina, a volunteer aide-de-camp on my staff who had served on an intimate footing with Mr. Davis in the Senate of the United States, to urge in substance the necessity for the immediate concentration of the larger part of the forces of Johnston and Holmes at Manassas, so that the moment McDowell should be sufficiently far detached from Washington, I would be enabled to move rapidly round his more convenient flank upon his rear and his communications, and attack him in reverse, or get between his forces, then separated, thus cutting off his retreat upon Arlington in the event of his defeat, and insuring as an immediate consequence the crushing of Patterson, the liberation of Maryland, and the capture of Washington.

This plan was rejected by Mr. Davis and his military advisers (Adjutant-General Cooper and General Lee), who characterized it as “brilliant and comprehensive,” but essentially impracticable. Furthermore, Colonel Chesnut came back impressed with the views entertained at Richmond,— as he communicated at once to my adjutant-general,— that should the Federal army soon move offensively upon my position, my best course would be to retire behind the Rappahannock and accept battle there instead of at Manassas. In effect, it was regarded as best to sever communications between the two chief Confederate armies, that of the Potomac and that of the Shenandoah, with the inevitable immediate result that Johnston would be forced to leave Patterson in possession of the Lower Shenandoah Valley, abandoning to the enemy so large a part of the most resourceful sections of Virginia, and to retreat southward by way of the Luray Valley, pass across the Blue Ridge at Thornton’s Gap and unite with me after all, but at Fredericksburg, much nearer Richmond than Manassas. These views, however, were not made known to me at the time, and happily my mind was left free to the grave problem imposed upon me by the rejection of my plan for the immediate concentration of a materially larger force,— i. e., the problem of placing and using my resources for a successful encounter behind Bull Run with the Federal army, which I was not permitted to doubt was about to take the field against me.

It is almost needless to say that I had caused to be made a thorough reconnoissance of all the ground in my front and flanks, and had made myself personally acquainted with the most material points, including the region of Sudley’s Church on my left, where a small detachment was posted in observation. Left now to my own resources, of course the contingency of defeat had to be considered and provided for. Among the measures of precaution for such a result, I ordered the destruction of the railroad bridge across Bull Run at Union Mills, on my right, in order that the enemy, in the event of my defeat, should not have the immediate use of the railroad in following up their movement against Richmond— a railroad which could have had no corresponding value to us eastward beyond Manassas in any operations on our side with Washington as the objective, inasmuch as any such operations must have been made by the way of the Upper Potomac and upon the rear of that city.

Just before Colonel Chesnut was dispatched on the mission of which I have spoken, a former clerk in one of the departments at Washington, well known to him, had volunteered to return thither and bring back the latest information of the military and political situation from our most trusted friends. His loyalty to our cause, his intelligence, and his desire to be of service being vouched for, he was at once sent across the Potomac below Alexandria, merely accredited by a small scrap of paper bearing in Colonel Jordan’s cipher the two words, “Trust bearer,” with which he was to call at a certain house in Washington within easy rifle-range of the White House, ask for the lady of the house, and present it only to her. This delicate mission was as fortunately as it was deftly executed. In the early morning, as the newsboys were crying in the empty streets of Washington the intelligence that the order was given for the Federal army to move at once upon my position, that scrap of paper reached the hands of the one person in all that city who could extract any meaning from it. With no more delay than was necessary for a hurried breakfast and the writing in cipher by Mrs. G— of the words, “Order issued for McDowell to march upon Manassas to-night,” my agent was placed in communication with another friend, who earned him in a buggy with a relay of horses as swiftly as possible down the eastern shore of the Potomac to our regular ferry across that river. Without untoward incident the momentous dispatch was quickly delivered into the hands of a cavalry courier, and by means of relays it was in my hands between 8 and 9 o’clock that night. Within half an hour my outpost commanders, advised of what was impending, were directed, at the first evidence of the near presence of the enemy in their front, to fall back in the manner and to positions already prescribed in anticipation of such a contingency in an order confidentially communicated to them four weeks before, and the detachment at Leesburg was directed to join me by forced marches. Having thus cleared my decks for action, I next acquainted Mr. Davis with the situation, and ventured once more to suggest that the Army of the Shenandoah, with the brigade at Fredericksburg or Aquia Creek, should be ordered to reenforce me,— suggestions that were at once heeded so far that General Holmes was ordered to carry his command to my aid, and General Johnston was given discretion to do likewise. After some telegraphic discussion with me, General Johnston was induced to exercise this discretion in favor of the swift march of the Army of the Shenandoah to my relief; and to facilitate that vital movement, I hastened to accumulate all possible means of railway transport at a designated point on the Manassas Gap railroad at the eastern foot of the Blue Ridge, to which Johnston’s troops directed their march. However, at the same time, I had submitted the alternative proposition to General Johnston, that, having passed the Blue Ridge, he should assemble his forces, press forward by way of Aldie, north-west of Manassas, and fall upon McDowell’s right rear; while I, prepared for the operation, at the first sound of the conflict, should strenuously assume the offensive in my front. The situation and circumstances specially favored the signal success of such an operation. The march to the point of attack could have been accomplished as soon as the forces were brought ultimately by rail to Manassas Junction; our enemy, thus attacked so nearly simultaneously on his right flank, his rear, and his front, naturally would suppose that I had been able to turn his flank while attacking him in front, and therefore, that I must have an overwhelming superiority of numbers; and his forces, being new troops, most of them under fire for the first time, must have soon fallen into a disastrous panic. Moreover, such an operation must have resulted advantageously to the Confederates, in the event that McDowell should, as might have been anticipated, attempt to strike the Manassas Gap railway to my left, and thus cut off railway communications between Johnston’s forces and my own, instead of the mere effort to strike my left flank which he actually essayed. (3)

It seemed, however, as though the deferred attempt at concentration was to go for naught, for on the morning of the 18th the Federal forces were massed around Centreville, but three miles from Mitchell’s Ford, and soon were seen advancing upon the roads leading to that and Blackburn’s Ford.  My order of battle, issued in the night of the 17th, contemplated an offensive return, particularly from the strong brigades on the light and right center. The Federal artillery opened in front of both fords, and the infantry, while demonstrating in front of Mitchell’s Ford, endeavored to force a passage at Blackburn’s. Their column of attack, Tyler’s division, was opposed by Longstreet’s forces, to the reenforcement of which Early’s brigade, the reserve line at McLean’s Ford, was ordered up. The Federals, after several attempts to force a passage, met a final repulse and retreated. (4) After their infantry attack had ceased, about 1 o’clock, the contest lapsed into an artillery duel, in which the Washington Artillery of New Orleans won credit against the renowned batteries of the United States regular army. A comical effect of this artillery fight was the destruction of the dinner of myself and staff by a Federal shell that fell into the fire-place of my headquarters at the McLean House.

Our success in this first limited collision was of special prestige to my army of new troops, and, moreover, of decisive importance by so increasing General McDowell’s caution as to give time for the arrival of some of General Johnston’s forces. But while on the 19th I was awaiting a renewed and general attack by the Federal army, I received a telegram from the Richmond military authorities, urging me to withdraw my call on General Johnston on account of the supposed impracticability of the concentration — an abiding conviction which had been but momentarily shaken by the alarm caused by McDowell’s march upon Richmond. (5)  As this was not an order in terms, but an urgency which, notwithstanding its superior source, left me technically free and could define me as responsible for any misevent, I preferred to keep both the situation and the responsibility, and continued every effort for the prompt arrival of the Shenandoah forces, being resolved, should they come before General McDowell again attacked, to take myself the offensive. General McDowell, fortunately for my plans, spent the 19th and 20th in reconnoissances; (6) and, meanwhile, General Johnston brought 8340 men from the Shenandoah Valley, with 20 guns, and General Holmes 1265 rank and file, with 6 pieces of artillery, from Aquia Creek. As these forces arrived (most of them in the afternoon of the 20th) I placed them chiefly so as to strengthen my left center and left, the latter being weak from lack of available troops.

The disposition of the entire force was now as follows: At Union Mills Ford, Ewell’s brigade, supported by Holmes’s; at McLean’s Ford, D. R. Jones’s brigade, supported by Early’s; at Blackburn’s Ford, Longstreet’s brigade; at Mitchell’s Ford, Bonham’s brigade. Cocke’s brigade held the line in front and rear of Bull Run from Bonham’s left, covering Lewis’s, Ball’s, and Island fords, to the right of Evans’s demi-brigade, which covered the Stone Bridge and a farm ford about a mile above, and formed part also of Cocke’s command. The Shenandoah forces were placed in reserve — Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades between McLean’s and Blackburn’s fords, and Jackson’s between Blackburn’s and Mitchell’s fords. This force mustered 29,188 rank and file and 55 guns, of which 21,923 infantry, cavalry, and artillery, with 29 guns, belonged to my immediate forces, i. e., the Army of the Potomac.

The preparation, in front of an ever-threatening enemy, of a wholly volunteer army, composed of men very few of whom had ever belonged to any military organization, had been a work of many cares not incident to the command of a regular army. These were increased by the insufficiency of my staff organization, an inefficient management of the quartermaster’s department at Richmond, and the preposterous mismanagement of the commissary-general, who not only failed to furnish rations, but caused the removal of the army commissaries, who, under my orders, procured food from the country in front of us to keep the army from absolute want—supplies that were otherwise exposed to be gathered by the enemy. So specially severe had been the recent duties at headquarters, aggravated not a little by night alarms arising from the enemy’s immediate presence, that, in the evening of the 20th, I found my chief-of-staff sunken upon the papers that covered his table, asleep in sheer exhaustion from the overstraining and almost slumberless labor of the last days and nights. I covered his door with a guard to secure his rest against any interruption, after which the army had the benefit of his usual active and provident services.

There was much in this decisive conflict about to open, not involved in any after battle, which pervaded the two armies and the people behind them and colored the responsibility of the respective commanders. The political hostilities of a generation were now face to face with weapons instead of words. Defeat to either side would be a deep mortification, but defeat to the South must turn its claim of independence into an empty vaunt; and the defeated commander on either side might expect, though not the personal fate awarded by the Carthaginians to an unfortunate commander, at least a moral fate quite similar. Though disappointed that the concentration I had sought had not been permitted at the moment and for the purpose preferred by me, and notwithstanding the non-arrival of some five thousand troops of the Shenandoah forces, my strength was now so increased that I had good hope of successfully meeting my adversary.

General Johnston was the ranking officer, and entitled, therefore, to assume command of the united forces; but as the extensive field of operations was one which I had occupied since the beginning of June, and with which I was thoroughly familiar in all its extent and military bearings, while he was wholly unacquainted with it, and, moreover, as I had made my plans and dispositions for the maintenance of the position, General Johnston, in view of the gravity of the impending issue, preferred not to assume the responsibilities of the chief direction of the forces during the battle, but to assist me upon the field. Thereupon, I explained my plans and purposes, to which he agreed. (7)

Sunday, July 21st, bearing the fate of the new-born Confederacy, broke brightly over the fields and woods that held the hostile forces. My scouts, thrown out in the night toward Centreville along the Warrenton Turnpike, had reported that the enemy was concentrating along the latter. This fact, together with the failure of the Federals in their attack upon my center at Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s fords, had caused me to apprehend that they would attempt my left flank at the Stone Bridge, and orders were accordingly issued by half-past 4 o’clock to the brigade commanders to hold their forces in readiness to move at a moment’s notice, together with the suggestion that the Federal attack might be expected in that quarter. Shortly afterward the enemy was reported to be advancing from Centreville on the Warrenton Turnpike, and at half-past 5 o’clock as deploying a force in front of Evans. As their movement against my left developed the opportunity I desired, I immediately sent orders to the brigade commanders, both front and reserves, on my right and center to advance and vigorously attack the Federal left flank and rear at Centreville, while my left, under Cocke and Evans with their supports, would sustain the Federal attack in the quarter of the Stone Bridge, which they were directed to do to the last extremity. The center was likewise to advance and engage the enemy in front, and directions were given to the reserves, when without orders, to move toward the sound of the heaviest firing. The ground in our front on the other side of Bull Run afforded particular advantage for these tactics. Centreville was the apex of a triangle — its short side running by the Warrenton Turnpike to Stone Bridge, its base Bull Run, its long side a road that ran from Union Mills along the front of my other Bull Run positions and trended off to the rear of Centreville, where McDowell had massed his main forces; branch roads led up to this one from the fords between Union Mills and Mitchell’s. My forces to the right of the latter ford were to advance, pivoting on that position; Bonham was in advance from Mitchell’s Ford, Longstreet from Blackburn’s, D. R. Jones from McLean’s, and Ewell from Union Mills by the Centreville road. Ewell, as having the longest march, was to begin the movement, and each brigade was to be followed by its reserve. In anticipation of this method of attack, and to prevent accidents, the subordinate commanders had been carefully instructed in the movement by me, as they were all new to the responsibilities of command. They were to establish close communication with each other before making the attack. About half-past 8 o’clock I set out with General Johnston for a convenient position,— a hill in rear of Mitchell’s Ford,— where we waited for the opening of the attack on our right, from which I expected a decisive victory by midday, with the result of cutting off the Federal army from retreat upon Washington.

Meanwhile, about half-past 5 o’clock, the peal of a heavy rifled gun was heard in front of the Stone Bridge, its second shot striking through the tent of my signal-officer, Captain E. P. Alexander; and at 6 o’clock a full rifled battery opened against Evans and then against Cocke, to which our artillery remained dumb, as it had not sufficient range to reply. But later, as the Federal skirmish-line advanced, it was engaged by ours, thrown well forward on the other side of the Run. A scattering musketry fire followed, and meanwhile, about 7 o’clock, I ordered Jackson’s brigade, with Imboden’s and five guns of Walton’s battery, to the left, with orders to support Cocke as well as Bonham; and the brigades of Bee and Bartow, under the command of the former, were also sent to the support of the left.

At half-past 8 o’clock Evans, seeing that the Federal attack did not increase in boldness and vigor, and observing a lengthening line of dust above the trees to the left of the Warrenton Turnpike, became satisfied that the attack in his front was but a feint, and that a column of the enemy was moving around through the woods to fall on his flank from the direction of Sudley Ford. Informing his immediate commander, Cocke, of the enemy’s movement, and of his own dispositions to meet it, he left 4 companies under cover at the Stone Bridge, and led the remainder of his force, 6 companies of Sloan’s 4th South Carolina and Wheat’s battalion of Louisiana Tigers, with 2 6-pounder howitzers, across the valley of Young’s Branch to the high ground beyond it. Resting his left on the Sudley road, he distributed his troops on each side of a small copse, with such cover as the ground afforded, and looking over the open fields and a reach of the Sudley road which the Federals must cover in their approach. His two howitzers were placed one at each end of his position, and here he silently awaited the enemy now drawing near.

The Federal turning column, about 18,000 strong, with 24 pieces of artillery, had moved down from Centreville by the Warrenton Turnpike, and after passing Cub Run had struck to the right by a forest road to cross Bull Run at Sudley Ford, about 3 miles above the Stone Bridge, moving by a long circuit for the purpose of attacking my left flank. The head of the column, Burnside’s brigade of Hunter’s division, at about 9:45 A. M. debouched from the woods into the open fields, in front of Evans. Wheat at once engaged their skirmishers, and as the Second Rhode Island regiment advanced, supported by its splendid battery of 6 rifled guns, the fronting thicket held by Evans’s South Carolinians poured forth its sudden volleys, while the 2 howitzers flung their grape-shot upon the attacking line, which was soon shattered and driven back into the woods behind. Major Wheat, after handling his battalion with the utmost determination, had fallen severely wounded in the lungs. Burnside’s entire brigade was now sent forward in a second charge, supported by 8 guns; but they encountered again the unflinching fire of Evans’s line, and were once more driven back to the woods, from the cover of which they continued the attack, reenforced after a time by the arrival of 8 companies of United States regular infantry, under Major Sykes, with 6 pieces of artillery, quickly followed by the remaining regiments of Andrew Porter’s brigade of the same division. The contest here lasted fully an hour; meanwhile Wheat’s battalion, having lost its leader, had gradually lost its organization, and Evans, though still opposing these heavy odds with undiminished firmness, sought reinforcement from the troops in his rear.

General Bee, of South Carolina, a man of marked character, whose command lay in reserve in rear of Cocke, near the Stone Bridge, intelligently applying the general order given to the reserves, had already moved toward the neighboring point of conflict, and taken a position with his own and Bartow’s brigades on the high plateau which stands in rear of Bull Run in the quarter of the Stone Bridge, and overlooking the scene of engagement upon the stretch of high ground from which it was separated by the valley of Young’s Branch. This plateau is inclosed on three sides by two small watercourses, which empty into Bull Run within a few yards of each other, a half mile to the south of the Stone Bridge. Rising to an elevation of quite 100 feet above .the level of Bull Run at the bridge, it falls off on three sides to the level of the inclosing streams in gentle slopes, but furrowed by ravines of irregular directions and length, and studded with clumps and patches of young pine and oaks. The general direction of the crest of the plateau is oblique to the course of Bull Run in that quarter and to the Sudley and turnpike roads, which intersect each other at right angles. On the north-western brow, overlooking Young’s Branch, and near the Sudley road, as the latter climbs over the plateau, stood the house of the widow Henry, while to its right and forward on a projecting spur stood the house and sheds of the free negro Robinson, just behind the turnpike, densely embowered in trees and shrubbery and environed by a double row of fences on two sides. Around the eastern and southern brow of the plateau an almost unbroken fringe of second-growth pines gave excellent shelter for our marksmen, who availed themselves of it with the most satisfactory skill. To the west, adjoining the fields that surrounded the houses mentioned, a broad belt of oaks extends directly across the crest on both sides of the Sudley road, in which, during the battle, the hostile forces contended for the mastery. General Bee, with a soldier’s eye to the situation, skillfully disposed his forces. His two brigades on either side of Imboden’s battery— which he had borrowed from his neighboring reserve, Jackson’s brigade — were placed in a small depression of the plateau in advance of the Henry house, whence he had a full view of the contest on the opposite height across the valley of Young’s Branch. Opening with his artillery upon the Federal batteries, he answered Evans’s request by advising him to withdraw to his own position on the height; but Evans, full of the spirit that would not retreat, renewed his appeal that the forces in rear would come to help him hold his ground. The newly arrived forces had given the Federals such superiority at this point as to dwarf Evans’s means of resistance, and General Bee, generously yielding his own better judgment to Evans’s persistence, led the two brigades across the valley under the fire of the enemy’s artillery, and threw them into action — 1 regiment in the copse held by Colonel Evans, 2 along a fence on the right, and 2 under General Bartow on the prolonged right of this line, but extended forward at a right angle and along the edge of a wood not more than 100 yards from that held by the enemy’s left, where the contest at short range became sharp and deadly, bringing many casualties to both sides. The Federal infantry, though still in superior numbers, failed to make any headway against this sturdy van, notwithstanding Bee’s whole line was hammered also by the enemy’s powerful batteries, until Heintzelman’s division of 2 strong brigades, arriving from Sudley Ford, extended the fire on the Federal right, while its battery of 6 10-pounder rifled guns took an immediately effective part from “a position behind the Sudley road. Against these odds the Confederate force was still endeavoring to hold its ground, when a new enemy came into the field upon its right. Major Wheat, with characteristic daring and restlessness, had crossed Bull Run alone by a small ford above the Stone Bridge, in order to reconnoiter, when he and Evans had first moved to the left, and, falling on some Federal scouts, had shouted a taunting defiance and withdrawn, not, however, without his place of crossing having been observed. This disclosure was now utilized by Sherman’s (W. T.) and Keyes’s brigades of Tyler’s division; crossing at this point, they appeared over the high bank of the stream and moved into position on the Federal left. There was no choice now for Bee but to retire — a movement, however, to be accomplished under different circumstances than when urged by him upon Evans. The three leaders endeavored to preserve the steadiness of the ranks as they withdrew over the open fields, aided by the fire of Imboden’s guns on the plateau and the retiring howitzers; but the troops were thrown into confusion, and the greater part soon fell into rout across Young’s Branch and around the base of the height in the rear of the Stone Bridge.

Meanwhile, in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, I had been waiting with General Johnston for the sound of conflict to open in the quarter of Centreville upon the Federal left flank and rear (making allowance, however, for the delays possible to commands unused to battle), when I was chagrined to hear from General D. E. Jones that, while he had been long ready for the movement upon Centreville, General Ewell had not come up to form on his right, though he had sent him between 7 and 8 o’clock a copy of his own order which recited that Ewell had been already ordered to begin the movement. I dispatched an immediate order to Ewell to advance; but within a quarter of an hour, just as I received a dispatch from him informing me that he had received no order to advance in the morning, the firing on the left began to increase so intensely as to indicate a severe attack, whereupon General Johnston said that he would go personally to that quarter.

After weighing attentively the firing, which seemed rapidly and heavily increasing, it appeared to me that the troops on the right wovdd be unable to get into position before the Federal offensive should have made too much progress on our left, and that it would be better to abandon it altogether, maintaining only a strong demonstration so as to detain the enemy in front of our right and center, and hurry up all available reinforcements — including the reserves that were to have moved upon Centreville — to our left and fight the battle out in that quarter. Communicating this view to General Johnston, who approved it (giving his advice, as he said, for what it was worth, as he was not acquainted with the country), I ordered Ewell, Jones, and Longstreet to make a strong demonstration all along their front on the other side of the Run, and ordered the reserves below our position, Holmes’s brigade with 6 guns, and Early’s brigade, also 2 regiments of Bonham’s brigade, near at hand, to move swiftly to the left. General Johnston and I now set out at full speed for the point of conflict. We arrived there just as Bee’s troops, after giving way, were fleeing in disorder behind the height in rear of the Stone Bridge. They had come around between the base of the hill and the Stone Bridge into a shallow ravine which ran up to a point on the crest where Jackson had already formed his brigade along the edge of the woods. We found the commanders resolutely stemming the further flight of the routed forces, but vainly endeavoring to restore order, and our own efforts were as futile. Every segment of line we succeeded in forming was again dissolved while another was being formed; more than two thousand men were shouting each some suggestion to his neighbor, their voices mingling with the noise of the shells hurtling through the trees overhead, and all word of command drowned in the confusion and uproar. It was at this moment that General Bee used the famous expression, “Look at Jackson’s brigade! It stands there like a stone wall”— a name that passed from the brigade to its immortal commander. The disorder seemed irretrievable, but happily the thought came to me that if their colors were planted out to the front the men might rally on them, and I gave the order to carry the standards forward some forty yards, which was promptly executed by the regimental officers, thus drawing the common eye of the troops. They now received easily the orders to advance and form on the line of their colors, which they obeyed with a general movement; and as General Johnston and myself rode forward shortly after with the colors of the 4th Alabama by our side, the line that had fought all morning, and had fled, routed and disordered, now advanced again into position as steadily as veterans. The 4th Alabama had previously lost all its field-officers; and noticing Colonel S. R. Gist, an aide to General Bee, a young man whom I had known as adjutant-general of South Carolina, and whom I greatly esteemed, I presented him as an able and brave commander to the stricken regiment, who cheered their new leader, and maintained under him, to the end of the day, their previous gallant behavior. We had come none too soon, as the enemy’s forces, flushed with the belief of accomplished victory, were already advancing across the valley of Young’s Branch and up the slope, where they had encountered for a while the fire of the Hampton Legion, which had been led forward toward the Robinson house and the turnpike in front, covering the retreat and helping materially to check the panic of Bee’s routed forces.

As soon as order was restored I requested General Johnston to go back to Portici (the Lewis house), and from that point — which I considered most favorable for the purpose — forward me the reinforcements as they would come from the Bull Run lines below and those that were expected to arrive from Manassas, while I should direct the field. General Johnston was disinclined to leave the battle-field for that position. As I had been compelled to leave my chief-of-staff, Colonel Jordan, at Manassas to forward any troops arriving there, I felt it was a necessity that one of us should go to this duty, and that it was his place to do so, as I felt I was responsible for the battle. He considerately yielded to my urgency, and we had the benefit of his energy and sagacity in so directing the reenforcements toward the field, as to be readily and effectively assistant to my pressing needs and insure the success of the day.

As General Johnston departed for Portici, I hastened to form our line of battle against the on-coming enemy. I ordered up the 49th and 8th Virginia regiments from Cocke’s neighboring brigade in the Bull Bun lines. Gartrell’s 7th Georgia I placed in position on the left of Jackson’s brigade, along the belt of pines occupied by the latter on the eastern rim of the plateau. As the 49th Virginia rapidly came up, its colonel, ex-Governor William Smith, was encouraging them with cheery word and manner, and, as they approached, indicated to them the immediate presence of the commander. As the regiment raised a loud cheer, the name was caught by some of the troops of Jackson’s brigade in the immediate wood, who rushed out, calling for General Beauregard. Hastily acknowledging these happy signs of sympathy and confidence, which reenforce alike the capacity of commander and troops, I placed the 49th Virginia in position on the extreme left next to Gartrell, and as I paused to say a few words to Jackson, while hurrying back to the right, my horse was killed under me by a bursting shell, a fragment of which carried away part of the heel of my boot. The Hampton Legion, which had suffered greatly, was placed on the right of Jackson’s brigade, and Hunton’s 8th Virginia, as it arrived, upon the right of Hampton; the two latter being drawn somewhat to the rear so as to form with Jackson’s right regiment a reserve, and be ready likewise to make defense against any advance from the direction of the Stone Bridge, whence there was imminent peril from the enemy’s heavy forces, as I had just stripped that position almost entirely of troops to meet the active crisis on the plateau, leaving this quarter now covered only by a few men, whose defense was otherwise assisted solely by the obstruction of an abatis.

With 6500 men and 13 pieces of artillery, I now awaited the onset of the enemy, who were pressing forward 20,000 strong, (8) with 24 pieces of superior artillery and 7 companies of regular cavalry. They soon appeared over the farther rim of the plateau, seizing the Robinson house on my right and the Henry house opposite my left center. Near the latter they placed in position the two powerful batteries of Ricketts and Griffin of the regular army, and pushed forward up the Sudley road, the slope of which was cut so deep below the adjacent ground as to afford a covered way up to the plateau. Supported by the formidable lines of Federal musketry, these 2 batteries lost no time in making themselves felt, while 3 more batteries in rear on the high ground beyond the Sudley and Warrenton cross-roads swelled the shower of shell that fell among our ranks.

Our own batteries, Imboden’s, Stanard’s, five of Walton’s guns, reenforced later by Pendleton’s and Alburtis’s (their disadvantage being reduced by the shortness of range), swept the surface of the plateau from their position on the eastern rim. I felt that, after the accidents of the morning, much depended on maintaining the steadiness of the troops against the first heavy onslaught, and rode along the lines encouraging the men to unflinching behavior, meeting, as I passed each command, a cheering response. The steady fire of their musketry told severely on the Federal ranks, and the splendid action of our batteries was a fit preface to the marked skill exhibited by our artillerists during the war. The enemy suffered particularly from the musketry on our left, now further reenforced by the 2d Mississippi — the troops in this quarter confronting each other at very short range. Here two companies of Stuart’s cavalry charged through the Federal ranks that filled the Sudley road, increasing the disorder wrought upon that flank of the enemy. But with superior numbers the Federals were pushing on new regiments in the attempt to flank my position, and several guns, in the effort to enfilade ours, were thrust forward so near the 33d Virginia that some of its men sprang forward and captured them, but were driven back by an overpowering force of Federal musketry. Although the enemy were held well at bay, their pressure became so strong that I resolved to take the offensive, and ordered a charge on my right for the purpose of recovering the plateau. The movement, made with alacrity and force by the commands of Bee, Bartow, Evans, and Hampton, thrilled the entire line, Jackson’s brigade piercing the enemy’s center, and the left of the line under Gartrell and Smith following up the charge, also, in that quarter, so that the whole of the open surface of the plateau was swept clear of the Federals.

Apart from its impressions on the enemy, the effect of this brilliant onset was to give a short breathing-spell to our troops from the immediate strain of conflict, and encourage them in withstanding the still more strenuous offensive that was soon to bear upon them. Reorganizing our line of battle under the unremitting fire of the Federal batteries opposite, I prepared to meet the new attack which the enemy were about to make, largely reenforced by the troops of Howard’s brigade, newly arrived on the field. The Federals again pushed up the slope, the face of which partly afforded good cover by the numerous ravines that scored it and the clumps of young pines and oaks with which it was studded, while the sunken Sudley road formed a good ditch and parapet for their aggressive advance upon my left flank and rear. Gradually they pressed our lines back and regained possession of their lost ground and guns. With the Henry and Robinson houses once more in their possession, they resumed the offensive, urged forward by their commanders with conspicuous gallantry.

The conflict now became very severe for the final possession of this position, which was the key to victory. The Federal numbers enabled them so to extend their lines through the woods beyond the Sudley road as to outreach my left flank, which I was compelled partly to throw back, so as to meet the attack from that quarter; meanwhile their numbers equally enabled them to outflank my right in the direction of the Stone Bridge, imposing anxious watchfulness in that direction. I knew that I was safe if I could hold out till the arrival of reenforcements, which was but a matter of time; and, with the full sense of my own responsibility, I was determined to hold the line of the plateau, even if surrounded on all sides, until assistance should come, unless my forces were sooner overtaken by annihilation.

It was now between half-past 2 and 3 o’clock; a scorching sun increased the oppression of the troops, exhausted from incessant fighting, many of them having been engaged since the morning. Fearing lest the Federal offensive should secure too firm a grip, and knowing the fatal result that might spring from any grave infraction of my line, I determined to make another effort for the recovery of the plateau, and ordered a charge of the entire line of battle, including the reserves, which at this crisis I myself led into action. The movement was made with such keeping and dash that the whole plateau was swept clear of the enemy, who were driven down the slope and across the turnpike on our right and the valley of Young’s Branch on our left, leaving in our final possession the Robinson and Henry houses, with most of Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries, the men of which were mostly shot down where they bravely stood by their guns. Fisher’s 6th North Carolina, directed to the Lewis house by Colonel Jordan from Manassas, where it had just arrived, and thence to the field by General Johnston, came up in happy time to join in this charge on the left. Withers’s 18th Virginia, which I had ordered up from Cocke’s brigade, was also on hand in time to follow and give additional effect to the charge, capturing, by aid of the Hampton Legion, several guns, which were immediately turned and served upon the broken ranks of the enemy by some of our officers. This handsome work, which broke the Federal fortunes of the day, was done, however, at severe cost. The soldierly Bee, and the gallant, impetuous Bartow, whose day of strong deeds was about to close with such credit, fell a few rods back of the Henry house, near the very spot whence in the morning they had first looked forth upon Evans’s struggle with the enemy. Colonel Fisher also fell at the very head of his troops. Seeing Captain Ricketts, who was badly wounded in the leg, and having known him in the old army, I paused from my anxious duties to ask him whether I could do anything for him. He answered that he wanted to be sent back to Washington. As some of our prisoners were there held under threats of not being treated as prisoners of war, I replied that that must depend upon how our prisoners were treated, and ordered him to be carried to the rear. I mention this, because the report of the Federal Committee on the Conduct of the War exhibits Captain Ricketts as testif ying that I only approached him to say that he would be treated as our prisoners might be treated. I sent my own surgeons to care for him, and allowed his wife to cross the lines and accompany him to Richmond; and my adjutant-general, Colonel Jordan, escorting her to the car that carried them to that city, personally attended to the comfortable placing of the wounded enemy for the journey.

That part of the enemy who occupied the woods beyond our left and across the Sudley road had not been reached by the headlong charge which had swept their comrades from the plateau; but the now arriving reenforcements (Kershaw’s 2d and Cash’s 8th South Carolina) were led into that quarter. Kemper’s battery also came up, preceded by its commander, who, while alone, fell into the hands of a number of the enemy, who took him prisoner, until a few moments later, when he handed them over to some of our own troops accompanying his battery. A small plateau, within the south-west angle of the Sudley and turnpike cross-roads, was still held by a strong Federal brigade — Howard’s troops, together with Sykes’s battalion of regulars; and while Kershaw and Cash, after passing through the skirts of the oak wood along the Sudley road, engaged this force, Kemper’s battery was sent forward by Kershaw along the same road, into position near where a hostile battery had been captured, and whence it played upon the enemy in the open field.

Quickly following these regiments came Preston’s 28th Virginia, which, passing through the woods, encountered and drove back some Michigan troops, capturing Brigadier-General Willcox. It was now about 3 o’clock, when another important reenforcement came to our aid—Elzey’s brigade, 1700 strong, of the Army of the Shenandoah, which, coming from Piedmont by railroad, had arrived at Manassas station, 6 miles in rear of the battle-field, at noon, and had been without delay directed thence toward the field by Colonel Jordan, aided by Major T. G. Rhett, who that morning had passed from General Bonham’s to General Johnston’s staff. Upon nearing the vicinity of the Lewis house, the brigade was directed by a staff-officer sent by General Johnston toward the left of the field. As it reached the oak wood, just across the Sudley road, led by General Kirby Smith, the latter fell severely wounded; but the command devolved upon Colonel Elzey, an excellent officer, who was now guided by Captain D. B. Harris of the Engineers, a highly accomplished officer of my staff, still farther to the left and through the woods, so as to form in extension of the line of the preceding reinforcements. Beckham’s battery, of the same command, was hurried forward by the Sudley road and around the woods into position near the Chinn house; from a well-selected point of action, in full view of the enemy that filled the open fields west of the Sudley road, it played with deadly and decisive effect upon their ranks, already under the fire of Elzey’s brigade. Keyes’s Federal brigade, which had made its way across the turnpike in rear of the Stone Bridge, was lurking along under cover of the ridges and a wood in order to turn my line on the right, but was easily repulsed by Latham’s battery, already placed in position over that approach by Captain Harris, aided by Alburtis’s battery, opportunely sent to Latham’s left by General Jackson, and supported by fragments of troops collected by staff-officers. Meanwhile, the enemy had formed a line of battle of formidable proportions on the opposite height, and stretching in crescent outline, with flanks advanced, from the Pittsylvania (Carter) mansion on their left across the Sudley road in rear of Dogan’s and reaching toward the Chinn house. They offered a fine spectacle as they threw forward a cloud of skirmishers down the opposite slope, preparatory to a new assault against the line on the plateau. But their right was now severely pressed by the troops that had successively arrived; the force in the south-west angle of the Sudley and Warrenton cross-roads were driven from their position, and, as Early’s brigade, which, by direction of General Johnston, had swept around by the rear of the woods through which Elzey had passed, appeared on the field, his line of march bore upon the flank of the enemy, now retiring in that quarter.

This movement by my extreme left was masked by the trend of the woods from many of our forces on the plateau; and bidding those of my staff and escort around me raise a loud cheer, I dispatched the information to the several commands, with orders to go forward in a common charge. Before the full advance of the Confederate ranks the enemy’s whole line, whose right was already yielding, irretrievably broke, fleeing across Bull Run by every available direction. Major Sykes’s regulars, aided by Sherman’s brigade, made a steady and handsome withdrawal, protecting the rear of the routed forces, and enabling many to escape by the Stone Bridge. Having ordered in pursuit all the troops on the field, I went to the Lewis house, and, the battle being ended, turned over the command to General Johnston. Mounting a fresh horse,— the fourth on that day,— I started to press the pursuit which was being made by our infantry and cavalry, some of the latter having been sent by General Johnston from Lewis’s Ford to intercept the enemy on the turnpike. I was soon overtaken, however, by a courier bearing a message from Major T. G. Rhett, General Johnston’s chief-of-staff on duty at Manassas railroad station, informing me of a report that a large Federal force, having pierced our lower line on Bull Run, was moving upon Camp Pickens, my depot of supplies near Manassas. I returned, and communicated this important news to General Johnston. Upon consultation it was deemed best that I should take Ewell’s and Holmes’s brigades, which were hastening up to the battle-field, but too late for the action, and fall on this force of the enemy, while reinforcements should be sent me from the pursuing forces, who were to be recalled for that purpose. To head off the danger and gain time, I hastily mounted a force of infantry behind the cavalrymen then present, but, on approaching the line of march near McLean’s Ford, which the Federals must have taken, I learned that the news was a false alarm caught from the return of General Jones’s forces to this side of the Run, the similarity of the uniforms and the direction of their march having convinced some nervous person that they were a force of the enemy. It was now almost dark, and too late to resume the broken pursuit; on my return I met the coming forces, and, as they were very tired, I ordered them to halt and bivouac for the night where they were. After giving such attention as I could to the troops, I started for Manassas, where I arrived about 10 o’clock, and found Mr. Davis at my headquarters with General Johnston. Arriving from Richmond late in the afternoon, Mr. Davis had immediately galloped to the field, accompanied by Colonel Jordan. They had met between Manassas and the battle-field the usual number of stragglers to the rear, whose appearance belied the determined array then sweeping the enemy before it, but Mr. Davis had the happiness to arrive in time to witness the last of the Federals disappearing beyond Bull Run. The next morning I received from his hand at our breakfast-table my commission, dated July 21st, as General in the Army of the Confederate States, and after his return to Richmond the kind congratulations of the Secretary of War and of General Lee, then acting as military adviser to the President.

It was a point made at the time at the North that, just as the Confederate troops were about to break and flee, the Federal troops anticipated them by doing so, being struck into this precipitation by the arrival upon their flank of the Shenandoah forces marching from railroad trains halted en route with that aim—errors that have been repeated by a number of writers, and by an ambitious but superficial French author.

There were certain sentiments of a personal character clustering about this first battle, and personal anxiety as to its issue, that gladly accepted this theory. To this may be added the general readiness to accept a sentimental or ultra-dramatic explanation—a sorcery wrought by the delay or arrival of some force, or the death or coming of somebody, or any other single magical event—whereby history is easily caught, rather than to seek an understanding of that which is but the gradual result of the operation of many forces, both of opposing design and actual collision, modified more or less by the falls of chance. The personal sentiment, though natural enough at the time, has no place in any military estimate, or place of any kind at this day. The battle of Manassas was, like any other battle, a progression and development from the deliberate counter-employment of the military resources in hand, affected by accidents, as always, but of a kind very different from those referred to. My line of battle, which twice had not only withstood the enemy’s attack, but had taken the offensive and driven him back in disorder, was becoming momentarily stronger from the arrival, at last, of the reenforcements provided for; and if the enemy had remained on the field till the arrival of Ewell and Holmes, they would have been so strongly outflanked that many who escaped would have been destroyed or captured.

Though my adversary’s plan of battle was a good one as against a passive defensive opponent, such as he may have deemed I must be from the respective numbers and positions of our forces, it would, in my judgment, have been much better if, with more dash, the flank attack had been made by the Stone Bridge itself and the ford immediately above it. The plan adopted, however, favored above all things the easy -execution of the offensive operations I had designed and ordered against his left flank and rear at Centreville. His turning column —18,000 strong, and presumably his best troops—was thrown off by a long ellipse through a narrow forest road to Sudley Ford, from which it moved down upon my left flank, and was thus dislocated from his main body. This severed movement of his forces not only left his exposed left and rear at Centreville weak against the simultaneous offensive of my heaviest forces upon it, which I had ordered, but the movement of his returning column would have been disconcerted and paralyzed by the early sound of this heavy conflict in its rear, and it could not even have made its way back so as to be available for manoeuvre before the Centreville fraction had been thrown back upon it in disorder. A new army is very liable to panic, and, in view of the actual result of the battle, the conclusion can hardly be resisted that the panic which fell on the Federal army would thus have seized it early in the day, and with my forces in such a position as wholly to cut off its retreat upon Washington. But the commander of the front line on my right, who had been ordered to hold himself in readiness to initiate the offensive at a moment’s notice, did not make the move expected of him because through accident he failed to receive his own immediate order to advance. (9) The Federal commander’s flanking movement, being thus uninterrupted by such a counter-movement as I had projected, was further assisted through the rawness and inadequacy of our staff organization through which I was left unacquainted with the actual state of affairs on my left. The Federal attack, already thus greatly favored, and encouraged, moreover, by the rout of General Bee’s advanced line, failed for two reasons : their forces were not handled with concert of masses (a fault often made later on both sides), and the individual action of the Confederate troops was superior, and for a very palpable reason. That one army was fighting for union and the other for disunion is a political expression; the actual fact on the battle-field, in the face of cannon and musket, was that the Federal troops came as invaders, and the Southern troops stood as defenders of their homes, and further than this we need not go. The armies were vastly greater than had ever before fought on this continent, and were the largest volunteer armies ever assembled since the era of regular armies. The personal material on both sides was of exceptionally good character, and collectively superior to that of any subsequent period of the war. (10) The Confederate army was filled with generous youths who had answered the first call to arms. For certain kinds of field duty they were not as yet adapted, many of them having at first come with their baggage and servants; these they had to dispense with, but, not to offend their susceptibilities, I then exacted the least work from them, apart from military drills, even to the prejudice of important fieldworks, when I could not get sufficient negro labor; they “had come to fight, and not to handle the pick and shovel,” and their fighting redeemed well their shortcomings as intrenchers. Before I left that gallant army, however, it had learned how readily the humbler could aid the nobler duty.

As to immediate results and trophies, we captured a great many stands of arms, batteries, equipments, standards, and flags, one of which was sent to me, through General Longstreet, as a personal compliment by the Texan “crack shot,” Colonel B. F. Terry, who lowered it from its mast at Fairfax Court House, by cutting the halyards by means of his unerring rifle, as our troops next morning reoccupied that place. We captured also many prisoners, including a number of surgeons, whom (the first time in war) we treated not as prisoners, but as guests. Calling attention to their brave devotion to their wounded, I recommended to the War Department that they be sent home without exchange, together with some other prisoners, who had shown personal kindness to Colonel Jones, of the 4th Alabama, who had been mortally wounded early in the day.

SUBSEQUENT RELATIONS OF MR. DAVIS AND THE WRITER

The military result of the victory was far short of what it should have been. It established as an accomplished fact, on the indispensable basis of military success, the Government of the Confederate States, which before was but a political assertion; but it should have reached much further. The immediate pursuit, but for the false alarm which checked it, would have continued as far as the Potomac, but must have stopped there with no greater result than the capture of more prisoners and material. The true immediate fruits of the victory should have been the dispersion of all the Federal forces south of Baltimore and east of the Alleghanies, the liberation of the State of Maryland, and the capture of Washington, which could have been made only by the Upper Potomac. And from the high source of this achievement other decisive results would have continued to flow. From my experience in the Mexican war I had great confidence in intelligent volunteer troops, if rightly handled; and with such an active and victorious war-engine as the Confederate Army of the Potomac could have immediately been made,— reenforced, as time went, by numbers and discipline,— the Federal military power in the East could never have reached the head it took when McClellan was allowed to organize and discipline at leisure the powerful army that, in the end, wore out the South. In war one success makes another easier, and its right use is as the step to another, until final achievement. This was the use besought by me in the plan of campaign I have mentioned as presented to Mr. Davis on the 14th of July, a few days before the battle, but rejected by him as impracticable, and as rather offering opportunity to the enemy to crush us. To supply the deficiency of transportation (our vehicles being few in number, and many so poor as to break down in ordinary camp service), I myself had assigned to special duty Colonel (since Governor) James L. Kemper, of Virginia, who quickly obtained for me some two hundred good wagons, to which number I had limited him so as not to arouse again the jealousy of the President’s staff. If my plan of operations for the capture of Washington had been adopted, I should have considered myself thereby authorized and free to obtain, as I readily could have done, the transportation necessary. As it was—though the difficult part of this “impracticable” plan of operations had been proven feasible, that is, the concentration of the Shenandoah forces with mine (wrung later than the eleventh hour through the alarm over the march upon Richmond, and discountenanced again nervously at the twelfth hour by another alarm as to how “the enemy may vary his plans” in consequence), followed by the decisive defeat of the main Federal forces — nevertheless the army remained rooted in the spot, although we had more than fifteen thousand troops who had been not at all or but little in the battle and were perfectly organized, while the remaining commands, in the high spirits of victory, could have been reorganized at the tap of the drum, and many with improved captured arms and equipments. I had already urged my views with unusual persistency, and acted on them against all but an express order to the contrary; and as they had been deliberately rejected in their ultimate scope by Mr. Davis as the commander-in-chief, I did not feel authorized to urge them further than their execution had been allowed, unless the subject were broached anew by himself. But there was no intimation of any such change of purpose, and the army, consistently with this inertia, was left unprovided for manoeuvre with transportation for its ammunition; its fortitude, moreover, as a new and volunteer army, while spending sometimes 24 hours without food, being only less wonderful than the commissary administration at Richmond, from which such a state of affairs could proceed even two weeks after the battle of Manassas. Although certain political superstitions about not consolidating the North may then have weighed against the action I proposed, they would have been light against a true military policy, if such had existed in the head of the Government. Apart from an active material ally, such as the colonies had afield and on sea in the War of Independence with Great Britain, a country in fatal war must depend on the vigor of its warfare; the more inferior the country, the bolder and more enterprising the use of its resources, especially if its frontiers are convenient to the enemy. I was convinced that our success lay in a short, quick war of decisive blows, before the Federals, with their vast resources, could build up a great military power; to which end a concerted use of our forces, immediate and sustained, was necessary, so that, weaker though we were at all separate points, we might nevertheless strike with superior strength at some chosen decisive point, and after victory there reach for victory now made easier elsewhere, and thus sum up success. Instead of this, which in war we call concentration, our actual policy was diffusion, an inferior Confederate force at each separate point defensively confronting a superior Federal force; our power daily shrinking, that of the enemy increasing; the avowed Federal policy being that of “attrition,” their bigger masses grinding our smaller, one by one, to naught. Out of this state we never emerged, when the direction of the Government was, as almost always, necessary, excepting when “Richmond ” was immediately in danger.

Thus, in the fall of 1861, about three months after the battle of Manassas,— after throwing my whole force forward to Fairfax Court House, with outposts flaunting our flags on the hills in sight of Washington, in order to chafe the Federals to another battle, but without success,— I proposed that the army should be raised to an effective of 60,000 men, by drawing 20,000 for the immediate enterprise from several points along the seaboard, not even at that time threatened, and from our advanced position be swiftly thrown across the Potomac at a point which I had had carefully surveyed for that purpose, and moved upon the rear of Washington, thus forcing McClellan to a decisive engagement before his organization (new enlistments) was completed, and while our own army had the advantage of discipline and prestige — seasoned soldiers, whose term, however, would expire in the early part of the coming summer. This plan, approved by General Gustavus W. Smith (then immediately commanding General Johnston’s own forces) as well as by General Johnston, was submitted to Mr. Davis in a conference at my headquarters, but rejected because he would not venture to strip those points of the troops we required. Even if those points had been captured, though none were then even threatened, they must have reverted as a direct consequence to so decisive a success. I was willing, then, should it have come to that, to exchange even Richmond temporarily for Washington. Yet it was precisely from similar combinations and elements that the army was made up, to enable it the next spring, under General Lee, to encounter McClellan at the very door of Richmond. If that which was accepted as a last defensive resort against an overwhelming aggressive army had been used in an enterprising offensive against that same army while yet in the raw, the same venture had been made at less general risk, less cost of valuable lives, and with greater certain results. The Federal army would have had no chance meanwhile to become tempei’ed to that magnificent military machine which, through all its defeats and losses, remained sound, and was stronger, with its readily assimilating new strength, at the end of the war than ever before; the pressure would have been lifted from Kentucky and Missouri, and we should have maintained what is called an active defensive warfare, that is, should have taken and kept the offensive against the enemy, enforcing peace.

No people ever warred for independence with more relative advantages than the Confederates; and if, as a military question, they must have failed, then no country must aim at freedom by means of war. We were one in sentiment as in territory, starting out, not with a struggling administration of doubtful authority, but with our ancient State governments and a fully organized central government. As a military question, it was in no sense a civil war, but a war between two countries—for conquest on one side, for self-preservation on the other. The South, with its great material resources, its defensive means of mountains, rivers, railroads, and telegraph, with the immense advantage of the interior lines of war, would be open to discredit as a people if its failure could not be explained otherwise than by mere material contrast. The great Frederick, at the head of a little people, not only beat back a combination of several great military powers, but conquered and kept territory; and Napoleon held combined Europe at the feet of France till his blind ambition overleaped itself. It may be said that the South had no Fredericks or Napoleons; but it had at least as good commanders as its adversary. Nor was it the fault of our soldiers or people. Our soldiers were as brave and intelligent as ever bore arms; and, if only for reasons already mentioned, they did not lack in determination. Our people bore a devotion to the cause never surpassed, and which no war-making monarch ever had for his support; they gave their all—even the last striplings under the family roofs filling the ranks voided by the fall of their fathers and brothers. But the narrow military view of the head of the Government, which illustrated itself at the outset by ordering from Europe, not 100,000 or 1,000,000, but 10,000 stands of arms, as an increase upon 8000, its first estimate, was equally narrow and timid in its employment of our armies.

The moral and material forces actually engaged in the war made our success amoral certainty, but for the timid policy which—ignoring strategy as a science and boldness of enterprise as its ally — could never be brought to new the whole theater of war as one subject, of which all points were but integral parts, or to hazard for the time points relatively unimportant for the purpose of gathering for an overwhelming and rapid stroke at some decisive point; and which, again, with characteristic mis-elation, would push a victorious force directly forward into unsupported and disastrous operations, instead of using its victory to spare from it strength sufficient to secure an equally important success in another quarter. The great principles of war are truths, and the same to-day as in the time of Caesar or Napoleon, notwithstanding the ideas of some thoughtless persons—their applications being but intensified by the scientific discoveries affecting transportation and communication of intelligence. These principles are few and simple, however various their deductions and application. Skill in strategy consists in seeing through the intricacies of the whole situation, and bringing into proper combination forces and influences, though seemingly unrelated, so as to apply these principles, and with boldness of decision and execution appearing with the utmost force, and, if possible, superior odds, before the enemy at some strategic, that is, decisive point. And although a sound military plan may not be always so readily conceived, yet any plan that offers decisive results, if it agree with the principles of war, is as plain and intelligible as these principles themselves, and no more to be rejected than they. There still remains, of course, the hazard of accident in execution, and the apprehension of the enemy’s movements upsetting your own; but hazard may also favor as well as disfavor, and will not unbefriend the enterprising any more than the timid. It was this fear of possible consequences that kept our forces scattered in inferior relative strength at all points of the compass, each holding its bit of ground till by slow local process our territory was taken and our separate forces destroyed, or, if captured, retained by the enemy without exchange in their process of attrition. To stop the slow consumption of this passive mode of warfare I tried my part, and, at certain critical junctures, proposed to the Government active plans of operation looking to such results as I have described,— sometimes, it is true, in relation to the employment of forces not under my control, as I was the soldier of a cause and people, not of a monarch nor even of a government. Two occasions there were when certain of the most noted Federal operations, from their isolated or opportune character, might, with energy and intelligent venture on the Confederate side, have been turned into fatal disaster; among them Grant’s movement in front of Vicksburg, and his change of base from the north to the south of the James River, where I was in command, in his last campaign against Richmond. I urged particularly that our warfare was sure of final defeat unless we attempted decisive strokes that might be followed up to the end, and that, even if earlier defeat might chance from the risk involved in the execution of the necessary combinations, we ought to take that risk and thereby either win or end an otherwise useless struggle. But, in addition to the radical divergence of military ideas,— the passive defensive of an intellect timid of risk and not at home in war, and the active defensive reaching for success through enterprise and boldness, according to the lessons taught us in the campaigns of the great masters,— there was a personal feeling that now gave cold hearing, or none, to any recommendations of mine. Mr. Davis’s friendship, warm at the early period of the war, was changed, some time after the battle of Manassas, to a corresponding hostility from several personal causes, direct and indirect, of which I need mention but one. My report of Manassas having contained, as part of its history, a statement of the submission of the full plan of campaign for concentrating our forces, crushing successively McDowell and Patterson and capturing Washington, Mr. Davis strangely took offense thereat; and, now that events had demonstrated the practicability of that plan, he sought to get rid of his self-accused responsibility for rejecting it, by denying that any such had been submitted — an issue, for that matter, easily settled by my production of the contemporaneous report of Colonel James Chesnut, the bearer of the mission, who, moreover, at the time of this controversy was on Mr. Davis’s own staff, where he remained. Mr. Davis made an endeavor to suppress the publication of my report of the battle of Manassas. The matter came up in a secret debate in the Confederate Congress, where a host of friends were ready to sustain me; but I sent a telegram disclaiming any desire for its publication, and advising that tli i safety of the country should be our solicitude, and not personal ends.

Thenceforth Mr. Davis’s hostility was watchful and adroit, neglecting no opportunity, great or small; and though, from motives all its opposite, it was not exposed during the war by any murmurs of mine, it bruited sometimes in certain quarters of its own force. Thus, when in January, 1862, the Western representatives expressed a desire that I should separate myself for a time from my Virginia forces and go to the defense of the Mississippi Valley from the impending offensive of Halleck and Grant, it was furthered by the Executive with inducements which I trusted,— in disregard of Senator Toombs’s sagacious warning, that under this furtherance lurked a purpose to effect my downfall, urged in one of his communications through his son-in-law, Mr. Alexander, in words as impressive as they proved prophetic: “Urge General Beauregard to decline all proposals and solicitations. The Blade of Joab. Verbum Sapienti” After going through the campaign of Shiloh and Corinth, not only with those inducements unfulfilled, but with vital drawbacks from the Government, including the refusal of necessary rank to competent subordinates to assist in organizing my hastily collected and mostly raw troops, I was forced, the following June, in deferred obedience to the positive order of my physicians, to withdraw from my immediate camp to another point in my department for recovery from illness, leaving under the care of my lieutenant, General Bragg, my army, then unmenaced and under reorganization with a view to an immediate offensive I had purposed. In anticipation and exclusion of the receipt of full dispatches following my telegram, the latter was tortuously misread, in a manner not creditable to a school-boy and repugnant to Mr. Davis’s exact knowledge of syntax, so as to give pretext to the shocking charge that I had abandoned my army, and a telegram was sent in naked haste directly to General Bragg, telling him to retain the permanent command of the army. The “Blade of Joab” had given its thrust. The representatives in Congress from the West and South-west applied to Mr. Davis in a body for my restoration; and when, disregarding his sheer pretext that I had abandoned my army, they still insisted, Mr. Davis declared that I should not be restored if the whole world should ask it! This machination went to such length that it was given out in Richmond that I had softening of the brain and had gone crazy. So carefully was this report fostered (one of its tales being that I would sit all day stroking a pheasant (11)) that a friend of mine, a member of the Confederate Congress, thought it his duty to write me a special letter respecting the device, advising me to come directly to Richmond to confound it by my presence — a proceeding which I disdained to take. I had not only then, but from later, still more offensive provocation, imperative cause to resign, and would have done so but for a sense of public obligation. Indeed, in my after fields of action the same hostility was more and more active in its various embarrassments, reckless that the strains inflicted upon me bore upon the troops and country depending on me and relatively upon the cause, so that I often dreaded failure more from my own Government behind me than from the enemy in my front; and, when success came in spite of this, it was acknowledged only by some censorious official “inquiry” contrasting with the repeated thanks of the Congress. I was, however, not the only one of the highest military rank with whom Mr. Davis’s relations were habitually unwholesome. It is an extraordinary fact that during the four years of war Mr. Davis did not call together the five generals [see page 241] with a view to determining the best military policy or settling upon a decisive plan of operations involving the whole theater of war, though there was often ample opportunity for it. We needed for President either a military man of a high order, or a politician of the first class without military pretensions, such as Howell Cobb. The South did not fall crushed by the mere weight of the North; but it was nibbled away at all sides and ends because its executive head never gathered and wielded its great strength under the ready advantages that greatly reduced or neutralized its adversary’s naked physical superiority. It is but another of the many proofs that timid direction may readily go with physical courage, and that the passive defensive policy may make a long agony, but can never win a war.

POSTSCRIPT.—Since the publication of the foregoing pages in “The Century” for November, 1884, General J. E. Johnston, in the course of a paper also contributed to “The Century” [see page 240], took occasion, for the first time, to set up with positiveness and circumstantiality the claim to having exercised a controlling connection with the tactics of all the phases of the battle of the 21st of July, 1861. Respecting such a pretension I shall be content for the present to recall that, while entirely at variance with the part I have ascribed to him in relation to that field, it is logically untenable, at this day, when confronted with the records of the period. In my own official report of the battle closely contemporaneous with the events narrated — a report that was placed in his hands for perusal before transmission— it is distinctly related that for certain reasons, chiefly military, General Johnston had left in my hands for the impending conflict the command of the Confederate forces. The precise circumstances of my direct conduct of and responsibility for the battle are stated in such terms that, had I not been in actual direction of the day’s operations on the part of the Confederates, General Johnston must have made the issue squarely then and there in his own official report. And all the more incumbent upon him was the making of such an issue, it seems to me, then or never, in view of the fact that the Confederate Secretary of War on the 24th of July, 1861, wrote me in these words:

“MY DEAR GENERAL: Accept my congratulations for the glorious and most brilliant victory achieved by you. The country will bless and honor you for it. Believe me, dear General,

“Truly your friend, L. P. WALKER.”

Further, General Lee thus addressed me:

“MY DEAR GENERAL : I cannot express the joy I feel at the brilliant victory of the 21st. The skill, courage, and endurance displayed by yourself excite my highest admiration. You and your troops have the gratitude of the whole country, and I offer to all my heartfelt congratulations at their success. . . . Very truly yours, R. E. LEE.”

Of the exact purport of these two letters General Johnston could not have been ignorant when he wrote his report of the battle. Nor could he have been unaware that the leading Southern newspapers had in effect attributed to me the chief direction of that battle on the Confederate side. Therefore, if it were the gross historical error which, twenty odd years after the affair, General Johnston characterizes it to be, and one that imputed to him the shirking of a duty which he could not have left unassumed without personal baseness, certainly that was the time for him by a few explicit words in his official report to dispose of so affronting an error. In that report, however, no such exigent, peremptory statement of his relation to the battle is to be found. On the other hand, upon page 57 of his “Narrative” published in 1874 (D. Appleton & Co.), may be found, I fear, the clew to the motive of his actual waiver of command in this curious paragraph:

“If the tactics of the Federals had been equal to their strategy, we should have been beaten. If, instead of being brought into action in detail, their troops had been formed in two lines, with a proper reserve, and had assailed Bee and Jackson in that order, the two Southern brigades must have been swept from the field in a few minutes, or enveloped. General McDowell would have made such a formation, probably, had he not greatly underestimated the strength of his enemy.”

Coupled with the disquieting, ever-apprehensive tenor of his whole correspondence with the Confederate War Department, from the day he assumed command in the Valley of Virginia in May, 1861, down to the close of the struggle hi 1865, the fair inference from such language as that just cited from his “Narrative” is that General Johnston came to Manassas beset with the idea that our united forces would not be able to cope with the Federal army, and that we should be beaten— a catastrophe in which he was not solicitous to figure on the pages of history as the leading and responsible actor. Originally and until 1875,I had regarded it as a generous though natural act on the part of General Johnston, in such a juncture, to leave me in command and responsible for what might occur. The history of military operations abounds in instances of notable soldiers who have found it proper to waive chief command under similar conditions.

(1) The professionally educated officers on the Confederate side at Bull Run included Generals Johnston, Beauregard, Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, Kirby Smith, Ewell, Early, Bee, D. E. Jones, Holmes, Evans, Elzey, and Jordan, all in high positions, besides others not so prominent.— EDITORS.

(2) For the forces actually engaged in the campaign and on the field, see pp. 194-5.— EDITORS.

(3) “I am, however, inclined to believe he [the enemy] may attempt to turn my left flank by a movement in the direction of Vienna, Frying-pan Church, and, possibly, Gum Spring, and thus cut off Johnston’s line of retreat and communication with this place [Manassas Junction] via the Manassas Gap railroad, while threatening my own communications with Richmond and depots of supply by the Alexandria and Orange railroad, and opening his communications with the Potomac through Leesburg and Edward’s Ferry.”—(Extract from a letter addressed by General Beauregard to Jefferson Davis, July 11th, 1801.)

(4) It is denied that a serious attempt “to force a passage” was made on the 18th. (See page 178.) This engagement was called by the Confederates the battle of Bull Run, the main fight on the 21st being known in the South as the battle of Manassas (pronounced Ma-nass’-sa).—EDITORS.

(5) [TELEGRAM.] RICHMOND, July 19, 1861.
GENERAL BEAUREGARD, Manassas, Va.
We have no intelligence from General Johnston.  If the enemy in front of you has abandoned an immediate attack, and General Johnston has not moved, you had better withdraw your call upon him, so that he may be left to his full discretion.  All the troops arriving at Lynchburg are ordered to join you. From this place we will send as fast as transportation permits. The enemy is advised at Washington of the projected movement of Generals Johnston and Holmes, and may vary his plans in conformity thereto.
S. COOPER, Adjutant-General.

(6) Lack of rations, as well as the necessity for information, detained McDowell at Centreville during these two days.—EDITORS.

7) See General Beauregard’s postscript (page 226), and General Johnston’s consideration of the same topic in the paper to follow (page 245), and his postscript (page 258).— EDITORS.

(8) According to General Fry (page 188), the Union force in the seizure of the Henry hill consisted of four brigades, a cavalry battalion, and two batteries, or (as we deduce from General Fry’s statements of the strength of McDowell’s forces, page 195) about 11,000 men.— EDITORS.

(9) General R. S. Ewell. See statement of Major Campbell Brown, page 259.— EDITORS.

(10) This battle was noteworthy for the number of participants whose names are now prominently associated with the war. On the Confederate side, besides Generals Johnston and Beauregard, were Generals Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, Ewell, Early, J. E. B. Stuart, Kirby Smith, Wade Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, Thomas Jordan, R. E. Rodes, E. P. Alexander, and others. On the Federal side were Generals McDowell, W. T. Sherman, Burnside, Hunter, Heintzelman, Howard, Franklin, Slocum, Keyes, Hunt, Barry, Fry, Sykes, Barnard, Wadsworth, and others. —EDITORS.

(11) This silly tale was borrowed from an incident of Shiloh. Toward the end of the first day’s battle a soldier had found a pheasant cowering, apparently paralyzed under the ceaseless din, and brought it to my headquarters as a present to me. It was a beautiful bird, and I gave directions to place it in a cage, as I intended sending it as a pleasant token of the battle to the family of Judge Milton Brown, of Jackson, Tennessee, from whom I had received as their guest, while occupying that place, the kindest attentions; but in the second day’s conflict the poor waif was lost.— G. T. B. VOL. 1. 15

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Battles and Leaders – Joe Johnston on Handcuffs at Bull Run

13 02 2010

Joe Johnston’s defense of his actions before, during and after First Bull Run as presented in Responsibilities of the First Bull Run includes this tidbit:

Mr. Davis (“R[ise] and F[all of the Confederate Government],” I, 359) expresses indignation that, as he says, “among the articles abandoned by the enemy . . . were handcuffs, the fit appendage of a policeman, but not of a soldier.” I saw none, nor did I see any one who had seen them.

I think what he’s saying here is that Davis was full of something, and it wasn’t Shinola.

I’ve written about the rumor of handcuffs on the field here, and James Longstreet’s aide T. J. Goree mentioned them as well.

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