#56 – Col. Dixon S. Miles

10 10 2008

Reports of Col. Dixon S. Miles, Second U. S. Infantry, Commanding Fifth Division

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 422-426

[JULY 17, 1861]

SIR: I have the honor to report my arrival at the intersection of the old Braddock road by that leading from Fairfax Court-House to Fairfax Station at 1.30 o’clock p.m. to-day, having been unable to accomplish the march by the time specified in your general order of yesterday, in consequence of the route being obstructed. En route we had some three or four skirmishes, the last one being within three miles of our present camp.

In this, so far as is ascertained, one officer and one private were slightly and one private seriously wounded. I will report more particularly as to this when the official returns reach me.

The obstructions on my route consisted of barricades, some of them quite extensive, caused by felling trees across the road. Within a mile of my present position we came upon quite an extensive earthwork, badly constructed, but capable of considerable defense. The parapet was about six feet thick, revetted with poles, with a command of several feet. The line was four hundred or five hundred yards in length. We found this work deserted. At the location of our present camp I found the camp of the Fifth Regiment Alabama troops, which had just been deserted.

I would report that Maj. J. G. Barnard, Engineers, is with my division. He desires me to inform you that he will remain with it to-morrow unless you otherwise direct.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel Second Infantry, commanding Fifth Division


Assistant Adjutant General, Hdqrs. Dep’t N. E. Va.



Centreville, July 19, 1861

SIR: I have the honor to add the following in reference to the skirmish of the advanced guard of my division, referred to in my report of date the 17th instant.

In this action two companies, deployed as skirmishers, were concerned, and at the time were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Young, of the Eighteenth Regiment New York Volunteers. The fire of the enemy opened from a wood, but, as during the engagement he was not exposed, I cannot report his number.

The wounded of my division are as follows: Lieutenant Groot, Eighteenth Regiment New York Volunteers, in left hand, slightly; Sergeant Allen, Company A, Eighteenth New York Volunteers, in left arm and side, severely; Private Waterson, Company A, Eighteenth New York Volunteers, in thigh, severely; Private McKinly, Company K, Eighteenth New York Volunteers, in leg, slightly.

I would invite the attention of the general commanding to the energetic manner in which Colonel Young discharged his duty. Determined bravery was manifested by every member of the command in contact with the enemy.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel Second Infantry, commanding Fifth Division


Assistant Adjutant-General, Hdqrs. Dep’t N. E. Va.



Camp near Alexandria, July 24, 1861

SIR: My health being impaired and growing worse, if I delay I shall not be able to report the operations of my division on the 21st instant before Bull Run. Believing, besides, that commanders of brigades are directed to report to headquarters, I offer the following for the consideration of the general commanding:

Pursuant to instructions, the brigades of Blenker and Davies, soon after daylight, were in readiness to march and take position, but were prevented from so doing by other divisions blocking up the road. I discovered, however, that Davies’ brigade could be passed to the left and west through fields to Blackburn’s Ford. Lieutenant Prime, Engineer officer, conducted the brigade, and as soon as possible it joined Colonel Richardson before the crossing of this ford on Bull Run. Fire was then opened by Hunt’s battery, supported by Richardson’s brigade on the right. Edwards’ 20-pounder rifled guns were posted on the left, about six hundred yards from Richardson’s position, and sustained by a portion of Davies’ brigade. Blenker’s brigade took position at Centreville, and commenced throwing up intrenchments – one regiment being located at the former work of the enemy, one to the west of the town on the Warrenton road, and two on the heights towards Bull Run. With these last regiments were first placed Tidball’s and Greene’s batteries, Greene’s afterwards being removed to Richardson’s position, in consequence of notification being sent by that officer that about 2,000 of the enemy were about to attack him, and that he required more artillery.

I may here remark that some difference existed in the order given Lieutenant Prime and myself in regard to the defensive works to be thrown up, and also as to the quantity of tools he was to receive; my orders being, by the lieutenant’s advice, to intrench Centreville; his, from Major Barnard, to throw up works at Blackburn’s Ford. No tools came forward but the small amount Lieutenant Prime had of his own. These he took to Richardson’s position, commenced a battery, and made several hundred yards of abatis.  Blenker, with his pioneers, improved and extended the works at Centreville left by the enemy.

It was soon reported that the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment had left at its encampment a battery of field guns. For this Colonel Blenker offered to organize a company of experienced European artillerists, which I accepted. The captain’s name, I regret, I have forgotten, as I should recommend his having permanent command of the guns in question. He is an efficient officer.(*)

So soon as I completed my arrangements with Blenker I visited Colonel Richardson; found him in proper position, and effectively at work, Hunt’s and Edwards’ batteries being in good position. There was no evidence of the enemy immediately about the ford until after the first opening of the fire, when he fled from barns and houses in the vicinity. I then, after ordering proper supports for the batteries and placing a reserve force in position, returned to Centreville, finding all quiet and the troops at work. Remaining here some time, I returned to Richardson when it was surmised that there was no enemy at that place, and found the ammunition of the batteries rapidly diminishing. I ordered from the brigades a few skirmishers to go forward and examine the ford, determined, if I could cross, to do so, and endeavor to cut the line of travel pursued by retreating and advancing detachments of the enemy. The line of skirmishers had barely entered the woods when a large force of the enemy was discovered concealed by breastworks. He opened fire, which was handsomely returned. In this affair three of the Sixteenth New York Volunteers were wounded. The skirmishers report the force of the enemy greatly damaged by Greene’s battery. I made no other attempt on this ford, my orders being on no account to get into a general engagement.

As I was again returning to Blenker’s position, I received the notice to telegraph to Washington, which I found had been done by Lieutenant Mendell, topographical engineer, on my staff, and who was compelled by illness to remain at my headquarters. It was at this time the order was received to post two brigades on the Warrenton turnpike at the bridge. I without delay sent a staff officer to order forward Davies’ brigade, but whilst this officer was executing my instructions Davies sent word he wanted a reserve regiment forward – that the enemy, some 3,000, was attempting to turn his flank. The staff officer, therefore, properly suspended the giving of my order, and immediately reported the fact to me, and this caused me to advance but the one brigade (Blenker’s) to the position on the Warrenton pike. Blenker’s advance to that point was soon impeded by fugitives from the battle-field. When these were passing my headquarters I endeavored to rally them, but my efforts were vain.

The attack on Davies’ position caused painful apprehension for the safety of the left flank of the Army, and deeming it of the first importance that my division should occupy the strongest position, I sent instruction to Davies and Richardson to have their brigades fall back on Centreville. I then followed Blenker’s brigade to see if it was in position, when I was informed the commanding general had passed. I then returned to Centreville, and found Davies’ and Richardson’s brigades arriving, and commenced placing them in position – Richardson’s brigade, with Greene’s battery, being placed about one-half mile in advance of Centreville heights, his line of battle facing Blackburn’s Ford. In rear of Richardson’s I posted two regiments behind fences as a support for the first line, and still farther in rear and on the heights I placed Hunt’s and Edwards’ batteries, two of Davies’ regiments being in reserve to support these. I then followed Blenker; found Tidball’s battery in admirable position, supported by the Garibaldi Guard, Blenker, with three remaining regiments and the Fourth Pennsylvania Battery,(+) being in advance. Having great confidence in his judgment and troops, I returned to Centreville heights to await events, when I found all my defensive arrangements changed. Not knowing who had done this, and seeing Colonel Richardson giving different positions to my troops, I asked by what authority he was acting, when he told me he had instructions from my superior officer. I soon thereafter met the commanding general, and complained of this change. The general’s arrangements were completed, and left me without further control of the division. At the time the attack was made on Davies’ flank the regiments of the brigade engaged performed their duty gallantly. The batteries of Hunt and Edwards, opening fire, did great damage to the advancing troops of the enemy, soon repulsing them. I am grieved that in this engagement a brave and accomplished young officer, Lieut. Presley O. Craig, of the Second Regiment Artillery, and who was attached to Hunt’s battery, was almost instantly killed. Several of the New York volunteers were wounded. I have not the reports relative thereto.

Blenker’s brigade, whilst on the Warrenton road, was charged by cavalry, but by a prompt and skillful fire he emptied several saddles, and relieved himself from further annoyance. This summary embraces the operations of my division up to the evening of the 21st.

Before closing permit me to name and do justice to my staff, whose assiduity in the performance of their duties and untiring exertions throughout the day deserve all the commendation I am able to bestow, viz: Captain Vincent, assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant Prime, Engineer; Lieutenant McMillan, adjutant Second Infantry and acting inspector-general; Assistant Surgeon Woodward, medical director; and Major Ritchie, New York Volunteers, my aide-de-camp. Lieutenant Mendell, Topographical Engineers, was quite ill during the day and thereby prevented from being with me. Lieutenant Hawkins, Second Infantry, division quartermaster, and Lieutenant Cushing, Second Infantry, my aide, were absent on detached service for supplies, &c., and had performed their duty, and were within two miles of Centreville when they met our Army crowding the road. My brigade commanders, Blenker, Davies, and Richardson, admirably performed their respective duties. My remarks apply also to their officers and men. The batteries of Major Hunt, Captain Tidball, and Lieutenants Edwards and Greene handsomely executed all required of them.

In closing this report I would make a personal allusion to my condition during the day. I had lost my rest the two nights previous, was sick, had eaten nothing during the day, and had it not been for the great responsibility resting on me should have been in bed.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel Second Infantry, Commanding Fifth Division


Assistant Adjutant-General, Hdqrs. Dept. N. E. Va.

(*) This paragraph refers to the field battery belonging to the Eighth New York State Militia, which was manned by detachements from the Eighth and Twenty-ninth New York Infantry, under Capt. Charles Bookwood, of the latter regiment.  (See Col. Blenker’s report, p. 426)

(+) See note above.

Table – Return of casualties in the Fifth Division (Union) of Northeastern Virginia, at the Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861



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