#1 – Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell

7 02 2009

Reports of Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell, Commanding U. S. Forces, of Operations from July 16 to 20, 1861, with Orders for Movements and a Return of Troops

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 303-308

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 17

HDQRS. DEP’T N. E. VIRGINIA,

Arlington, July 16, 1861

The troops will march to the front this afternoon in the following order:

1. The brigades of the First Division (Tyler’s) will leave their camps in light marching order, and go as far as Vienna, the Fourth Brigade (Richardson’s) taking the road across the Chain Bridge, and by way of Langley’s, Lewinsville, and Old Court-House; the others by the Georgetown turnpike and Leesburg Stone roads. The order of march of the several brigades to be arranged by the division commander.

2. The Second Division (Hunter’s) will leave their camps in light marching order, and go on the Columbia turnpike as far as the Little River turnpike, but not to cross it, the Second Brigade (Burnside’s) leading.

3. The Third Division (Heintzelman’s) will leave their camps in light marching order, and go on the old Fairfax Court-House road, south of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, as far as the Accotink, or the Pohick, if he finds it convenient; the brigades to march in the order the division commander may direct.

4. The Fifth Division (Miles’)will proceed in light marching order, by the Little River turnpike as far as Annandale, or to the point where the road leads to the left to go into the old Braddock road (so called) which runs between the Little River turnpike and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.

5. The brigades of the several divisions will be put in march in time to reach their respective destinations by dark.

6. The reserve will be held in readiness to march at the shortest notice, and will, on and after the 17th instant, keep constantly a supply of cooked rations on hand for two days.

7. Brigadier-General Runyon, commanding the reserve, will have command of all the troops not on the march to the front, including those in the fortifications and camps. He will, to-morrow, send two regiments up the Orange and Alexandria Railroad to aid the railroad managers in rebuilding it in the shortest possible time, the commanding officers to conform to the plans of the principal managers.

8. Brigadier-General Runyon will guard the Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad as far as the present camps of the Ohio Volunteers, and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad as far as it is or may be repaired.

9. The regiment now in Fort Corcoran, the Twenty-eighth New York; the Twenty-fifth New York, at Roach’s; the Twenty-first New York, at Fort Runyon, and the Seventeenth New York, at Fort Ellsworth, will not be removed from their present stations except in an emergency.

II. On the morning of the 17th the troops will resume their march after daylight in time to reach Fairfax Court-House (the Third Division, Sangster’s) by 8 o’clock a.m.

1. Brigadier-General Tyler will direct his march so as to intercept the enemy’s communication between Fairfax Court-House and Centreville, moving to the right or the left of Germantown, as he may find most practicable. On reaching the Centreville turnpike he will direct the march of his leading brigade either upon Centreville or Fairfax Court-House, as the indication of the enemy may require. The Second Brigade will move on the road in the direction not taken by the First. The rear brigades will be disposed of by the division commander as circumstances may require. Should he deem it best, a brigade may be sent on Fairfax Court-House direct from Flint Hill.

2. The Second Division (Hunter’s) will (after the road shall be cleared of the Fifth Division) move on the direct road to Fairfax Court-House by the Little River turnpike.

3. The Fifth Division (Miles’) will turn off from the Little River turnpike and gain the old Braddock road, which it will follow to its intersection with the road from Fairfax Court-House to Fairfax Station, where it will turn to the right and move on the Court-House.

4. The Third Division (Heintzelman’s) will move by the best and shortest of the roads to the south of the railroad till he reaches the railroad at Sangster’s. He will, according to the indications he may find, turn his Second and Third Brigades to the right, to go to Fairfax Station or to the front to support the First Brigade. He may find it necessary to guard the road coming up from Wolf Run Shoals and the one leading to Yates’ Ford.

III. The enemy is represented to be in force at Centreville, Germantown, Fairfax Court-House, and Fairfax Station, and at intermediate places, and on the road towards Wolf Run Shoals. He has been obstructing, as far as possible, the roads leading to Fairfax Court-House, and is believed on several of these to have thrown up breastworks and planted cannon. It is therefore probable the movements above ordered may lead to an engagement, and everything must be done with a view to this result.

The three following things will not be pardonable in any commander: 1st. To come upon a battery or breastwork without a knowledge of its position. 2d. To be surprised. 3d. To fall back. Advance guards, with vedettes well in front and flankers and vigilance, will guard against the first and second.

The columns are so strong and well provided that, though they may be for a time checked, they should not be overthrown. Each is provided with intrenching tools and axes, and if the country affords facilities for obstructing our march, it also gives equal facilities for sustaining ourselves in any position we obtain. A brigade should sustain itself as long as possible before asking for help from another. It can hardly be necessary to attack a battery in front; in most cases it may be turned. Commanders are enjoined to so conduct their march as to keep their men well closed up. This is of great importance. No man will be allowed to get into an ambulance or baggage wagon without written authority from the regimental surgeon or his superior. Guards will be placed over the ambulances and wagons to enforce this order.

Troops will march without their tents, and wagons will only be taken with them for ammunition, the medical department, and for intrenching tools. A small baggage train for each brigade, to take the camp-kettles, mess-pans, and mess kits, and the smallest allowance of personal baggage of the officers and men, will follow the divisions the day after they march. This train will consist of from twelve to fifteen wagons.

A subsistence train will follow at a day’s interval the First Division from Fort Corcoran and Vienna. A second subsistence train will follow the Second Division at a day’s interval. A wagon for forage will be taken with each battery and squadron. A herd of beef cattle will be sent with each subsistence train. There is on many of our regiments nothing to distinguish them from those of the enemy, and great care must be taken to avoid firing into each other.

The national color must be kept continually displayed, and, if possible, small national colors should be placed on the cannon of the batteries.

Division commanders will see that the axmen and engineers at the head of the columns (and men of the ordnance guard) are well provided and in condition to work efficiently. When there are no ax-slings, the axes will be carried and the muskets will be slung.

Department headquarters will be with the Second Division, on the Little River turnpike. Division commanders will communicate with them by every opportunity.

By command of Brigadier-General McDowell:

JAMES B. FRY,

A. A. G.

—–

FAIRFAX COURT-HOUSE, July 17, 1861

Lieut. Col. E. D. TOWNSEND,

Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. of the Army, Washington:

We have occupied Fairfax Court-House, and driven the enemy towards Centreville and Manassas. We have an officer and three men slightly wounded. The enemy’s flight was so precipitate that he left in our hands a quantity of flour, fresh beef, intrenching tools, hospital furniture, and baggage. I endeavored to pursue beyond Centreville, but the men were too much exhausted to do so.

Most respectfully, your obedient servant,

IRVIN McDOWELL,

Brigadier-General

—–

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,

Fairfax Court-House, July 18, 1861

SIR: The First Division, under General Tyler, is between Germantown and Centreville. The Second (Hunter’s) is at this place, just about to move forward to Centreville. The Fifth (Miles’) is at the crossing of the old Braddock road with the road from this to Fairfax Station, and is ordered forward to Centreville by the old Braddock road; Barry’s battery has joined it. One of Heintzelman’s brigades (Willcox’s) is at Fairfax Station. Heintzelman and his other brigade are below the station, but he has not reported to me since we have been here, and I have not been able to communicate with him. I think they are at Sangster’s Station. The four men wounded yesterday belong to Miles’ Division, who had some slight skirmishes in reaching his position. Each column encountered about the same obstructions–trees felled across the road–but the axmen cleared them out in a few moments.

There were extra-sized breastworks thrown up at this place, and some of them with embrasures revetted with sand bags. Extensive breastworks were also thrown up at the Fairfax Railroad Station and the road leading to Sangster’s.

A great deal of work had been done by them, and the number and size of their camps show they have been here in great force. Their retreat, therefore, must have a damaging effect upon them. They left in such haste that they did not draw in their pickets, who came into one of our camps, thinking, as it occupied the same place, it was their own. The obstructions to the railroad in the vicinity of the station, including the deep cut filled in with earth and trees, can be cleared out in a few hours. The telegraph poles are up, with the wires on them. I look to having communication by rail and telegraph in a very short time. Much flour, some arms, forage, tents, camp equipage were abandoned by them. I am distressed to have to report excesses by our troops. The excitement of the men found vent in burning and pillaging, which, however soon checked, distressed us all greatly. I go on to Centreville in a few moments.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

IRVIN McDOWELL,

Brigadier-General, Commanding

Lieut. Col. E. D. TOWNSEND,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Army

—–

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,

Centreville, July 19, 1861–12.30 a.m.

 Brigadier-General TYLER,

Commanding First Division:

There seems to be a misunderstanding on your part of the order issued for a brigade of your division to be posted in observation on the road leading to the place where your command was engaged yesterday (July 18). It was intended that the movement should have been made long before this.

The train of subsistence came up long ago. I have given no order or instruction of a change in this matter.

I thought that the brigade was posted as desired until just now, when Major Brown, who is just returned from  your headquarters, informs me that no action under these orders has been taken.

Give orders that will cause the brigade to be there where the previous instructions indicate by dawn this morning.

Very respectfully, &c.,

 [IRVIN McDOWELL]

—–

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,

Centreville, Va., July 19, 1861

COLONEL: Learning yesterday there were but few troops of the enemy in this place,. I directed Brigadier-General Tyler to take it, and keep up the impression we were to advance in this direction. I then went to Colonel Heintzelman’s division, to make arrangements to turn the enemy’s right and intercept his communications with the South. I found on examining the country that the roads 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. We would become entangled, and our carriages would block up the way. I was therefore forced to abandon the plan of turning the enemy’s right, and to adopt my present one of going around his left, where the country is more open and the roads are broad and good. I gave orders, therefore, for the forces to move forward on the Warrenton turnpike so soon as the supply trains came up and the men could get and prepare their rations.

Whilst with Colonel Heintzelman’s division I learned that the advance had become engaged with the enemy. I therefore directed the movement, which in the first instance was to take place after the arrival and distribution of subsistence, to take place at once. By the time I got over from Colonel Heintzelman’s column the firing on both sides had ceased. I have directed General Tyler to make a report of the affair, which I will forward when it comes to hand. I learn from the medical director that there were three killed, twenty-one slightly and eight severely wounded; total, thirty-two. Of the severely wounded three have since died.

A negro, belonging, he says, to Colonel Fontaine, of Virginia, came in last night from the other side, saying his master had been killed at the first cannonading. He reports great havoc among the enemy, but his imagination is evidently too active to trust to his statements. All the divisions are now here or in the immediate vicinity. I have ordered General Runyon to station the larger part of the reserve on the railroad to guard it.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

 IRVIN McDOWELL,

Brigadier-General, Commanding

Lieut. Col. E. D. TOWNSEND,

Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. of the Army, Washington, D. C.

—–

[Inclosure]

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 19

HDQRS. DEP’T. N. E. VIRGINIA,

Fairfax Court-House, July 18, 1861

The troops will move to-day as follows: Heintzelman’s division will go to Little Rocky Run, on the road hence to Centreville. Miles’ division will go to Centreville. Tyler’s division will go beyond Centreville, on the road to Gainesville. Hunter’s division will go as near Centreville as he can get water.

The above movements will be made after supplies shall have been received. If the supply trains do not come up in time, division commanders will procure beef from the inhabitants, paying for it at the market rates by orders on the Chief of the Commissary Department at general headquarters.

The troops should be at the places indicated to-night, and they must have two days’ cooked rations in their haversacks.

By command of General McDowell:

JAMES B. FRY,

Assistant Adjutant-General

—–

HDQRS, DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,

Centreville, July 20, 1861

COLONEL: Yesterday was occupied mainly by the engineers in reconnoitering the defenses of the enemy on Bull Run, at and above the crossing of the Warrenton turnpike. Bull Run, though not a wide stream, is only to be crossed at certain places, owing to its precipitous, rocky banks. The Warrenton road crosses it over a stone bridge, which is mined and defended by a battery placed behind an unusually heavy abatis, whilst the bank on our side is clear. The ford above is also protected.

The object of the reconnaissance was to find a point which might be bridged or forded, so as to turn these places where the enemy are prepared for us. Thus far these efforts, five of them, have not been successful, the enemy being in such force on this side of the run as to make it impossible to ascertain. I wished yesterday to make the reconnaissance in force, but deferred to the better judgment of others–to try and get it by observation and stealth. To-day I propose to drive in the enemy and get the information required. If it were needed, the experience of the 18th instant shows we cannot, with this description of force, attempt to carry batteries such as these now before us.

I shall go forward early to-day and force the enemy beyond Bull Run, so as to examine it more closely than we have been able to do. I am told they obtain their supply of water from this stream. If so, and we get possession of the right bank, we shall force them to leave the now strong position of Manassas.

I am somewhat embarrassed by the inability of the troops to take care enough of their rations to make them last the time they should, and by the expiration of the term of service of many of them. The Fourth Pennsylvania goes out to-day, and others succeed rapidly. I have made a request to the regiment to remain a few days longer, but do not hope for much success. In a few days I shall lose many thousands of the best of this force. Will it suit the views of the General and the Government that they shall be replaced by long-service regiments? The numbers may be replaced, but it will not be an equal force.

I learn from a person who represents himself as having just come from General Patterson that he has fallen back.

There are rumors that Johnston has joined Beauregard. Yesterday some volunteers burned a house on Centreville Hill, which must have been seen by all the troops at Manassas; but the most thorough investigations did not lead to any discovery of the authors of this additional outrage.

I remain, colonel, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

IRVIN McDOWELL

Brigadier-General

Lieut. Col. E. D. TOWNSEND,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters of the Army

Table – USA Troop Strengths July 16-17, 1861








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