From contributor Robert H. Moore, II
Page Courier, July 1895
Last Sunday, July 21st, was the thirty-fourth anniversary of the first great battle in the late war when both sides were upon the field in large numbers, and like last Sunday, the first battle of Manassas thirty-four years ago was fought upon the first day of the week.
The writer well remembers the facts leading up to that memorable day, and as a member of the 10th, which had a fine company of soldiers from Page, he recalls the start we made from Winchester on the evening of July 18th, when General Joe Johnston, who had been watching the movements of General Patterson in and about Williamsport, started at dusk on the road to White Post and on to Berry’s Ferry, where his army crossed the Shenandoah, many, if not the most of them, wading through the water. From this point we crossed over the Blue Ridge and on to the Plains on the line of the then M.G.R.R., where the troops were put upon freight trains and taken to Manassas Junction, as it was then so generally known.
Of course this was a slow and protracted movement, but the old 10th got aboard and half of it on the tops of the old box cars, reached Manassas about the middle of that famous 21st – as hot a day as we remember – and hastily scrambling down an off, without further ceremony or waiting began the march on foot to the field of battle seven miles off.
For some hours we had heard the boom and roar of the cannon, and knew we were running into danger, and still no one felt like lagging by the way.
For two hours it was a walk, a run and a few minute’s rest once or twice, and through a broiling sun and suffocating dust that hovered over and about everything, till we reached the field and were into the fight before we well knew what we were doing. A harder and more fatiguing run cannot well be imagined than that from the Junction to the field of battle.
We will not speak of the battle itself, as its main features are known to all, but of what we saw and heard as a member of the 10th Va. – and that was but little, as a soldier’s knowledge of a fight is necessarily a narrow one and must be confined to what he sees at and about him.
The Page boys were there for work, , and for three hours on that hot July day, the most of them had their first and some of them their last experience of war.
We do not remember how many, nor the names of those who were killed, but several were shot down dead and more wounded.
During the hottest of this fight, and whilst in the woods at a fence, one of them who had frequently in the quiet of the camp amused the regiment by his artistic and well-executed imitations of the rooster, thinking the opportunity too good to be lost, perched himself on the top rail, and from his place of vantage and of danger, greeted his Yankee friends with as good a piece of crowing as he ever did in the quiet of camps – a loud, shrill crow of courage and defiance, and from his perch did not quit till a taste of Yankee lead brought him down.
We wish we could recall the name of this Page boy and complete his connection with our sketch, but perhaps others may do so. He was a good soldier, full of life and good cheer, and helped many a merry hour pass on freighted with the effects of his kindly aid.
That evening McDowell and his army, not able longer to withstand the Confederates, left the field in haste and confusion, and before the sun had gone down across the crest of the Blue Ridge the battle was over, and the grim work of strife and of death was over.
The Confederate army, worn out and thoroughly enervated by their three days of fighting and of hurried march rested where they were, and the first great mistake of the war upon the part of the South was complete as sleep closed their tired eyes, and they slept in utter ignorance of what could have been done in a few hours more of work.
There was no pursuit, and the next morning a drenching rain that lasted since midnight put a stop and an end to all.
McDowell with his men in the meantime had reached the Capital and the battle of Manassas was over. Many days passed in the Capital before the disorder of affairs was checked and the bad effects of the rout were gone; but when order was restored it was too late for the South to do what ought have been done on the eve of the 21st.
See notes here