JCCW – Gen. William B. Franklin

18 05 2009

Testimony of Gen. William B. Franklin

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 32-35

WASHINGTON, D. C., December 26, 1861.

General WILLIAM B. FRANKLIN sworn and examined.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. You were in the battle of Bull Run, were you not?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. In command of a brigade?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Were you in a council of war that decided upon delivering that battle of Bull Run?

Answer. I was not.

Question. Do you remember the time at which you started, with your brigade, for Bull Run?

Answer. We started the Tuesday before the battle; the battle was fought on Sunday.

Question. Will you state, briefly as possible, the daily marches of your brigade—the daily operations of your brigade—from that Tuesday until Sunday morning following?

Answer. On Tuesday we marched from our camp, near Alexandria, to Pohick creek, a distance of about fourteen miles, and there encamped. The next morning we marched to Sangster’s Station; that was on Wednesday. Then on Thursday afternoon we marched from Sangster’s to Centreville, and there encamped. There we laid until Sunday morning, at 2 1/2 o’clock, when we marched to Bull Run.

Question. Can you tell why the army was delayed at Centreville from Thursday evening until Sunday morning? why a forward movement was not made at once?

Answer. I can only do that from inference; I have no direct information from headquarters. My impression is that it was on account of the non-arrival of the supplies for the army until some time on Saturday.

Question. The non-arrival of provisions?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Which division of the army was your brigade connected with on that Saturday morning?

Answer. I belonged to General Heintzelman’s division.

Question. Will you very briefly give us the particulars of your march on Sunday?

Answer. We left camp at 2 1/2 o’clock in the morning, and marched about three-fourths of a mile, until the road that my brigade was on intersected the Warrenton turnpike. There we waited until nearly 6 o’clock for the passage of General Hunter’s division. As soon as that had passed we started forward and turned off from the Warrenton turnpike just beyond Cub Run, and reached Bull Run, at Sudley’s Stream, between 11 and 12 o’clock. At that time the engagement commenced. I was directed to send forward Ricketts’s battery, which I did, and posted it where I was ordered to do so; and I immediately sent forward the 1st Minnesota regiment to a position indicated by Captain Wright, of the engineers. I then sent forward the 5th Massachusetts regiment to support Ricketts’s battery, and immediately afterwards the 11th Massachusetts, the remaining regiment of my brigade, was brought up and took position alongside of the 5th Massachusetts, to be available for the fight wherever it might be needed. Ricketts’s battery commenced firing and was doing excellent execution. I saw it presently move off from the position where I had stationed it without any orders from me. As I saw it move off I moved the 5th and 11th Massachusetts up to be in a position to support, in case it should get into difficulty. But it was taken before I could get through these arrangements.

Question. By whose order was that battery moved?

Answer. I have heard since that it was by order of General McDowell, but I do not know from my own knowledge. I went forward with the 5th and 11th Massachusetts, and did my best to get the battery back, and did get it back, either two or three times, I do not remember which. But every time when the time came to draw off the guns, the men could not be brought up to the scratch. They would come forward with their guns loaded and deliver their volley very well, and would then, instead of taking hold of the guns and drawing them off, fall back to a secure place and load. We must have remained in this position, with these two regiments going up, delivering their fire and falling back, until about three o’clock in the afternoon. At that time a large force of the rebels appeared in the woods on our right, when the men fled, and could not be brought up by any means I could use. And those two regiments were not collected again during the day. The Minnesota regiment was the only other regiment of my brigade. They did good work at the same point where these other regiments were, and did not break during the day : they went off the field in good order. The battery was taken, and that accounts for the whole of my brigade, as the 4th Pennsylvania left early in the morning.

Question. Had there been no delay, and had the battle commenced early in the morning, as was intended, what, in your opinion, .would have been the result of that battle?

Answer. I think the result would probably have been different, as far as I can judge now. I think we would have whipped them if wo had begun the fight early in the morning.

Question. If the reserves had been brought up at any time, say from 12 to 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and brought into the fight, what, in your opinion, would then have been the result?

Answer. My opinion after 2 o’clock was that nothing could save the day, I did not care how many troops came up.

Question. Your knowledge of the battle is confined to the action of your own brigade?

Answer. Entirely to the action of my own brigade.

Question. Had your provisions been at Centreville when you reached there, and had you marched on Friday morning forward to Bull Run before the arrival of Johnson’s reserves, and those from Richmond, what, in your opinion, would then have been the result?

Answer. The result would have been in our favor. But mind, I do not know when those reserves of Johnson’s and Smith’s came up, and the reserves from Richmond. I do not know whether they were not there on Thursday.

Question. Did you, or did you not, hear the whistles of the locomotives and the running of the cars?

Answer. I remember hearing the whistles all one night, and took it for granted that re-enforcements were being brought in.

Question. When was that?

Answer. On Friday night.

Question. You therefore inferred that reserves were brought there on Friday night?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And it is your opinion that, had the battle been delivered before those reserves came up, the result would have been different?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By the chairman :

Question. On the Saturday before that battle was it known to officers that Johnson would probably be down there to join Beauregard?

Answer. No, sir; it was not, although, from hearing the whistles, we presumed he had come.

Question. You presumed that he had come?

Answer. Yes, sir; but we had no positive information that he had.

Question. I have always wondered that the battle was fought there when it was, after it was understood in the army that Johnson had come down, contrary to the expectation which was entertained that Patterson would hold him in check.

Answer. I will tell you what suggested itself to me when I got to Bull Run, and that is that we ought to have encamped on the fine hills there and waitedthere over night, and then got up early the next morning, when we would have whipped them.

The chairman: It has always seemed to me that when you knew that Johnson had come down you should have got 25,000 men from here, and as many more, perhaps, from Fortress Monroe, and then you would have had the thing sure. I have always wondered why that was not done when Patterson had not held Johnson in check, as it was understood he would do.

The witness: Patterson’s officers give a very good account of him. He knew nothing about what the army was to do. He supposed the battle had come off on Tuesday, and knew nothing about what was really doing.

The chairman: It strikes me that it was a great fault that so important a circumstance was not understood before the battle was begun.

The witness: I think if we had stopped there at Sudley’s Stream they would have fought us that morning, but we would have fought them on our own ground, and would have whipped them.

The chairman: They would then have lost the benefit of all their batteries? I have always wondered at your going into that fight then, when you should really have got re-enforcements of 20,000 to 30,000 more men.

The witness: I think it would have been an advisable plan to have stopped there at Bull Run. We would probably have had to fight about the same time, but then we should have fought on our own ground, and should have had a better position than they could have got. We could have had a beautiful position there.

Question. They would have had no batteries to protect them?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. I suppose if Patterson had come down and turned their rear about the same time they attacked you, you would have succeeded beyond a doubt?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Five thousand men making an attack in their rear at any time, I suppose, would have settled the battle?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By the chairman:

Question. Could not some of our men have been sent around to tear up the railroad?

Answer. No, sir; we were making for the railroad as fast as we could. That was our object. But they stopped us, and whipped us.

Question. You were too far to the left, were you not?

Answer. I think we should have gone further to the right.