Testimony of Gen. Daniel Tyler
Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 198-206
WASHINGTON, January 20, 1862.
General DANIEL TYLER sworn and examined.
By the chairman:
Question. Will you please state what is your rank and position in the army, or what it was?
Answer. I was a brigadier general, second in command under General McDowell.
Question. You were present at the battle of Bull Run?
Answer. I was there.
Question. Please give a brief and concise statement of what you saw there, and how the battle was conducted, &c.; do this without questioning at first; I want to get particularly what, in your judgment, caused the disaster of that day.
Answer. The first great trouble was the want of discipline and instruction in the troops. The troops needed that regimental and brigade instruction which would have enabled them to act together in masses with advantage.
Question. Were there any other more proximate causes than that?
Answer. There was a great want of instruction and professional knowledge among the officers—the company and regimental officers.
Question. Well, sir, give a concise history of that battle.
Answer. I will begin back to the occupation of Falls’ Church. The first advance made by our troops, after the occupation of Alexandria, Arlington Heights, Fort Corcoran, and Roach’s Mill, was to Falls’ Church. That was made by me with the Connecticut brigade, about the 5th of June. I remained in that division, commanding the advance of the army, until the advance upon Manassas. When we advanced upon Manassas I was assigned to the command of a division of four brigades. My line of march was by Vienna to Flint Hill, and from there I had authority from General McDowell to take either the route by Fairfax Court-House, or the route by Gormantown, as my judgment should indicate. I took the advance through Gormantown, and arrived there in advance of any other division of the army, on the turnpike to Centreville. We continued our march until about 4 o’clock in the evening, and then bivouacked for the night. I think that was the first misfortune of our .movement. I think, if we had gone on to Centreville that night we should have been in much better condition the next day. I was ordered by General McDowell to take my division forward at 7 o’clock on Thursday morning and attack Centreville, he assigning me two twenty-pounders to assist in that attack. On arriving at Centreville, I found that the enemy had evacuated their fortifications, and that Cox’s division, as I was told by the people there, had passed over Stone Bridge, and Bonham, with the South Carolina and Georgia troops, had passed down by Blackburn’s Ford.
I waited there an hour and a half, getting such information as I could collect, and then, not finding General McDowell, or hearing from him, I took a squadron of cavalry and four companies of light infantry and went forward with General Richardson towards Blackburn’s Ford. After passing through the woods there we came out immediately upon Bull Run. From that point we had a very good view of Manassas. We found they had not occupied the left bank of Bull Run at all. There is a distance, along the stream there, of about a thousand yards of perfectly open country. There is not a tree until you get to Bull Run, and then it is covered with trees. I got there in the morning, with merely my staff and this squadron of cavalry and the light infantry. I was perfectly astonished to find they had not occupied that position on the left bank. It had complete control of it, so complete control that, after we got our artillery in position, we had the whole control of that valley. Beauregard, in his official report, complains that we threw shot in his hospital. We did, but we did not know it was his hospital; we thought it was his headquarters. The whole ground there, clear over almost into Manassas, was commanded by that position. This was a chain of heights, extending along the whole of this ford, and completely controlling the bottom of Bull Run.
As soon as I found out the condition of things I sent back for Ayres’s battery—Sherman’s old battery—and had it brought and put into position. After firing two or three shots they replied to us; but having only smoothbore guns they could not reach us. After the two twenty-pounders came up we had eight pieces in position, commanding the whale of that run. They could not make a move in front of the woods there without our controlling them. They made no movement at all; we could see no show of force. All we could see was some few around their battery. I then took Richardson’s brigade and filed it down there to see what there was in the bottom. This was evidently on the direct road to Manassas. They marched down through in front of the whole of that wood, without bringing any fire upon them. I sent some skirmishers into the woods, and there were some thirty or fifty shots fired from a few men.
I saw an opening where we could have a chance to get in a couple of pieces of artillery, and I ordered Captain Ayres to take a couple of his howitzers and go into that opening and throw some canister shot into the woods. The very moment he came into battery it appeared to me that there were 5,000 muskets fired at once. It appears by Beauregard’s report that he had seventeen regiments in front there. They were evidently waiting for our infantry to get into the woods there. Ayres threw some ten or fifteen canister shot in among them, but was forced to come out, which he did very gallantly, with the loss of one man and two horses. We then came on the hill, and the whole eight pieces were placed in position, and we exchanged with them 415 shots in three-quarters of an hour, our shots plunging right in among them. They fired at an angle of elevation, and the consequence was that we lost but one man; whereas our artillery was plunging right into them, and every shot had its effect.
The Rev. Mr. Hinds, who was taken prisoner on Monday after the fight, was taken down to Bonham’s camp there. He has lately been exchanged and returned, and represents their loss there at some 300 or 400 men that day. My idea was that that position was stronger than the one above. But that is a mere matter of opinion. But after this affair of Thursday that point was never abandoned. We held that point until after the battle of Sunday. Richardson’s brigade was left there, and Davies’s brigade supported him. And when General Ewell tried to cut us off at Centreville on Sunday afternoon they repulsed him. We could have made a first-rate artillery fight there on Friday morning before Johnston’s force came up. We knew of the arrival of Johnston’s forces on Friday afternoon, because we could hear the arrival of the cars up the Winchester road.
My division was stationed on Cub Run from Thursday evening, except Keyes’s brigade, which was left back at Centreville. My orders were for my division to move forward on Sunday morning to Stone Bridge, and threaten that bridge. We left our camp at half-past two o’clock in the morning, and arrived there a little past six o’clock. The fire was opened immediately after getting the division posted, say at a quarter past six o’clock. Our first fire was the signal for Richardson to open fire at Blackburn’s Ford at the same time. Under the instruction to threaten Stone Bridge, it was contemplated that Hunter and Heintzelman, after passing over by Sedley’s Church, would drive the enemy away from the front of the bridge, and enable us to repair the Stone Bridge, which General McDowell assumed to be ruined, and would be destroyed. We had a bridge framed and prepared for that purpose.
Now, at that time, when that should have been done, my division was to pass over the bridge and take part in the action in front of the bridge. About 11 o’clock, seeing that Hunter’s column was arrested on the opposite side of Bull Run, and that they were requiring assistance, I ordered over Sherman’s brigade, containing the 69th and 79th New York, a Wisconsin, and another regiment, with orders to come into line on the right of the troops that we saw attacked, which we supposed, from the appearance of them, to be Hunter’s division. They did so, and Sherman’s brigade made a very gallant attack there, and relieved Burnside’s brigade from the embarrassment they were in. General Burnside, in his official report, acknowledged that he was taken out of a very tight place.
At that time we supposed the battle to have been won. I had had no opportunity of seeing what had been done on the other side until the moment that I came into line with Keyes’s brigade on the left of Sherman’s brigade, and at that moment I saw Captain Fry, of General McDowell’s staff, standing by the fence, crying out “Victory! victory! We have done it! we have done it!” He supposed, and I supposed, and General McDowell at that time supposed, that the victory was substantially won. That was about half- past 12 o’clock. To show that he had some reason to believe that, we passed from that point with my division clear down to the Canady House on the Warrenton turnpike, driving the enemy without any show of resistance. There was hardly a gun fired. There appeared to be a general flight before us.
It was not until we got to that house that we met the enemy in any force at all. They had occupied a plateau of ground immediately above it with their batteries. Ricketts had his fight further over on the other side, while we attacked them by way of the road. At that point my brigade, after carrying the house twice, were repulsed and fell back under the hill. And at that moment, through General Keyes’s aid, who was with me, I sent verbal information to General McDowell that we were going to try to turn the batteries on the plateau by a movement below the Stone Bridge. That movement was subsequently made. We continued under the hill, advancing with the Connecticut brigade, with General Keyes’s brigade, until we reached a point considerably below the position of the enemy’s batteries on the plateau. And as Keyes faced his brigade to the right, to advance up the hill to attack the batteries, we had the first intimation of the retreat of the army by seeing them pouring over towards Sedley’s Church.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. At what time was that?
Answer. That was, perhaps, nearly three o’clock. Keyes’s brigade then faced to the left and took the same route back under the hill by which they had made the advance, recrossed Bull Run at the original point of crossing, went on up the Warrenton turnpike, at or near the hospital, and on the Centreville side of Bull Run, and continued their retreat towards Centreville. I did not see General McDowell on the field, and I did not receive any orders from him during that day.
Question. Have you anything further to state?
Answer. Nothing. I suppose you ask opinions about the panic. It has been very much discussed before military circles.
Question. We have heard various speculations as to the reason why the battle was not commenced earlier on Sunday; will you state the reason why the battle was delayed to so late an hour on that day?
Answer. The impossibility of moving an army of 22,000 men, with their ammunition, ambulances, &c., over a single turnpike.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Did not the most of the column wait in the road until Keyes’s brigade, which was back at Centreville, came up and joined you?
Answer. No, sir. The reason why the battle was delayed was this: The advancing so large an army as I have stated over one common road; and for the further reason that the country between Cub Run and Bull Run was supposed to be occupied by the enemy, and it became indispensable for the leading division, being without cavalry, and with no knowledge of the country, to move slowly, in order to protect themselves against any surprise on the part of the enemy, and force a position we had not the least conception of.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. Was yours the leading division?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Were the rest of the divisions delayed by your movement?
Answer. They were not more than was absolutely necessary under the circumstances.
Question. What time did your movement commence?
Answer. At half-past two o’clock, as will appear by the official reports of Generals Schenck, Sherman, and Keyes.
Question. You were to advance how far?
Answer. To the Stone Bridge, about two and a half miles.
Question. And the other divisions turned off from the road on which you advanced before they reached Stone Bridge?
Answer. Yes, sir; some two miles from the bridge.
Question. At what time did the rear of your division reach Stone Bridge?
Answer. Keyes’s brigade, being delayed to guard the road going down to Manassas, did not reach Stone Bridge until about 11 o’clock. But that brigade was acting under the orders of General McDowell.
Question. At what time did the portion of the division under your command reach Stone Bridge?
Answer. It reached there by six o’clock, perhaps a quarter before six. We opened fire, as General Beauregard states, at six o’clock. Our time said half-past six, but I presume their time was nearer right than ours. I was there more than half an hour, posting my division, before we opened fire.
Question. Then do I understand you to say that none of the other divisions were held back by any portion of your division?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. The last part of your division had reached the point where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions were to turn off in time so as not to hold them back at all?
Answer. The two leading brigades of my division, Schenck’s and Sherman’s, arrived at the Stone Bridge in the neighborhood of and before six o’clock. Keyes’s brigade, having been detained by General McDowell’s order, arrived about eleven o’clock. Keyes’s brigade, therefore, is the only brigade that could have interfered with the movement of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions. That brigade of Keyes’s had no artillery. And so soon as General Schenck got his brigade on the line of the road, I saw the difficulty that there might be in consequence of Keyes’s brigade being left back at Centreville, having two miles of road to pass over, that they might interfere with Hunter’s column I then sent an aid back to tell General Keyes that as he had no artillery he should file immediately off the Warrenton turnpike into the fields, and immediately clear the turnpike for the use of the other columns. And I deemed it of so much importance, that after sending my aid, I rode back myself and saw the leading regiment of his brigade file into the fields, and gave him a positive order to put his brigade into the fields entirely out of the way of the other divisions. General Keyes reported to me that he did so, and I have no doubt of the fact, for I saw the leading regiment file off.
Question. Did any of the other divisions, or any portions of the other divisions, pass through a part of your division in order to get forward of them?
Answer. When Keyes’s brigade reached the road they occupied it, and Keyes’s brigade passed along parallel to the road and entirely out of their way. He was enabled to do that because he had no artillery. The others having artillery, there was no other place for them to pass, except up the road and over the bridge at Cub Run.
Question. At what time did the rear of your division—I do not mean to include Keyes’s brigade, but the rear of that which was with you that morning—pass the point where Hunter and Heintzelman turned off to the right?
Answer. We passed there before four o’clock.
Question. Or in two hours after you started?
Answer. Yes, air.
Question. Then do I understand you to say that the road was clear, so far as your division was concerned, up to the turning-off point after four o’clock, with the exception that Keyes’s portion of your division was then on that road?
Answer. Alongside the road, but off it.
Question. Why did you move first, as you were to move the shortest distance over the road?
Answer. That was the order of march by General McDowell. I did not see General McDowell or hear from him after the fight began, until we got back to Centreville.
By Mr. Odell :
Question. Did the fact of Keyes’s brigade not joining yours impede the progress of the other columns?
Answer. I do not think it did in the least.
Question. You did not receive an order from General McDowell to hasten your march?
Answer. No, sir ; I received no orders from General McDowell after I left him on Saturday night It was my suggestion to put Keyes’s brigade in the field. After seeing the head of his first regiment file into the fields, I did not wait there, but immediately pushed forward to post the other brigades at the Stone Bridge.
Question. Was there any portion of the march, with reference to Centreville Cross Roads or anything, retarded, so far as you know by your column?
Answer. No, sir; not that I know of.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. Was it understood that Keyes, with his brigade, should march up and join your division in advance of the movement forward of all the other troops?
Answer. I presume so. That was the understanding—to keep the division together.
Question. I understand you to say that it was expected that Keyes should move up in advance of any other portion of the army, and join your division?
Answer. Certainly; for General McDowell said, “The first division, (Tyler’s,) with the exception of Richardson’s brigade, will move first.”
Question. That was not done, was it?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Why did he not move forward so as to keep out of the way of the remainder of the army?
Answer. He states that he did not interfere with them.
Question. You say he turned off into the field. Why could he not, with the road clear before him, if he was in advance, move forward so as to keep clear of the others?
Answer. He might, if the movements were made with perfect regularity.
Question. He had no artillery, and was first on the road. Why did he not pass over the road so as to offer no obstruction?
Answer. Because, by passing into the field he would have given the rear columns the advantage of two miles and a half of clear track, which there was a possibility might be interfered with, but which was not interfered with.
Question. Were Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns in advance of the position where Keyes turned off the main road?
Answer. .No, sir; they moved from behind Centreville on the morning of the 21st.
Question. If he was first on the road, and they were behind him, and he had nothing but infantry, why could he not have moved forward with sufficient celerity to leave the road open to the rest as fast as they advanced?
Answer. He could if the column in advance of him had moved with perfect regularity.
Question. What column was in advance?
Answer. Sherman’s brigade and Schenck’s brigade.
Question. Then it was your division which obstructed his movement forward :
Answer. We did not obstruct him at all. When I ordered Keyes into the field he had not reached the rear of my division. But seeing the possibility of an interference, I ordered him into the field.
Question. If he had marched up and joined your division, as your division then was, would the rear of his brigade have extended back to the junction of the road where the others turned off?
Answer. At the time he joined us?
Question. Yes, sir.
Answer. I think it would at that moment; but still we were all advancing.
Question. Then did you make the movement into the field with Keyes’s brigade in order to prevent that difficulty?
Answer. It was to prevent a circumstance that might occur. It was to prevent difficulty, when I knew there were two brigades in advance of him, and to carry out the instruction to march through the field. It was not that any difficulty had occurred, but to take every precaution against any such occurrence. I had not seen the head of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns, and I did not know where they were. But foreseeing the difficulty of moving 20,000 men over* one turnpike, after getting the artillery and wagons and ammunition into line, I saw that there must be difficulty, and to obviate that as far as possible I rode back and ordered Keyes, who was without artillery, to file out into the field. At that time I did not know where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns were, and I did not know that they had moved a foot.
Question. Did you see the rear of General Keyes’s column?
Answer. I did not. I only saw the leading regiment filed into the field.
Question. You do not know whether Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns was directly in the rear of Keyes’s brigade or not?
Answer. No, sir; but I wanted to provide against a contingency.
Question. At that moment you did not know the condition of things in the rear of Keyes’s command?
Answer. I did not. I had no idea where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns were. I supposed they were on the road, however, but I did not know where; but I wanted to do all in my power to remedy any possible difficulty that might occur.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question. The first attack on Thursday, I understood you to say, was made by a single brigade?
Answer. It was made by four companies of a brigade. There were never more than 300 men, except artillery, engaged with the enemy at any time.
Question. Supported by a brigade?
Answer. Yes, sir; by Richardson’s brigade.
Question. Should that attack on Thursday have been made at all, unless it was followed up and made successful?
Answer. It was not an attack. It was merely a reconnoissance to ascertain what force they had there on Bull Run. It was not the intention to make an attack. And the very moment the force of the enemy was discovered, which it was important to know, ‘that moment the troops were withdrawn, and merely a cannonade kept up in order to see what effect it would have upon the men in the bottom of Bull Run. The whole affair was over before six o’clock. It was one of those advance engagements that spring np sometimes without any expectation of anything very important coming froin it.
Question. It was intended as a mere reconnoissance?
Answer. Yes, sir. After we had ascertained the force of the enemy there, I ordered Richardson to withdraw his brigade. He was very anxious to make an attack at the time, and was very confident that he could repulse them and force them out of the woods. I told him our object was not to bring on an engagement. But there was one thing very significant in that affair. Richardson’s brigade moved along the whole front of that wood, and skirted it along without being attacked, though Beauregard says he had seventeen regiments in the woods there. The reason was that Richardson was supported by the artillery on the hill, and the enemy would have suffered very severely if he had made any attack.
Question. Was it your understanding that Patterson was to hold Johnston in the valley of Winchester?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. You did not expect Johnston down there?
Answer. No, sir.
Question. Had Patterson held Johnston, what, in your judgment, would have been the result of that battle?
Answer. We should have whipped Beauregard beyond a question.
Question. Then you deem that the real cause of that defeat was the failure of Patterson to hold Johnston back?
Answer. Undoubtedly. From Blackburn’s Ford we could have a fair view of Manassas, and could see what they had there; and I have never had the least doubt that if Patterson had kept Johnston’s army out of the way we would have whipped Manassas itself.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. You think if you had driven Beauregard into and upon Manassas, you could have driven him out of it?
Answer. Yes, sir; if Johnston had been kept out of the way. There has been a great deal said about their fortifications there. It was the understanding that, from Flint Hill to Gormantown, we should find a succession of very severe abattis and batteries, which would render it a very difficult passage for our troops. We first fell in with, on advancing from Flint Hill, an abattis, which was so miserably constructed that the axe-men of one of our Maine regiments cut it out in the course of fifteen minutes, so that our brigade passed right on. We found a second one of the same character; and then we found an abandoned battery, which two rifled guns could have knocked to pieces in fifteen minutes. At Centreville all the fortifications were of exactly the same character. They were the meanest, most miserable works ever got up by military men. And I have no reason to believe that, even back as far as Manassas, they were much better constructed than they were on this side the run.
Question. Then you attribute the advantages of the enemy in that fight, and the advantages which they probably would have had at Manassas, so far as they would have had any, to the natural location of the country, rather than to any earthworks or artificial works that had been erected?
Answer. Yes, sir; at Manassas particularly. There they had an elevation in their favor, and we would have been obliged to attack them there to some disadvantage.
Question. I suppose you knew, when you moved forward to make the attack, you were moving forward with undisciplined troops; but you also knew you were to attack undisciplined troops?
Answer. We supposed our men were equal to theirs, and we found them to be so.
Question. You did not expect perfection in our movements any more than you did in theirs?
Answer. There was nothing in their troops that I saw that induced me to believe that their discipline and instruction was in any way superior to ours.
Question. Do you know the particulars of the loss of Griffin’s and Ricketts’s batteries that day?
Answer. They were on the opposite side of the hill from me, and I did not see them. But I think the loss of those two batteries created the panic.
Question. Do you think it very probable the issue of that battle would have been different if those batteries had not been lost?
Answer. I think if we could have had two good batteries there we could have done a great deal better than we did. I think the loss of those two batteries had a great effect upon us.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Did you receive from General McDowell, through his aid, Mr. Kingsbury, orders to make a more rapid advance?
Answer. No, sir; I did not.