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Tags: George W. Bagby, Resources, Soldier Photos
Categories : Photos, Resources
Pvt. George W. Bagby, 11th Virginia Infantry, Aide to Col. Thomas Jordan, AAG to Beauregard, On Camp and the Battle26 02 2017
I believe that Garland found Captain Lay with a part of the Powhatan Troop at Manassas – certainly the place had been picketed for a few weeks – but that was all. Its strategic importance seemed to have been overlooked. On my arrival I found the boys comfortably quartered in tents and enjoying the contents of boxes of good things, which already had begun coming from home. In a little store at the station they had discovered a lot of delicious cherry brandy, which they were dispatching with thoughtless haste. Rigid military rule was not yet enforced, and the boys had a good time. I saw no fun in it. The battalion drill bore heavily upon me; Garland constantly forgot to give the order to shift our guns from a shoulder to a support. This gave me great pain, made me very mad, and threw me into a perspiration, which, owing to my feeble circulation, was easily checked by the cold breeze from the Bull Run Mountain, and thereby put me in jeopardy of pneumonia. Moreover, I longed for my night-shirt and the clean bed at Gordonsville. The situation was another source of trouble to me. After brooding over it a good while I got my friend Latham to write, at my dictation, a letter to John M. Daniel’s paper, the Richmond Examiner. The letter was not printed, but handed to General Lee, and additional troops began to come rapidly – one or two South Carolina regiments, the First Virginia Regiment, Captain Shields’s company of Richmond Howitzers, Latham’s Lynchburg Battery, in all of which, except the regiments from South Carolina, we had hosts of friends. The more men the sicker I got, and the further removed from that solitude which was the delight of my life. I made up my mind not to desert, but to get killed at the first opportunity. I might get a clean shirt, and would certainly get, in the grave, all the solitude I wanted.
Beauregard soon took command. This was a comfort to us all. We felt safe. About this time, too, the wives and sisters of a number of officers came from Lynchburg on a visit to the camp. That was great joy to us all. Lieutenant Latham’s little son, barely two years old, and dressed in full Rifle Grey uniform, was the lion of the hour. The ladies looked lovely. Such a relief after a surfeit of men; our eyes fairly feasted on them. Other ladies put in an appearance from time to time. Returning from Bristoe, where I had gone to bathe, my eyes fell on three of the most beautiful human beings they had ever beheld. Beautiful at any time and place, they were now inexpressibly so by reason of the fact that women were such a rarity in camp. They were bright figures on a background of many thousand dingy, not to say dirty, men. If I go to heaven – I hope I may – the angels themselves will hardly look more lovely than those young ladies did that solitary afternoon. I was most anxious to know their names. They were the Misses Carey – Hetty and Jennie Carey, of Baltimore, and Constance, their cousin, of Alexandria. No man can form an idea of the rapture which the sight of a woman will bring him until he absents himself from the sex for a long time. He can then perfectly understand the story about the ecstatic dance in which some California miners indulged when they unexpectedly came upon an old straw bonnet in the road. Pretty women head the list of earthly delights.
Over and over I heard the order read at dress parade, all closing with the formula, “By command of General Beauregard, Thomas Jordan, A. A. G.” This went on for some weeks without attracting any special attention on my part. At last some one said in my hearing: “Beauregard’s adjutant is a Virginian.” I pricked up my ears. “Wonder if he can be the Captain Jordan I knew in Washington? I’ll go and see,” I said to myself. Colonel, afterward General, Jordan received me most cordially, dirty private though I was. He was, as usual, very busy. “Sit down a minute. I want presently to have a little talk with you.” My prophetic soul told me something good was coming, and, when, after some preliminary talk about unimportant matters, he said: “So you are a ‘high private in the rear rank?'”
“Yes,” was my reply.
“Aren’t you tired of drilling?”
“Tired to death.”
“Well, you are the very man I want. Certain letters and papers have to be written in this office which ought to be done by a man of literary training, and you are just that person. I’ll have you detailed at once, and you must report here in the morning. Excuse me now, I am very busy.” Indeed, he was the busiest man I almost ever saw, and to-day in the office of the Mining Record, of New York, he is as busy as ever. A more indefatigable worker than General Thomas Jordan it would be hard, if not impossible, to find.
My duties at first were very light. I ate and slept in camp as before, reported at my leisure every morning at head-quarters, and did any writing that was required of me, General Jordan’s clerks being fully competent to do the great bulk of the work in his office. The principal of these clerks was quite a young man, seventeen or eighteen, perhaps, and was named Smith – Clifton Smith, of Alexandria, Va. – and a most assiduous and faithful youth he was. He is now a prosperous broker in New York. After midnight Jordan was a perfect owl; there were always papers and letters of a particular character, in the preparation of which I could be of service. We got through with them generally by one A.m., then had a little chat, sometimes, though not often, a glass of whiskey and water, and then I went back to camp, a quarter of a mile off, not without risking my life at the hands of a succession of untrained pickets. At camp things were comparatively comfortable. The weather was so warm that most of the men preferred to sleep out-doors on the ground. I often had a tent to myself. Troops continued to come. Many went by to Johnston (who, to our dismay, had fallen back from Harper’s Ferry), but many stayed. Water began to fail, wells in profusion were dug, but without much avail, and water had to be brought by rail. Excellent it was. Boxes of provisions continued to come in diminishing numbers, but upon the whole we lived tolerably well. The Eleventh Virginia, its quota now filled, had gone out on one or two little expeditions without material results. It formed part of Longstreet’s Brigade, and made a fine appearance and most favorable impression in the first brigade drill that took place. How thankful I was that I was not in it!
During these days when the camp of the Eleventh Virginia was comparatively deserted, the men being detailed at various duties, there occurred an episode which will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Coming down from head-quarters about one o’clock to get my dinner, I became aware as soon as I drew nigh our tents that something unusual was “toward,” as Carlyle would say. Sure enough there was. In addition to the ladies from Lynchburg, heretofore mentioned, we had been visited by quite a number of the leading men of that city, who came to look after their sons and wards. Several ministers, among them the Rev. Jacob D. Mitchell, had come to preach for us. But now there was a visitor of a different stripe. The moment I got within hailing distance of the captain’s tent I heard a loud hearty voice call me by my first name.
“Hello! George, what’ll you have? Free bar. Got every liquor you can name. Call for what you please.”
Looking up, I beheld the bulky form, the duskyred cheeks and sparkling black eyes of Major Daniel Warwick, a Baltimore merchant, formerly of Lynchburg, who had come to share the fortune, good or ill, of his native State. He was the prince of good fellows, a bon vivant in the fullest sense of the term, a Falstaff in form and in love of fun. What he said was literally true, or nearly so; he had all sorts of liquors. In order to test him I called for a bottle of London stout.
“Sam, you scoundrel! fetch out that stout.
How’ll you have it – plain? Better let me make you a porteree this hot day.”
“Very good; make it a porteree.”
He was standing behind an improvised bar of barrels and planks, set forth with decanters, bottles, glasses, lemons, oranges, and pineapples, with his boy Sam as his assistant. The porteree, which was but one of many that I enjoyed during the major’s stay, was followed by a royal dinner, contributed almost wholly by the major. This was kept up for a week or ten days, officers and men of the Lynchburg companies and invited guests, some of them quite distinguished, all joining in the prolonged feast, which must have cost the major many hundreds of dollars.
The major’s inexhaustible wit and humor, his quaint observations on everything he saw, his sanguine predictions about the war, and his odd behavior throughout, were as much of a feast as his eatables and drinkables. He was the greatest favorite imaginable. Everything was done to please him and make him comfortable, including a tent fitted up for him. Being much fatigued by his first day’s experience as an open barkeeper, he went to bed early, the boys all keeping quiet to insure his sleeping. Within twenty minutes they heard him snoring, and the next thing they knew the tent burst wide open and out rushed the corpulent major, clad only in his shirt, and as he came he shouted at the pitch of his stentorian voice: “Gi’ me a’r, gi’ me a’r! For God’s sake, gi’ me a’r!” Of course there was a universal burst of laughter, which the major bore with perfect good nature. Thenceforth he slept on a blanket under the canopy of heaven, enjoying it as much, he declared, as a deer hunt in the wilds of western Virginia. He carried with him, when he left, the Godspeed of hundreds of hearts grateful for the abundant and unexpected happiness he had brought them.
This was that same major who cut up such pranks in New York City a few months after the war ended – picking up a strong negro on the street and forcing him to eat breakfast with him at the Prescott House, imperiously ordering the white waiters to attend to his every want, then walking arm in arm with the negro down Broadway, each having in his mouth the longest cigar that could be bought, and puffing away at a great rate, to the intense disgust of the passers-by. Of this freak I was myself eye-witness. In the restaurants he would burst out with a lot of Confederate songs, and keep them up till scowls and oaths gave him to understand that it would be dangerous to continue, when he would suddenly whip off into some intensely loyal air, leaving his auditors in doubt whether he was Union or secesh, or simply a crank. In the street-cars and omnibuses he would ostentatiously stand up for negro women as they entered, deposit their fare, gallantly help them in and out, taking off his hat as he did, and bitterly inveighing against those who refused to follow his example. So pointed were his insults that his huge size alone saved him from many a knockdown. He lived too merrily to live long, and died in Baltimore in 1867, I believe.
Ever since the fall of Sumter Beauregard’s star had been in the ascendant. His poetical name seemed to carry a magical charm with it. Jordan had implicit faith in him. Many others looked upon him as likely to be the foremost military figure of the war, and were prepared to attach themselves to his fortunes. Keeping my place as a private detailed for duty in the adjutant’s office, I contented myself with a simple introduction to the general, and did not presume to enter into conversation with him – a privilege most editors would have claimed. (I was then editor of the Southern Literary Messenger.) But I availed myself of my opportunity to study this prominent character in the pending struggle. His athletic figure, the leonine formation of his head, his large, dark-brown eyes and his broad, low forehead indicated courage and capacity. Of his mental caliber I could not judge, but others spoke highly of it. He indefatigably studied the country around Manassas, riding out every day with the engineer officers and members of his staff. He was eminently polite, patient, and good-natured. I never knew him to lose his temper but once, and then the occasion was ludicrous in the extreme.
Just before the battle of Manassas the militia of all the adjoining counties were called out in utmost haste to swell our numbers. A colonel of one of the militia regiments, arrayed in old-style cocked hat and big epaulets, came up a morning or two before the battle and asked to see the general. When General Beauregard appeared, he said with utmost sincerity:
“General Beauregard, my men are mostly men of families. They left home in a hurry, without enough coffee-pots, frying-pans, and blankets, and they would like, sir, to go back for a few days to get these things and to compose their minds, which is oneasy about their families, their craps, and many other things.”
Beauregard’s eyes flashed fire.
“Do you see that sun, sir?” pointing to it.
“Yes, sir,” said the colonel, in wondering timidity.
“Well, sir, I might as well attempt to pull down that sun from heaven as to allow your men to return home at a critical moment like this. Go tell your men to prepare for battle at any instant. There is no telling when it may come.”
The colonel retreated in confusion.
Beauregard’s high qualities as an engineer—most signally proved by his subsequent defence of Charleston, compared with which the reduction of Sumter was a trifle—were acknowledged on all hands. What he would be at the head of an army in the open field remained to be seen. It was a trying time for him; but if he were nervous no one discovered it.
His staff was composed mostly of young South Carolinians of good family, and he had in addition a number of volunteer aids, all of them men of distinction. Ex-Governor James Chestnut was one, I think. William Porcher Miles, an accomplished scholar and elegant gentleman, I am sure was. So was that grand specimen of manhood, Colonel John S. Preston; also, Ex-Governor Manning, a most charming and agreeable companion. His juleps, made of his own dark brandy and served at mid-day in a large bucket, in lieu of something better, greatly endeared him to us all. One day all these distinguished gentlemen suddenly disappeared. Colonel Jordan simply said they had gone to Richmond; but evidently something was in the wind. What could it be? On their return, after a week’s absence, as well as I remember, there was an ominous hush about the whole proceeding. Nobody had anything to say, but there was a graver, less happy atmosphere at head-quarters. Gradually it leaked out that Mr. Davis had rejected Beauregard’s proposal that Johnston should suddenly join him and the two should attack McDowell unawares and unprepared. The mere refusal could not have caused so much feeling at head-quarters. There must have been aggravating circumstances, but what they were I never learned. All I could get from Colonel Jordan was a lifting of the eyebrows, and “Mr. Davis is a peculiar man. He thinks he knows more than everybody else combined.”
What! want of confidence in our president, at this early stage of the game? Impossible! A vague alarm filled me. I had been the first – the very first, I believe – to nominate Mr. Davis for the presidency; had violated the traditions of the oldest Southern literary journal in doing so. I had no personal knowledge of his fitness for the position. No. But his record as a soldier in Mexico, his experience as minister of war, and his fame as a statesman seemed to point him out as the man ordained by Providence to be our leader. And now so soon distrusted! I tried to dismiss the whole thing from my mind, it distressed me so. But it would not down at my bidding. Many prominent men came to look after the troops of their respective States, sometimes in an official capacity, sometimes of their own accord. Among them was Thomas L. Clingman, of North Carolina, with whom I had a slight acquaintance. How it came about I quite forget, but we took a walk, one afternoon, down the Warrenton road, and fell to talking about the subject uppermost in my thoughts—Mr. Davis. Clingman seemed to know his character thoroughly, and fortified his opinions by facts of recent date at Montgomery and Richmond. Particulars need not be given, if, indeed, I could recall them; but the upshot of it all was, that in the opinion of many wise men the choice of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States was a profound, perhaps a fatal, mistake. Unable to controvert a single position taken by Clingman, my heart sank low, and never fully rallied, for the sufficient reason that Mr. Davis’s career confirmed all that Clingman had said—all and more.
As the plot thickened, so did occurrences in and around head-quarters. Beauregard kept open house, as it were, many people dropping in to the several meals, some by invitation, others not. The fare was plain, wholesome, and abundant, rice cooked in South Carolina style being a favorite dish for breakfast as well as dinner. The new brigadiers also dropped in upon us from time to time. One of them was my old school-mate, Robert E. Rodes, a Lynchburger by birth, but now in command of Alabama troops. In him Beauregard had special confidence, giving him the front as McDowell approached. Rodes was killed in the valley in 1864, a general of division, full of promise, a man of ability, a first-rate soldier. Lynchburg has reason to be proud of two such men as Garland and Rodes. Soldiers continued to arrive. As fast as they came they were sent toward Bull Run, that being our line of defence. Some regiments excited general admiration by their fine personal appearance, their excellent equipment and soldierly bearing. None surpassed the First Virginia Regiment in neatness or in drill— in truth, few approached it. The poorest set as to size, looks, and dress were some of the South Carolinians. Louisiana sent a fine body of men. But by odds the best of our troops were the Texans. Gamer men never trod the earth. In their eyes and in their every movement they showed fight, and their career from first to last demonstrated the truth, in their case at least, of the old Latin adage, “Vidlus index est animi” — the face tells the character. I verily believe that fifty thousand Texans such as those who came to Virginia, properly handled, could whip any army the North could muster.
But as a whole our men did not compare with the Union soldiery. They were not so large of limb, so deep in the chest, or so firm-set, and in arms and clothing the comparison was still more damaging to the South. A friend of mine, who lingered in Washington till he could linger no longer, halted a day at Manassas on his way to his old home in Culpeper County. With great pride I called his attention to Hays’s magnificent Louisiana regiment, one thousand four hundred strong, drawn out full length at dress parade. He shook his head, sighed heavily, and described the stout-built, superbly equipped men he had seen pouring by thousands upon thousands down Pennsylvania Avenue. This incident made little impression on me at the time, my friend being of a despondent nature; but after my talk with Colonel Clingman it returned to me, and, I confess, depressed me not a little.
The camps were now deserted, the regiments being picketed on Bull Run. It was painful for me to go among the empty tents; it was like wandering about college in vacation – nay, worse, for it was morally certain that some, perhaps many, would return to the tents no more. I missed the faces of my friends; I longed for the lemonade “with a stick in it” that Captain Shields and Dr. Palmer used to give whenever I made them a visit, and I really pined for the red shirt and cheery voice of Captain H. Grey Latham, as he went from tent to tent, telling them new jokes, and on leaving, repeating his farewell formula, “Yours truly, John Dooly,” which actually got to be funny by perpetual repetition and became a by-word throughout the army. Finally I got so sick of the deserted camp that I asked Clifton Smith to let me share his pallet in the little shed-room cut off from the porch at head-quarters. He kindly assented, and I moved up, but still took my meals at camp. Doleful eating it would have been but for the occasional presence of my dear friend, Lieutenant Woodville Latham, who, being judge of a courtmartial then in session, had not yet joined the Eleventh Virginia at Bull Run.
The nights were so hot that I found it almost impossible to sleep in Clifton Smith’s little shed-room. My mind was excited by the approaching battle, and my habit of afternoon napping added to my sleeplessness. So the little sleep I got was in a chair on the porch. Near me, on the dinner-table, too long for any room in the house, lay young Goolsby, a lad of sixteen, who acted as night orderly. The calls upon him were so frequent and the pain of being awakened so great, that finally I said to him: “Sleep on, Goolsby, I’ll take your place.” He was very grateful. So I played night orderly from 12 o’clock till 6 A. M. thenceforward, and on that account slept the longer and the harder in the afternoon. Near sunset on the 18th I arose from Smith’s pallet in the shed-room, washed my face, and walked out upon the porch. It was filled with officers and men, all looking toward Bull Run. One of them said:
“That’s heavier firing than any I heard during the war in Mexico.”
“It was certainly very heavy,” was the reply, “but it seems to be over now.”
And that is all I know about the battle of the 18th. I had slept through the whole of it! Major Harrison, of our regiment, was killed; Colonel Moore, of the First Virginia Regiment, and Lieutenant James H. Lee, of the same regiment, were wounded, the latter seriously, as it turned out. There were no other casualties that particularly interested me.
Every one knew the ordeal was at hand. The movements preceding the great tragedy had the hurry and convergence which belong to all catastrophes. A confused mixture of memories is left me – things relevant and irrelevant. L. W. Spratt, Thomas H. Wynne, Mrs. Bradley T. Johnson – the big guns of the intrenched camp; the night arrival of Johnston’s staff, the parting with my friend Latham – all these and many more recollections are piled up in my mind. Beauregard’s plan of battle had been approved by General Johnston. Ewell was to attack McDowell’s left at early dawn, flank him, and cut him off from Washington, our other brigades from left to right cooperating. Until midnight and later all of Colonel Jordan’s clerks were busy copying the battle orders, which were at once sent off to the divisions and brigades by couriers. I myself made many copies. The last sentence I remember to this day; it read as follows: “In case the enemy is defeated he is to be pursued by cavalry and artillery until he is driven across the Potomac.” He needed no pursuit, but went across the Potomac all the same. No, not all the same. Had we followed in force the result might have been different. I sat up as usual that night, but recall no event of interest.
As morning dawned, I wondered and wondered why no sound of battle was heard – none except the distant roar of Long Tom, which set the enemy in motion. How Ewell failed to get his order, how our plan of battle failed in consequence, and how near we came to defeat, is known to all. ‘Tis an old, and to Confederates, a sad story.
On the morning of the 18th, as Beauregard walked out to mount his horse, he stumbled and came near falling – a bad augury, which, we thought, brought a shadow over his face. But on this morning, the 21st all went well; the generals and their staffs, after an early breakfast, rode off in high spirits, victory in their very eyes. My duty was to look after the papers of the office, which had been hastily packed up, and, in case of danger, see that they were put on board a train, which was held in readiness to receive them and other valuable effects. The earth seemed to vomit men; they came in from all sides. Holmes, from Fredericksburg, at the head of his division, in a high-crown, very dusty beaver, I well recollect. He made me laugh. Barksdale, of Mississippi, halting his regiment to get ammunition. The militia ensconced behind the earthworks of the intrenched camp, their figures flit before me. It was a superb Sabbath day, cloudless, and at first not very hot. A sweet breeze from the west blew in my face as I stood on a hill overlooking the vale of Bull Run. I saw the enormous column of dust made by the enemy as they advanced upon our left. The field of battle evidently would be where the comet, then illuminating the skies, seemed to rest at night. Returning to head-quarters I reported to Colonel Jordan the movement upon our left.
“Has McDowell done that?” he asked, with animation. “Then Beauregard will give him all his old boots, for that is exactly where we want him.”
The colonel meant that Ewell would have a better chance of attack by reason of the weakening of McDowell’s left.
Again and again I walked out to watch the progress of the battle, which lasted a great deal longer than I expected or desired. The pictures of battles at a distance, in the English illustrated papers, give a good idea of what I saw, minus the stragglers and the wounded, who came out in increasing numbers as the day advanced, and disheartening President Davis as he rode out to the field in the afternoon. At noon or thereabout a report that our centre had been broken hurried me back to head-quarters, and although the report proved false, kept me there for several hours, the battle meanwhile raging fiercely, and not a sound from Ewell.
Restless and excited, I went into a neighboring house, occupied by a lone woman, who was in a peck of trouble about herself, her house, her everything. The bigger trouble outside filled my mind during the recital of her woes, so that I now recall none of them.
Unable longer to bear the suspense, I left important papers, etc., to take care of themselves, and set out for the battle-field, determined to go in and get rid of my fears and doubts by action. I reached the hill which I had so often visited in the morning, and paused awhile to look at some of our troops, who were rapidly moving from our right to our left. Just then – can I ever forget it? – there came, as it seemed, an instantaneous suppression of firing, and almost immediately a cheer went up and ran along the valley from end to end of our line. It meant victory – there was no mistaking the fact. I stood perfectly still, feeling no exultation whatever. An indescribable thankful sadness fell upon me, rooting me to the spot and plunging me into a deep reverie, which for a long time prevented me from seeing or hearing what went forward. Night had nearly fallen when I came to myself and started homeward. The road was filled with wounded men, their friends, and a few prisoners. I spoke kindly to the prisoners, and took in charge a badly wounded young man, carrying him to the hospital, from the back windows of which amputated legs and arms had already been thrown on the ground in a sickening pile.
At head-quarters there was a great crowd waiting for the generals and Mr. Davis to return. It was now quite dark. A deal of talking went on, but I observed little elation. People were worn out with excitement – too many had been killed – how many and who was yet to be learned. War is a sad business, even to the victors. I saw young George Burwell, fourteen years of age, bring in Colonel Corcoran, his personal captive.
I heard Colonel Porcher Miles’s withering retort to Congressman Ely, who tried to claim friendly acquaintance with him, but went off abashed in a linen duster with the other prisoners. I asked Colonel Preston what he thought of the day’s work.
“A glorious victory, which will produce immense results,” was his reply.
“When will we advance?” “We will be in Baltimore next week.” How far wrong even the wisest are? We never entered Baltimore, and that victorious army, rne-half of which had barely fired a shot, did not fight another pitched battle for nearly a year!
It was after midnight when I carried to the telegraph office Mr. Davis’s despatch announcing the victory. Inside the intrenched camp one thousand or twelve hundred prisoners were herded, the militia standing up side by side guarding them and forming a human picket-fence, funny to behold. It was clear as a bell when I walked back; the baleful comet hung over the field of battle; all was very still; I could almost hear the beating of my tired heart, that had gone through so much that day. Too much exhausted to play orderly, I slept in my chair like a top.
The next day, Monday, the 22d, it rained, a steady, straight downpour the livelong day. Everybody flocked to head-quarters. Not one word was said about a forward movement upon Washington. We had too many generals-in-chief; we were Southerners; we didn’t fancy marching in the mud and rain – we threw away a grand opportunity. For days, for weeks, you might say, our friends kept coming from Alexandria, saying with wonder and impatience: “Why don’t you come on? Why stay here doing nothing?” No sufficient answer, in my poor judgment, was ever given. The dead and the dying were forgotten in the general burst of congratulation. Now and then you would hear the loss of Bee and Bartow deplored, or of some individual friend it would be said: “Yes, he is gone, poor fellow”; but this was as nothing compared to the joyous hubbub over the victory. How proud and happy we were! Didn’t we know that we could whip the Yankees? Hadn’t we always said so? Henceforth it would be easy sailing – the war would soon be over, too soon for all the glory we felt sure of gaining. What fools!
Captain H. Grey Latham, in his red shirt, was a conspicuous figure at head-quarters. His battery had covered itself with renown; congratulations were showered upon him. I saw Captain (afterward colonel, on Lee’s staff) Henry E. Peyton come over from General Beauregard’s room blazing with excitement and exaltation. Yesterday he was a private – now he was a captain, promoted by Beauregard first of all because
of his signal gallantry on the field. “By – !” he exclaimed to me, “when I die, I intend to die gloriously.” Alas! Colonel Peyton, confidential clerk of the United States Senate and owner of one of the best farms in Loudoun County, is like to die in his bed as ingloriously as the rest of us.
A young Mr. Fauntleroy, desiring an interview with General Joseph E. Johnston, I offered to procure it for him, and pushed through the crowd to the table at which he sat. “Excuse me, General Johnston,” I began. “Excuse me, sir!” he replied, in tones that sent me away in a state of demoralization.
The next thing I remember is the coming on of night, and my resuming my post as night orderly. I was seldom aroused, and slept soundly in a chair, tilted back against the wall. In the yard just in front of me were a number of tents, one of which was occupied by President Davis. The rising sun awakened me. My eyes were still half open when Mr. Davis stepped out of his tent, in full dress, having made his toilet with care. Seeing no one but a private, apparently asleep in a chair, he looked about, turned, and slowly walked to the yard fence, on the other side of which a score or more of captured cannon were parked, Long Tom being conspicuous. The president stood and looked at the cannon for ten minutes or more. Having never seen him close at hand, I went up and looked at the cannon too, but in reality I was looking at him most intently.
That was the turning-point in my life. Had I gone up to him, made myself known, told him what I had done in his behalf, and asked something in return, my career in life would almost certainly have been far different. We were alone. It was an auspicious time to ask favors – just after a great victory – and he was very responsive to personal appeals. My prayer would have been heard. In that event I should have become a member of his political and military family, or, what would have suited me much better, have gone to London, as John R. Thompson afterward did, to pursue in the interest of the Confederacy my calling as a journalist. But Clingman’s talk had done its work. Already prejudiced against Mr. Davis, his face, as I examined it that fateful morning, lacked – or seemed to – the elements that might have overcome my prejudices. There was no magnetism in it – it did not draw me. Yet his voice was sweet, musical in a high degree, and that might have drawn me had I but spoken to him. I could not force myself to open my lips, but walked back to my chair on the open porch, and my lot in life was decided.
General Beauregard removed his head-quarters to the house of Mr. Ware, some distance from Manassas Station, a commodious brick building, in which our friend, Lieutenant James K. Lee, lay wounded. Mr. Ware’s family remained, but most of the house was given up to us. I slept in the garret with the soldier detailed to nurse Lieutenant Lee. In the yard were a number of tents occupied by the general and his staff. Colonel Jordan’s office was in the house. My duty, hitherto light and pleasant, now became somewhat heavy and disagreeable. I had to file and forward applications for furlough, based mainly upon surgeons’ certificates. This brought me in contact with many unlovely people, each anxious to have his case attended to at once. It was very worrying. Others beside myself, the clerks and staff officers, seemed to be as much worried by their labors as I was by mine. Fact is, young Southern gentlemen, used to having their own way, found it hard to be at the beck and call of anybody. The excitement of battle over, the detail of business was pure drudgery. We detested it.
The long, hot days of August dragged themselves away. No advance, no sign of it; the men in camp playing cards, the officers horse-racing. This disheartened me more than all things else, but I kept my thoughts to myself. At night I would walk out in the garden and brood over the possible result of this slow way of making war. The garden looked toward the battle-field. At times I thought I detected the odor of the carcasses, lightly buried there; at others I fancied I heard weird and doleful cries borne on the night wind. I grew melancholy.
Twice or thrice a day I went in to see Lieutenant Lee. Bright and hopeful of recovery, he gave his friends a cheery welcome and an invitation to share the abundant good things with which his mother and sisters kept him supplied. A visit to his sick chamber was literally a treat. The chances seemed all in his favor for two weeks or more after our arrival at the Ware house, but then there came a change for the worse, and soon the symptoms were such that his kinsman, Peachy R. Grattan. reporter of the court of appeals, was sent for. He rallied a little, but we saw the end was nigh. Mr. Grattan promised to send for me during the night in case anything happened, and at two o’clock I was called. The long respiration preceding death had set in. Mr. Grattan, kneeling at the bedside, was praying aloud. The prayer ended, he called the dying officer by name. “James” (louder), “James, is there anything you wish done?” Lieutenant Lee murmured an inarticulate response, made an apparent effort to remove the ring from the finger of his left hand, and sank back into the last slumber. I waited an hour in silence; still the long-drawn breathing kept up.
“No need to wait longer,” said Mr. Grattan; “he will not rouse any more.”
I went to my pallet in the garret, but could not sleep; at dawn I was down again. The long breathing continued; Mr. Grattan sat close to the head of the bed and I stood at the foot, my gaze fixed on the dying man’s face. Suddenly both his eyes opened wide; there was no “speculation” in them, but the whole room seemed flooded with their preternatural light. Just then the sun rose, and his eyes closed in everlasting darkness, to open, I doubt not, in everlasting day. So passed away the spirit of James K. Lee.
A furlough was given me to accompany the remains to Richmond, with indefinite leave of absence, there being no sign of active hostilities. In view of my infirm health a discharge was granted me after my arrival in Richmond, and thus ended the record of an unrenowned warrior.
Let me say a word or two in conclusion. In 1861 I was thirty-three years old; now I am fifty-five, gray and aged beyond my years by many afflictions. I wanted to see a great war, saw it, and pray God I may never see another. I recall what General Duff Green, an ardent Southerner, said in Washington, in the winter of 1861, to some hot-heads: “Anything, anything but war.” So said William C. Rives to some young men in Richmond just after the fall of Sumter: “Young gentlemen, you are eager for war—you little know what it is you are so anxious to see.” Those old men were right. War is simply horrible. The filth, the disease, the privation, the suffering, the mutilation, and, above all, the debasement of public and private morals, leave to war scarcely a redeeming feature.
Hat Tip to John Hennessy
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Tags: 11th Virginia Infantry, Carey Sisters, George W. Bagby, Great Comet of 1861, Memoirs, Resources, Thomas Jordan
Categories : Reminiscences, Resources
Baltimore American, June 18, 1861
The most objectionable of all the pronunciamientos of the Secessionists that has come under our notice, since the beginning of the conflict, is the Proclamation of Gen. Beauregard to certain “good people” in Virginia. How any man of his standing could put his name to such a production we are at a loss to conceive. We would fain hope that it is not genuine. We would fain believe that so gross and unwarranted a misrepresentation of the purposes of the United States Government must have been foisted upon the public by some enemy of Gen. Beauregard. The publication is credited, however, to the Richmond Enquirer, and therefore leaves no doubt of its being official. Without venturing any lengthy comments upon it, we beg leave to suggest that if the prominent leaders of that side are driven to such methods of widening the breach between the sections, the cause must be low down which requires such disreputable and untruthful means to “breath into it the breath of life.”
The particular passage to which we would call the especial attention of our readers is a tolerably fair parallel to a paragraph we gave the other day from a speech made by ex-Gov. Wise, in which he invites the people of Virginia to “wade through a path of blood.” Gen. Beauregard says: “A reckless and unprincipled tyrant has invaded your soil. Abraham Lincoln, regardless of all moral, legal, and constitutional restraints, has thrown his Abolition hosts among you, who are murdering and imprisoning your citizens, confiscating and destroying your property, and committing other acts of violence and outrage too shocking and revolting to humanity to be enumerated. All rules of civilized warfare are abandoned, and they proclaim by their acts, if not on their banners, that their war-cry is “Beauty and Booty.” All that is dear to man – your honor, and that of your wives and daughters – your fortunes, and your lives, are involved in this momentous contest.”
We cannot avoid contrasting with the above the offer of General Butler to put down “servile insurrections” in his first landing at Annapolis, and the subsequent address of General Patterson to the Pennsylvania troops, that it might be their duty to “suppress servile insurrections.”
Can the people of Virginia be imposed upon by such productions as this of General Beauregard? Can any intelligent community in the South be thus cheated into madness? Surely if they can be, they are to be pitied, and we have only to say that so poor a compliment paid by any high functionary to the intelligence of the people of Maryland, would receive their scorn and reprobation.
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Tags: Beauregard, Beauty and Booty, Newspaper Accounts, Resources
Categories : Newspaper Accounts, Resources
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p 907
CONFEDERATE CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.–#4
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF ALEXANDRIA,
Camp Pickens, June 5, 1861.
To the good People of the Counties of Loudoun, Fairfax, and Prince William:
A reckless and unprincipled tyrant has invaded your soil. Abraham Lincoln, regardless of all moral, legal, and constitutional restraints, has thrown his abolition hosts among you, who are murdering and imprisoning your citizens, confiscating and destroying your property, and committing other acts of violence and outrage too shocking and revolting to humanity to be enumerated. All rules of civilized warfare are abandoned, and they proclaim by their acts, if not on their banners, that their war-cry is “Beauty and booty.” All that is dear to man, your honor, and that of your wives and daughters, your fortunes, and your lives, are involved in this momentous contest.
In the name, therefore, of the constituted authorities of the Confederate States, in the sacred cause of constitutional liberty and self-government, for which we are contending, in behalf of civilization and humanity itself, I, G. T. Beauregard, brigadier-general of the Confederate States, commanding at Camp Pickens, Manassas Junction, do make this my proclamation, and invite and enjoin you by every consideration dear to the hearts of freemen and patriots, by the name and memory of your revolutionary fathers, and by the purity and sanctity of your domestic firesides, to rally to the standard of your State and country, and by every means in your power compatible with honorable warfare to drive back and expel the invaders from your land. I conjure you to be true and loyal to your country and her legal and constitutional authorities, and especially to be vigilant of the movements and acts of the enemy, so as to enable you to give the earliest authentic information to these headquarters or to the officers under my command. I desire to assure you that the utmost protection in my power will be extended to you all.
G. T. BEAUREGARD,
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Tags: Beauregard, Beauty and Booty, Official Correspondence, Resources
Categories : Official Correspondence, Resources
THE FIRST BATTLE OF BULL RUN
BY G. T. BEAUREGARD, GENERAL, C. S. A.
Soon after the first conflict between the authorities of the Federal Union and those of the Confederate States had occurred in Charleston Harbor, by the bombardment of Fort Sumter,—which, beginning at 4:30 A. M. on the 12th of April, 1861, forced the surrender of that fortress within thirty hours thereafter into my hands,—I was called to Richmond, which by that time had become the Confederate seat of government, and was directed to “assume command of the Confederate troops on the Alexandria line.” Arriving at Manassas Junction, I took command on the 2d of June, forty-nine days after the evacuation of Fort Sumter.
Although the position at the time was strategically of commanding importance to the Confederates, the mere terrain was not only without natural defensive advantages, but, on the contrary, was absolutely unfavorable. Its strategic value was that, being close to the Federal capital, it held in observation the chief army then being assembled near Arlington by General McDowell, under the immediate eye of the commander-in-chief, General Scott, for an offensive movement against Richmond; and while it had a railway approach in its rear for the easy accumulation of reinforcements and all the necessary munitions of war from the southward, at the same time another (the Manassas Gap) railway, diverging laterally to the left from that point, gave rapid communications with the fertile valley of the Shenandoah, then teeming with live stock and cereal subsistence, as well as with other resources essential to the Confederates. There was this further value in the position to the Confederate army: that during the period of accumulation, seasoning, and training, it might be fed from the fat fields, pastures, and garners of Loudoun, Fauquier, and the Lower Shenandoah Valley counties, which otherwise must have fallen into the hands of the enemy. But, on the other hand, Bull Run, a petty stream, was of little or no defensive strength; for it abounded in fords, and although for the most part its banks were rocky and abrupt, the side from which it would be approached offensively in most places commanded the opposite ground.
At the time of my arrival at Manassas, a Confederate army under General Joseph E. Johnston was in occupation of the Lower Shenandoah Valley, along the line of the Upper Potomac, chiefly at Harper’s Ferry, which was regarded as the gateway of the valley and of one of the possible approaches to Richmond; a position from which he was speedily forced to retire, however, by a flank movement of a Federal army, under the veteran General Patterson, thrown across the Potomac at or about Martinsburg. On my other or right flank, so to speak, a Confederate force of some 2500 men under General Holmes occupied the position of Aquia Creek on the lower Potomac, upon the line of approach to Richmond from that direction through Fredericksburg. The other approach, that by way of the James River, was held by Confederate troops under Generals Huger and Magruder. Establishing small outposts at Leesburg to observe the crossings of the Potomac in that quarter, and at Fairfax Court House in observation of Arlington, with other detachments in advance of Manassas toward Alexandria on the south side of the railroad, from the very outset I was anxiously aware that the sole military advantage at the moment to the Confederates was that of holding the interior lines. On the Federal or hostile side were all material advantages, including superior numbers, largely drawn from the old militia organizations of the great cities of the North, decidedly better armed and equipped than the troops under me, and strengthened by a small but incomparable body of regular infantry as well as a number of batteries of regular field artillery of the highest class, and a very large and thoroughly organized staff corps, besides a numerous body of professionally educated officers in command of volunteer regiments, (1) — all precious military elements at such a juncture.
Happily, through the foresight of Colonel Thomas Jordan,—whom General Lee had placed as the adjutant-general of the forces there assembled before my arrival,—arrangements were made which enabled me to receive regularly, from private persons at the Federal capital, most accurate information, of which politicians high in council, as well as War Department clerks, were the unconscious ducts. On the 4th of July, my pickets happened upon and captured a soldier of the regulars, who proved to be a clerk in the adjutant-general’s office of General McDowell, intrusted with the special duty of compiling returns of his army—a work which he confessed, without reluctance, he had just executed, showing the forces under McDowell about the 1st of July. His statement of the strength and composition of that force tallied so closely with that which had been acquired through my Washington agencies, already mentioned, as well as through the leading Northern newspapers (regular files of which were also transmitted to my headquarters from the Federal capital), that I could not doubt them.
In these several ways, therefore, I was almost as well advised of tho strength of the hostile army in my front as its commander, who, I may mention, had been a classmate of mine at West Point. Under those circumstances I had become satisfied that a well-equipped, well-constituted Federal army at least 50,000 strong, of all arms, confronted me at or about Arlington, ready and on the very eve of an offensive operation against me, and to meet which I could muster barely 18,000 men with 29 field-guns. (2)
Previously,—indeed, as early as the middle of June,—it had become apparent to my mind that through only one course of action could there be a well-grounded hope of ability on the part of the Confederates to encounter successfully the offensive operations for which the Federal authorities were then vigorously preparing in my immediate front, with so consummate a strategist and military administrator as Lieutenant-General Scott in general command at Washington, aided by his accomplished heads of the large General Staff Corps of the United States Army. This course was to make the most enterprising, warlike use of the interior lines which we possessed, for the swift concentration at the critical instant of every available Confederate force upon the menaced position, at the risk, if need were, of sacrificing all minor places to the one clearly of major military value—there to meet our adversary so offensively as to overwhelm him, under circumstances that must assure immediate ability to assume the general offensive even upon his territory,, and thus conquer an early peace by a few well-delivered blows.
My views of such import had been already earnestly communicated to the proper authorities; but about the middle of July, satisfied that McDowell was on the eve of taking the offensive against me, I dispatched Colonel James Chesnut, of South Carolina, a volunteer aide-de-camp on my staff who had served on an intimate footing with Mr. Davis in the Senate of the United States, to urge in substance the necessity for the immediate concentration of the larger part of the forces of Johnston and Holmes at Manassas, so that the moment McDowell should be sufficiently far detached from Washington, I would be enabled to move rapidly round his more convenient flank upon his rear and his communications, and attack him in reverse, or get between his forces, then separated, thus cutting off his retreat upon Arlington in the event of his defeat, and insuring as an immediate consequence the crushing of Patterson, the liberation of Maryland, and the capture of Washington.
This plan was rejected by Mr. Davis and his military advisers (Adjutant-General Cooper and General Lee), who characterized it as “brilliant and comprehensive,” but essentially impracticable. Furthermore, Colonel Chesnut came back impressed with the views entertained at Richmond,— as he communicated at once to my adjutant-general,— that should the Federal army soon move offensively upon my position, my best course would be to retire behind the Rappahannock and accept battle there instead of at Manassas. In effect, it was regarded as best to sever communications between the two chief Confederate armies, that of the Potomac and that of the Shenandoah, with the inevitable immediate result that Johnston would be forced to leave Patterson in possession of the Lower Shenandoah Valley, abandoning to the enemy so large a part of the most resourceful sections of Virginia, and to retreat southward by way of the Luray Valley, pass across the Blue Ridge at Thornton’s Gap and unite with me after all, but at Fredericksburg, much nearer Richmond than Manassas. These views, however, were not made known to me at the time, and happily my mind was left free to the grave problem imposed upon me by the rejection of my plan for the immediate concentration of a materially larger force,— i. e., the problem of placing and using my resources for a successful encounter behind Bull Run with the Federal army, which I was not permitted to doubt was about to take the field against me.
It is almost needless to say that I had caused to be made a thorough reconnoissance of all the ground in my front and flanks, and had made myself personally acquainted with the most material points, including the region of Sudley’s Church on my left, where a small detachment was posted in observation. Left now to my own resources, of course the contingency of defeat had to be considered and provided for. Among the measures of precaution for such a result, I ordered the destruction of the railroad bridge across Bull Run at Union Mills, on my right, in order that the enemy, in the event of my defeat, should not have the immediate use of the railroad in following up their movement against Richmond— a railroad which could have had no corresponding value to us eastward beyond Manassas in any operations on our side with Washington as the objective, inasmuch as any such operations must have been made by the way of the Upper Potomac and upon the rear of that city.
Just before Colonel Chesnut was dispatched on the mission of which I have spoken, a former clerk in one of the departments at Washington, well known to him, had volunteered to return thither and bring back the latest information of the military and political situation from our most trusted friends. His loyalty to our cause, his intelligence, and his desire to be of service being vouched for, he was at once sent across the Potomac below Alexandria, merely accredited by a small scrap of paper bearing in Colonel Jordan’s cipher the two words, “Trust bearer,” with which he was to call at a certain house in Washington within easy rifle-range of the White House, ask for the lady of the house, and present it only to her. This delicate mission was as fortunately as it was deftly executed. In the early morning, as the newsboys were crying in the empty streets of Washington the intelligence that the order was given for the Federal army to move at once upon my position, that scrap of paper reached the hands of the one person in all that city who could extract any meaning from it. With no more delay than was necessary for a hurried breakfast and the writing in cipher by Mrs. G— of the words, “Order issued for McDowell to march upon Manassas to-night,” my agent was placed in communication with another friend, who earned him in a buggy with a relay of horses as swiftly as possible down the eastern shore of the Potomac to our regular ferry across that river. Without untoward incident the momentous dispatch was quickly delivered into the hands of a cavalry courier, and by means of relays it was in my hands between 8 and 9 o’clock that night. Within half an hour my outpost commanders, advised of what was impending, were directed, at the first evidence of the near presence of the enemy in their front, to fall back in the manner and to positions already prescribed in anticipation of such a contingency in an order confidentially communicated to them four weeks before, and the detachment at Leesburg was directed to join me by forced marches. Having thus cleared my decks for action, I next acquainted Mr. Davis with the situation, and ventured once more to suggest that the Army of the Shenandoah, with the brigade at Fredericksburg or Aquia Creek, should be ordered to reenforce me,— suggestions that were at once heeded so far that General Holmes was ordered to carry his command to my aid, and General Johnston was given discretion to do likewise. After some telegraphic discussion with me, General Johnston was induced to exercise this discretion in favor of the swift march of the Army of the Shenandoah to my relief; and to facilitate that vital movement, I hastened to accumulate all possible means of railway transport at a designated point on the Manassas Gap railroad at the eastern foot of the Blue Ridge, to which Johnston’s troops directed their march. However, at the same time, I had submitted the alternative proposition to General Johnston, that, having passed the Blue Ridge, he should assemble his forces, press forward by way of Aldie, north-west of Manassas, and fall upon McDowell’s right rear; while I, prepared for the operation, at the first sound of the conflict, should strenuously assume the offensive in my front. The situation and circumstances specially favored the signal success of such an operation. The march to the point of attack could have been accomplished as soon as the forces were brought ultimately by rail to Manassas Junction; our enemy, thus attacked so nearly simultaneously on his right flank, his rear, and his front, naturally would suppose that I had been able to turn his flank while attacking him in front, and therefore, that I must have an overwhelming superiority of numbers; and his forces, being new troops, most of them under fire for the first time, must have soon fallen into a disastrous panic. Moreover, such an operation must have resulted advantageously to the Confederates, in the event that McDowell should, as might have been anticipated, attempt to strike the Manassas Gap railway to my left, and thus cut off railway communications between Johnston’s forces and my own, instead of the mere effort to strike my left flank which he actually essayed. (3)
It seemed, however, as though the deferred attempt at concentration was to go for naught, for on the morning of the 18th the Federal forces were massed around Centreville, but three miles from Mitchell’s Ford, and soon were seen advancing upon the roads leading to that and Blackburn’s Ford. My order of battle, issued in the night of the 17th, contemplated an offensive return, particularly from the strong brigades on the light and right center. The Federal artillery opened in front of both fords, and the infantry, while demonstrating in front of Mitchell’s Ford, endeavored to force a passage at Blackburn’s. Their column of attack, Tyler’s division, was opposed by Longstreet’s forces, to the reenforcement of which Early’s brigade, the reserve line at McLean’s Ford, was ordered up. The Federals, after several attempts to force a passage, met a final repulse and retreated. (4) After their infantry attack had ceased, about 1 o’clock, the contest lapsed into an artillery duel, in which the Washington Artillery of New Orleans won credit against the renowned batteries of the United States regular army. A comical effect of this artillery fight was the destruction of the dinner of myself and staff by a Federal shell that fell into the fire-place of my headquarters at the McLean House.
Our success in this first limited collision was of special prestige to my army of new troops, and, moreover, of decisive importance by so increasing General McDowell’s caution as to give time for the arrival of some of General Johnston’s forces. But while on the 19th I was awaiting a renewed and general attack by the Federal army, I received a telegram from the Richmond military authorities, urging me to withdraw my call on General Johnston on account of the supposed impracticability of the concentration — an abiding conviction which had been but momentarily shaken by the alarm caused by McDowell’s march upon Richmond. (5) As this was not an order in terms, but an urgency which, notwithstanding its superior source, left me technically free and could define me as responsible for any misevent, I preferred to keep both the situation and the responsibility, and continued every effort for the prompt arrival of the Shenandoah forces, being resolved, should they come before General McDowell again attacked, to take myself the offensive. General McDowell, fortunately for my plans, spent the 19th and 20th in reconnoissances; (6) and, meanwhile, General Johnston brought 8340 men from the Shenandoah Valley, with 20 guns, and General Holmes 1265 rank and file, with 6 pieces of artillery, from Aquia Creek. As these forces arrived (most of them in the afternoon of the 20th) I placed them chiefly so as to strengthen my left center and left, the latter being weak from lack of available troops.
The disposition of the entire force was now as follows: At Union Mills Ford, Ewell’s brigade, supported by Holmes’s; at McLean’s Ford, D. R. Jones’s brigade, supported by Early’s; at Blackburn’s Ford, Longstreet’s brigade; at Mitchell’s Ford, Bonham’s brigade. Cocke’s brigade held the line in front and rear of Bull Run from Bonham’s left, covering Lewis’s, Ball’s, and Island fords, to the right of Evans’s demi-brigade, which covered the Stone Bridge and a farm ford about a mile above, and formed part also of Cocke’s command. The Shenandoah forces were placed in reserve — Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades between McLean’s and Blackburn’s fords, and Jackson’s between Blackburn’s and Mitchell’s fords. This force mustered 29,188 rank and file and 55 guns, of which 21,923 infantry, cavalry, and artillery, with 29 guns, belonged to my immediate forces, i. e., the Army of the Potomac.
The preparation, in front of an ever-threatening enemy, of a wholly volunteer army, composed of men very few of whom had ever belonged to any military organization, had been a work of many cares not incident to the command of a regular army. These were increased by the insufficiency of my staff organization, an inefficient management of the quartermaster’s department at Richmond, and the preposterous mismanagement of the commissary-general, who not only failed to furnish rations, but caused the removal of the army commissaries, who, under my orders, procured food from the country in front of us to keep the army from absolute want—supplies that were otherwise exposed to be gathered by the enemy. So specially severe had been the recent duties at headquarters, aggravated not a little by night alarms arising from the enemy’s immediate presence, that, in the evening of the 20th, I found my chief-of-staff sunken upon the papers that covered his table, asleep in sheer exhaustion from the overstraining and almost slumberless labor of the last days and nights. I covered his door with a guard to secure his rest against any interruption, after which the army had the benefit of his usual active and provident services.
There was much in this decisive conflict about to open, not involved in any after battle, which pervaded the two armies and the people behind them and colored the responsibility of the respective commanders. The political hostilities of a generation were now face to face with weapons instead of words. Defeat to either side would be a deep mortification, but defeat to the South must turn its claim of independence into an empty vaunt; and the defeated commander on either side might expect, though not the personal fate awarded by the Carthaginians to an unfortunate commander, at least a moral fate quite similar. Though disappointed that the concentration I had sought had not been permitted at the moment and for the purpose preferred by me, and notwithstanding the non-arrival of some five thousand troops of the Shenandoah forces, my strength was now so increased that I had good hope of successfully meeting my adversary.
General Johnston was the ranking officer, and entitled, therefore, to assume command of the united forces; but as the extensive field of operations was one which I had occupied since the beginning of June, and with which I was thoroughly familiar in all its extent and military bearings, while he was wholly unacquainted with it, and, moreover, as I had made my plans and dispositions for the maintenance of the position, General Johnston, in view of the gravity of the impending issue, preferred not to assume the responsibilities of the chief direction of the forces during the battle, but to assist me upon the field. Thereupon, I explained my plans and purposes, to which he agreed. (7)
Sunday, July 21st, bearing the fate of the new-born Confederacy, broke brightly over the fields and woods that held the hostile forces. My scouts, thrown out in the night toward Centreville along the Warrenton Turnpike, had reported that the enemy was concentrating along the latter. This fact, together with the failure of the Federals in their attack upon my center at Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s fords, had caused me to apprehend that they would attempt my left flank at the Stone Bridge, and orders were accordingly issued by half-past 4 o’clock to the brigade commanders to hold their forces in readiness to move at a moment’s notice, together with the suggestion that the Federal attack might be expected in that quarter. Shortly afterward the enemy was reported to be advancing from Centreville on the Warrenton Turnpike, and at half-past 5 o’clock as deploying a force in front of Evans. As their movement against my left developed the opportunity I desired, I immediately sent orders to the brigade commanders, both front and reserves, on my right and center to advance and vigorously attack the Federal left flank and rear at Centreville, while my left, under Cocke and Evans with their supports, would sustain the Federal attack in the quarter of the Stone Bridge, which they were directed to do to the last extremity. The center was likewise to advance and engage the enemy in front, and directions were given to the reserves, when without orders, to move toward the sound of the heaviest firing. The ground in our front on the other side of Bull Run afforded particular advantage for these tactics. Centreville was the apex of a triangle — its short side running by the Warrenton Turnpike to Stone Bridge, its base Bull Run, its long side a road that ran from Union Mills along the front of my other Bull Run positions and trended off to the rear of Centreville, where McDowell had massed his main forces; branch roads led up to this one from the fords between Union Mills and Mitchell’s. My forces to the right of the latter ford were to advance, pivoting on that position; Bonham was in advance from Mitchell’s Ford, Longstreet from Blackburn’s, D. R. Jones from McLean’s, and Ewell from Union Mills by the Centreville road. Ewell, as having the longest march, was to begin the movement, and each brigade was to be followed by its reserve. In anticipation of this method of attack, and to prevent accidents, the subordinate commanders had been carefully instructed in the movement by me, as they were all new to the responsibilities of command. They were to establish close communication with each other before making the attack. About half-past 8 o’clock I set out with General Johnston for a convenient position,— a hill in rear of Mitchell’s Ford,— where we waited for the opening of the attack on our right, from which I expected a decisive victory by midday, with the result of cutting off the Federal army from retreat upon Washington.
Meanwhile, about half-past 5 o’clock, the peal of a heavy rifled gun was heard in front of the Stone Bridge, its second shot striking through the tent of my signal-officer, Captain E. P. Alexander; and at 6 o’clock a full rifled battery opened against Evans and then against Cocke, to which our artillery remained dumb, as it had not sufficient range to reply. But later, as the Federal skirmish-line advanced, it was engaged by ours, thrown well forward on the other side of the Run. A scattering musketry fire followed, and meanwhile, about 7 o’clock, I ordered Jackson’s brigade, with Imboden’s and five guns of Walton’s battery, to the left, with orders to support Cocke as well as Bonham; and the brigades of Bee and Bartow, under the command of the former, were also sent to the support of the left.
At half-past 8 o’clock Evans, seeing that the Federal attack did not increase in boldness and vigor, and observing a lengthening line of dust above the trees to the left of the Warrenton Turnpike, became satisfied that the attack in his front was but a feint, and that a column of the enemy was moving around through the woods to fall on his flank from the direction of Sudley Ford. Informing his immediate commander, Cocke, of the enemy’s movement, and of his own dispositions to meet it, he left 4 companies under cover at the Stone Bridge, and led the remainder of his force, 6 companies of Sloan’s 4th South Carolina and Wheat’s battalion of Louisiana Tigers, with 2 6-pounder howitzers, across the valley of Young’s Branch to the high ground beyond it. Resting his left on the Sudley road, he distributed his troops on each side of a small copse, with such cover as the ground afforded, and looking over the open fields and a reach of the Sudley road which the Federals must cover in their approach. His two howitzers were placed one at each end of his position, and here he silently awaited the enemy now drawing near.
The Federal turning column, about 18,000 strong, with 24 pieces of artillery, had moved down from Centreville by the Warrenton Turnpike, and after passing Cub Run had struck to the right by a forest road to cross Bull Run at Sudley Ford, about 3 miles above the Stone Bridge, moving by a long circuit for the purpose of attacking my left flank. The head of the column, Burnside’s brigade of Hunter’s division, at about 9:45 A. M. debouched from the woods into the open fields, in front of Evans. Wheat at once engaged their skirmishers, and as the Second Rhode Island regiment advanced, supported by its splendid battery of 6 rifled guns, the fronting thicket held by Evans’s South Carolinians poured forth its sudden volleys, while the 2 howitzers flung their grape-shot upon the attacking line, which was soon shattered and driven back into the woods behind. Major Wheat, after handling his battalion with the utmost determination, had fallen severely wounded in the lungs. Burnside’s entire brigade was now sent forward in a second charge, supported by 8 guns; but they encountered again the unflinching fire of Evans’s line, and were once more driven back to the woods, from the cover of which they continued the attack, reenforced after a time by the arrival of 8 companies of United States regular infantry, under Major Sykes, with 6 pieces of artillery, quickly followed by the remaining regiments of Andrew Porter’s brigade of the same division. The contest here lasted fully an hour; meanwhile Wheat’s battalion, having lost its leader, had gradually lost its organization, and Evans, though still opposing these heavy odds with undiminished firmness, sought reinforcement from the troops in his rear.
General Bee, of South Carolina, a man of marked character, whose command lay in reserve in rear of Cocke, near the Stone Bridge, intelligently applying the general order given to the reserves, had already moved toward the neighboring point of conflict, and taken a position with his own and Bartow’s brigades on the high plateau which stands in rear of Bull Run in the quarter of the Stone Bridge, and overlooking the scene of engagement upon the stretch of high ground from which it was separated by the valley of Young’s Branch. This plateau is inclosed on three sides by two small watercourses, which empty into Bull Run within a few yards of each other, a half mile to the south of the Stone Bridge. Rising to an elevation of quite 100 feet above .the level of Bull Run at the bridge, it falls off on three sides to the level of the inclosing streams in gentle slopes, but furrowed by ravines of irregular directions and length, and studded with clumps and patches of young pine and oaks. The general direction of the crest of the plateau is oblique to the course of Bull Run in that quarter and to the Sudley and turnpike roads, which intersect each other at right angles. On the north-western brow, overlooking Young’s Branch, and near the Sudley road, as the latter climbs over the plateau, stood the house of the widow Henry, while to its right and forward on a projecting spur stood the house and sheds of the free negro Robinson, just behind the turnpike, densely embowered in trees and shrubbery and environed by a double row of fences on two sides. Around the eastern and southern brow of the plateau an almost unbroken fringe of second-growth pines gave excellent shelter for our marksmen, who availed themselves of it with the most satisfactory skill. To the west, adjoining the fields that surrounded the houses mentioned, a broad belt of oaks extends directly across the crest on both sides of the Sudley road, in which, during the battle, the hostile forces contended for the mastery. General Bee, with a soldier’s eye to the situation, skillfully disposed his forces. His two brigades on either side of Imboden’s battery— which he had borrowed from his neighboring reserve, Jackson’s brigade — were placed in a small depression of the plateau in advance of the Henry house, whence he had a full view of the contest on the opposite height across the valley of Young’s Branch. Opening with his artillery upon the Federal batteries, he answered Evans’s request by advising him to withdraw to his own position on the height; but Evans, full of the spirit that would not retreat, renewed his appeal that the forces in rear would come to help him hold his ground. The newly arrived forces had given the Federals such superiority at this point as to dwarf Evans’s means of resistance, and General Bee, generously yielding his own better judgment to Evans’s persistence, led the two brigades across the valley under the fire of the enemy’s artillery, and threw them into action — 1 regiment in the copse held by Colonel Evans, 2 along a fence on the right, and 2 under General Bartow on the prolonged right of this line, but extended forward at a right angle and along the edge of a wood not more than 100 yards from that held by the enemy’s left, where the contest at short range became sharp and deadly, bringing many casualties to both sides. The Federal infantry, though still in superior numbers, failed to make any headway against this sturdy van, notwithstanding Bee’s whole line was hammered also by the enemy’s powerful batteries, until Heintzelman’s division of 2 strong brigades, arriving from Sudley Ford, extended the fire on the Federal right, while its battery of 6 10-pounder rifled guns took an immediately effective part from “a position behind the Sudley road. Against these odds the Confederate force was still endeavoring to hold its ground, when a new enemy came into the field upon its right. Major Wheat, with characteristic daring and restlessness, had crossed Bull Run alone by a small ford above the Stone Bridge, in order to reconnoiter, when he and Evans had first moved to the left, and, falling on some Federal scouts, had shouted a taunting defiance and withdrawn, not, however, without his place of crossing having been observed. This disclosure was now utilized by Sherman’s (W. T.) and Keyes’s brigades of Tyler’s division; crossing at this point, they appeared over the high bank of the stream and moved into position on the Federal left. There was no choice now for Bee but to retire — a movement, however, to be accomplished under different circumstances than when urged by him upon Evans. The three leaders endeavored to preserve the steadiness of the ranks as they withdrew over the open fields, aided by the fire of Imboden’s guns on the plateau and the retiring howitzers; but the troops were thrown into confusion, and the greater part soon fell into rout across Young’s Branch and around the base of the height in the rear of the Stone Bridge.
Meanwhile, in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, I had been waiting with General Johnston for the sound of conflict to open in the quarter of Centreville upon the Federal left flank and rear (making allowance, however, for the delays possible to commands unused to battle), when I was chagrined to hear from General D. E. Jones that, while he had been long ready for the movement upon Centreville, General Ewell had not come up to form on his right, though he had sent him between 7 and 8 o’clock a copy of his own order which recited that Ewell had been already ordered to begin the movement. I dispatched an immediate order to Ewell to advance; but within a quarter of an hour, just as I received a dispatch from him informing me that he had received no order to advance in the morning, the firing on the left began to increase so intensely as to indicate a severe attack, whereupon General Johnston said that he would go personally to that quarter.
After weighing attentively the firing, which seemed rapidly and heavily increasing, it appeared to me that the troops on the right wovdd be unable to get into position before the Federal offensive should have made too much progress on our left, and that it would be better to abandon it altogether, maintaining only a strong demonstration so as to detain the enemy in front of our right and center, and hurry up all available reinforcements — including the reserves that were to have moved upon Centreville — to our left and fight the battle out in that quarter. Communicating this view to General Johnston, who approved it (giving his advice, as he said, for what it was worth, as he was not acquainted with the country), I ordered Ewell, Jones, and Longstreet to make a strong demonstration all along their front on the other side of the Run, and ordered the reserves below our position, Holmes’s brigade with 6 guns, and Early’s brigade, also 2 regiments of Bonham’s brigade, near at hand, to move swiftly to the left. General Johnston and I now set out at full speed for the point of conflict. We arrived there just as Bee’s troops, after giving way, were fleeing in disorder behind the height in rear of the Stone Bridge. They had come around between the base of the hill and the Stone Bridge into a shallow ravine which ran up to a point on the crest where Jackson had already formed his brigade along the edge of the woods. We found the commanders resolutely stemming the further flight of the routed forces, but vainly endeavoring to restore order, and our own efforts were as futile. Every segment of line we succeeded in forming was again dissolved while another was being formed; more than two thousand men were shouting each some suggestion to his neighbor, their voices mingling with the noise of the shells hurtling through the trees overhead, and all word of command drowned in the confusion and uproar. It was at this moment that General Bee used the famous expression, “Look at Jackson’s brigade! It stands there like a stone wall”— a name that passed from the brigade to its immortal commander. The disorder seemed irretrievable, but happily the thought came to me that if their colors were planted out to the front the men might rally on them, and I gave the order to carry the standards forward some forty yards, which was promptly executed by the regimental officers, thus drawing the common eye of the troops. They now received easily the orders to advance and form on the line of their colors, which they obeyed with a general movement; and as General Johnston and myself rode forward shortly after with the colors of the 4th Alabama by our side, the line that had fought all morning, and had fled, routed and disordered, now advanced again into position as steadily as veterans. The 4th Alabama had previously lost all its field-officers; and noticing Colonel S. R. Gist, an aide to General Bee, a young man whom I had known as adjutant-general of South Carolina, and whom I greatly esteemed, I presented him as an able and brave commander to the stricken regiment, who cheered their new leader, and maintained under him, to the end of the day, their previous gallant behavior. We had come none too soon, as the enemy’s forces, flushed with the belief of accomplished victory, were already advancing across the valley of Young’s Branch and up the slope, where they had encountered for a while the fire of the Hampton Legion, which had been led forward toward the Robinson house and the turnpike in front, covering the retreat and helping materially to check the panic of Bee’s routed forces.
As soon as order was restored I requested General Johnston to go back to Portici (the Lewis house), and from that point — which I considered most favorable for the purpose — forward me the reinforcements as they would come from the Bull Run lines below and those that were expected to arrive from Manassas, while I should direct the field. General Johnston was disinclined to leave the battle-field for that position. As I had been compelled to leave my chief-of-staff, Colonel Jordan, at Manassas to forward any troops arriving there, I felt it was a necessity that one of us should go to this duty, and that it was his place to do so, as I felt I was responsible for the battle. He considerately yielded to my urgency, and we had the benefit of his energy and sagacity in so directing the reenforcements toward the field, as to be readily and effectively assistant to my pressing needs and insure the success of the day.
As General Johnston departed for Portici, I hastened to form our line of battle against the on-coming enemy. I ordered up the 49th and 8th Virginia regiments from Cocke’s neighboring brigade in the Bull Bun lines. Gartrell’s 7th Georgia I placed in position on the left of Jackson’s brigade, along the belt of pines occupied by the latter on the eastern rim of the plateau. As the 49th Virginia rapidly came up, its colonel, ex-Governor William Smith, was encouraging them with cheery word and manner, and, as they approached, indicated to them the immediate presence of the commander. As the regiment raised a loud cheer, the name was caught by some of the troops of Jackson’s brigade in the immediate wood, who rushed out, calling for General Beauregard. Hastily acknowledging these happy signs of sympathy and confidence, which reenforce alike the capacity of commander and troops, I placed the 49th Virginia in position on the extreme left next to Gartrell, and as I paused to say a few words to Jackson, while hurrying back to the right, my horse was killed under me by a bursting shell, a fragment of which carried away part of the heel of my boot. The Hampton Legion, which had suffered greatly, was placed on the right of Jackson’s brigade, and Hunton’s 8th Virginia, as it arrived, upon the right of Hampton; the two latter being drawn somewhat to the rear so as to form with Jackson’s right regiment a reserve, and be ready likewise to make defense against any advance from the direction of the Stone Bridge, whence there was imminent peril from the enemy’s heavy forces, as I had just stripped that position almost entirely of troops to meet the active crisis on the plateau, leaving this quarter now covered only by a few men, whose defense was otherwise assisted solely by the obstruction of an abatis.
With 6500 men and 13 pieces of artillery, I now awaited the onset of the enemy, who were pressing forward 20,000 strong, (8) with 24 pieces of superior artillery and 7 companies of regular cavalry. They soon appeared over the farther rim of the plateau, seizing the Robinson house on my right and the Henry house opposite my left center. Near the latter they placed in position the two powerful batteries of Ricketts and Griffin of the regular army, and pushed forward up the Sudley road, the slope of which was cut so deep below the adjacent ground as to afford a covered way up to the plateau. Supported by the formidable lines of Federal musketry, these 2 batteries lost no time in making themselves felt, while 3 more batteries in rear on the high ground beyond the Sudley and Warrenton cross-roads swelled the shower of shell that fell among our ranks.
Our own batteries, Imboden’s, Stanard’s, five of Walton’s guns, reenforced later by Pendleton’s and Alburtis’s (their disadvantage being reduced by the shortness of range), swept the surface of the plateau from their position on the eastern rim. I felt that, after the accidents of the morning, much depended on maintaining the steadiness of the troops against the first heavy onslaught, and rode along the lines encouraging the men to unflinching behavior, meeting, as I passed each command, a cheering response. The steady fire of their musketry told severely on the Federal ranks, and the splendid action of our batteries was a fit preface to the marked skill exhibited by our artillerists during the war. The enemy suffered particularly from the musketry on our left, now further reenforced by the 2d Mississippi — the troops in this quarter confronting each other at very short range. Here two companies of Stuart’s cavalry charged through the Federal ranks that filled the Sudley road, increasing the disorder wrought upon that flank of the enemy. But with superior numbers the Federals were pushing on new regiments in the attempt to flank my position, and several guns, in the effort to enfilade ours, were thrust forward so near the 33d Virginia that some of its men sprang forward and captured them, but were driven back by an overpowering force of Federal musketry. Although the enemy were held well at bay, their pressure became so strong that I resolved to take the offensive, and ordered a charge on my right for the purpose of recovering the plateau. The movement, made with alacrity and force by the commands of Bee, Bartow, Evans, and Hampton, thrilled the entire line, Jackson’s brigade piercing the enemy’s center, and the left of the line under Gartrell and Smith following up the charge, also, in that quarter, so that the whole of the open surface of the plateau was swept clear of the Federals.
Apart from its impressions on the enemy, the effect of this brilliant onset was to give a short breathing-spell to our troops from the immediate strain of conflict, and encourage them in withstanding the still more strenuous offensive that was soon to bear upon them. Reorganizing our line of battle under the unremitting fire of the Federal batteries opposite, I prepared to meet the new attack which the enemy were about to make, largely reenforced by the troops of Howard’s brigade, newly arrived on the field. The Federals again pushed up the slope, the face of which partly afforded good cover by the numerous ravines that scored it and the clumps of young pines and oaks with which it was studded, while the sunken Sudley road formed a good ditch and parapet for their aggressive advance upon my left flank and rear. Gradually they pressed our lines back and regained possession of their lost ground and guns. With the Henry and Robinson houses once more in their possession, they resumed the offensive, urged forward by their commanders with conspicuous gallantry.
The conflict now became very severe for the final possession of this position, which was the key to victory. The Federal numbers enabled them so to extend their lines through the woods beyond the Sudley road as to outreach my left flank, which I was compelled partly to throw back, so as to meet the attack from that quarter; meanwhile their numbers equally enabled them to outflank my right in the direction of the Stone Bridge, imposing anxious watchfulness in that direction. I knew that I was safe if I could hold out till the arrival of reenforcements, which was but a matter of time; and, with the full sense of my own responsibility, I was determined to hold the line of the plateau, even if surrounded on all sides, until assistance should come, unless my forces were sooner overtaken by annihilation.
It was now between half-past 2 and 3 o’clock; a scorching sun increased the oppression of the troops, exhausted from incessant fighting, many of them having been engaged since the morning. Fearing lest the Federal offensive should secure too firm a grip, and knowing the fatal result that might spring from any grave infraction of my line, I determined to make another effort for the recovery of the plateau, and ordered a charge of the entire line of battle, including the reserves, which at this crisis I myself led into action. The movement was made with such keeping and dash that the whole plateau was swept clear of the enemy, who were driven down the slope and across the turnpike on our right and the valley of Young’s Branch on our left, leaving in our final possession the Robinson and Henry houses, with most of Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries, the men of which were mostly shot down where they bravely stood by their guns. Fisher’s 6th North Carolina, directed to the Lewis house by Colonel Jordan from Manassas, where it had just arrived, and thence to the field by General Johnston, came up in happy time to join in this charge on the left. Withers’s 18th Virginia, which I had ordered up from Cocke’s brigade, was also on hand in time to follow and give additional effect to the charge, capturing, by aid of the Hampton Legion, several guns, which were immediately turned and served upon the broken ranks of the enemy by some of our officers. This handsome work, which broke the Federal fortunes of the day, was done, however, at severe cost. The soldierly Bee, and the gallant, impetuous Bartow, whose day of strong deeds was about to close with such credit, fell a few rods back of the Henry house, near the very spot whence in the morning they had first looked forth upon Evans’s struggle with the enemy. Colonel Fisher also fell at the very head of his troops. Seeing Captain Ricketts, who was badly wounded in the leg, and having known him in the old army, I paused from my anxious duties to ask him whether I could do anything for him. He answered that he wanted to be sent back to Washington. As some of our prisoners were there held under threats of not being treated as prisoners of war, I replied that that must depend upon how our prisoners were treated, and ordered him to be carried to the rear. I mention this, because the report of the Federal Committee on the Conduct of the War exhibits Captain Ricketts as testif ying that I only approached him to say that he would be treated as our prisoners might be treated. I sent my own surgeons to care for him, and allowed his wife to cross the lines and accompany him to Richmond; and my adjutant-general, Colonel Jordan, escorting her to the car that carried them to that city, personally attended to the comfortable placing of the wounded enemy for the journey.
That part of the enemy who occupied the woods beyond our left and across the Sudley road had not been reached by the headlong charge which had swept their comrades from the plateau; but the now arriving reenforcements (Kershaw’s 2d and Cash’s 8th South Carolina) were led into that quarter. Kemper’s battery also came up, preceded by its commander, who, while alone, fell into the hands of a number of the enemy, who took him prisoner, until a few moments later, when he handed them over to some of our own troops accompanying his battery. A small plateau, within the south-west angle of the Sudley and turnpike cross-roads, was still held by a strong Federal brigade — Howard’s troops, together with Sykes’s battalion of regulars; and while Kershaw and Cash, after passing through the skirts of the oak wood along the Sudley road, engaged this force, Kemper’s battery was sent forward by Kershaw along the same road, into position near where a hostile battery had been captured, and whence it played upon the enemy in the open field.
Quickly following these regiments came Preston’s 28th Virginia, which, passing through the woods, encountered and drove back some Michigan troops, capturing Brigadier-General Willcox. It was now about 3 o’clock, when another important reenforcement came to our aid—Elzey’s brigade, 1700 strong, of the Army of the Shenandoah, which, coming from Piedmont by railroad, had arrived at Manassas station, 6 miles in rear of the battle-field, at noon, and had been without delay directed thence toward the field by Colonel Jordan, aided by Major T. G. Rhett, who that morning had passed from General Bonham’s to General Johnston’s staff. Upon nearing the vicinity of the Lewis house, the brigade was directed by a staff-officer sent by General Johnston toward the left of the field. As it reached the oak wood, just across the Sudley road, led by General Kirby Smith, the latter fell severely wounded; but the command devolved upon Colonel Elzey, an excellent officer, who was now guided by Captain D. B. Harris of the Engineers, a highly accomplished officer of my staff, still farther to the left and through the woods, so as to form in extension of the line of the preceding reinforcements. Beckham’s battery, of the same command, was hurried forward by the Sudley road and around the woods into position near the Chinn house; from a well-selected point of action, in full view of the enemy that filled the open fields west of the Sudley road, it played with deadly and decisive effect upon their ranks, already under the fire of Elzey’s brigade. Keyes’s Federal brigade, which had made its way across the turnpike in rear of the Stone Bridge, was lurking along under cover of the ridges and a wood in order to turn my line on the right, but was easily repulsed by Latham’s battery, already placed in position over that approach by Captain Harris, aided by Alburtis’s battery, opportunely sent to Latham’s left by General Jackson, and supported by fragments of troops collected by staff-officers. Meanwhile, the enemy had formed a line of battle of formidable proportions on the opposite height, and stretching in crescent outline, with flanks advanced, from the Pittsylvania (Carter) mansion on their left across the Sudley road in rear of Dogan’s and reaching toward the Chinn house. They offered a fine spectacle as they threw forward a cloud of skirmishers down the opposite slope, preparatory to a new assault against the line on the plateau. But their right was now severely pressed by the troops that had successively arrived; the force in the south-west angle of the Sudley and Warrenton cross-roads were driven from their position, and, as Early’s brigade, which, by direction of General Johnston, had swept around by the rear of the woods through which Elzey had passed, appeared on the field, his line of march bore upon the flank of the enemy, now retiring in that quarter.
This movement by my extreme left was masked by the trend of the woods from many of our forces on the plateau; and bidding those of my staff and escort around me raise a loud cheer, I dispatched the information to the several commands, with orders to go forward in a common charge. Before the full advance of the Confederate ranks the enemy’s whole line, whose right was already yielding, irretrievably broke, fleeing across Bull Run by every available direction. Major Sykes’s regulars, aided by Sherman’s brigade, made a steady and handsome withdrawal, protecting the rear of the routed forces, and enabling many to escape by the Stone Bridge. Having ordered in pursuit all the troops on the field, I went to the Lewis house, and, the battle being ended, turned over the command to General Johnston. Mounting a fresh horse,— the fourth on that day,— I started to press the pursuit which was being made by our infantry and cavalry, some of the latter having been sent by General Johnston from Lewis’s Ford to intercept the enemy on the turnpike. I was soon overtaken, however, by a courier bearing a message from Major T. G. Rhett, General Johnston’s chief-of-staff on duty at Manassas railroad station, informing me of a report that a large Federal force, having pierced our lower line on Bull Run, was moving upon Camp Pickens, my depot of supplies near Manassas. I returned, and communicated this important news to General Johnston. Upon consultation it was deemed best that I should take Ewell’s and Holmes’s brigades, which were hastening up to the battle-field, but too late for the action, and fall on this force of the enemy, while reinforcements should be sent me from the pursuing forces, who were to be recalled for that purpose. To head off the danger and gain time, I hastily mounted a force of infantry behind the cavalrymen then present, but, on approaching the line of march near McLean’s Ford, which the Federals must have taken, I learned that the news was a false alarm caught from the return of General Jones’s forces to this side of the Run, the similarity of the uniforms and the direction of their march having convinced some nervous person that they were a force of the enemy. It was now almost dark, and too late to resume the broken pursuit; on my return I met the coming forces, and, as they were very tired, I ordered them to halt and bivouac for the night where they were. After giving such attention as I could to the troops, I started for Manassas, where I arrived about 10 o’clock, and found Mr. Davis at my headquarters with General Johnston. Arriving from Richmond late in the afternoon, Mr. Davis had immediately galloped to the field, accompanied by Colonel Jordan. They had met between Manassas and the battle-field the usual number of stragglers to the rear, whose appearance belied the determined array then sweeping the enemy before it, but Mr. Davis had the happiness to arrive in time to witness the last of the Federals disappearing beyond Bull Run. The next morning I received from his hand at our breakfast-table my commission, dated July 21st, as General in the Army of the Confederate States, and after his return to Richmond the kind congratulations of the Secretary of War and of General Lee, then acting as military adviser to the President.
It was a point made at the time at the North that, just as the Confederate troops were about to break and flee, the Federal troops anticipated them by doing so, being struck into this precipitation by the arrival upon their flank of the Shenandoah forces marching from railroad trains halted en route with that aim—errors that have been repeated by a number of writers, and by an ambitious but superficial French author.
There were certain sentiments of a personal character clustering about this first battle, and personal anxiety as to its issue, that gladly accepted this theory. To this may be added the general readiness to accept a sentimental or ultra-dramatic explanation—a sorcery wrought by the delay or arrival of some force, or the death or coming of somebody, or any other single magical event—whereby history is easily caught, rather than to seek an understanding of that which is but the gradual result of the operation of many forces, both of opposing design and actual collision, modified more or less by the falls of chance. The personal sentiment, though natural enough at the time, has no place in any military estimate, or place of any kind at this day. The battle of Manassas was, like any other battle, a progression and development from the deliberate counter-employment of the military resources in hand, affected by accidents, as always, but of a kind very different from those referred to. My line of battle, which twice had not only withstood the enemy’s attack, but had taken the offensive and driven him back in disorder, was becoming momentarily stronger from the arrival, at last, of the reenforcements provided for; and if the enemy had remained on the field till the arrival of Ewell and Holmes, they would have been so strongly outflanked that many who escaped would have been destroyed or captured.
Though my adversary’s plan of battle was a good one as against a passive defensive opponent, such as he may have deemed I must be from the respective numbers and positions of our forces, it would, in my judgment, have been much better if, with more dash, the flank attack had been made by the Stone Bridge itself and the ford immediately above it. The plan adopted, however, favored above all things the easy -execution of the offensive operations I had designed and ordered against his left flank and rear at Centreville. His turning column —18,000 strong, and presumably his best troops—was thrown off by a long ellipse through a narrow forest road to Sudley Ford, from which it moved down upon my left flank, and was thus dislocated from his main body. This severed movement of his forces not only left his exposed left and rear at Centreville weak against the simultaneous offensive of my heaviest forces upon it, which I had ordered, but the movement of his returning column would have been disconcerted and paralyzed by the early sound of this heavy conflict in its rear, and it could not even have made its way back so as to be available for manoeuvre before the Centreville fraction had been thrown back upon it in disorder. A new army is very liable to panic, and, in view of the actual result of the battle, the conclusion can hardly be resisted that the panic which fell on the Federal army would thus have seized it early in the day, and with my forces in such a position as wholly to cut off its retreat upon Washington. But the commander of the front line on my right, who had been ordered to hold himself in readiness to initiate the offensive at a moment’s notice, did not make the move expected of him because through accident he failed to receive his own immediate order to advance. (9) The Federal commander’s flanking movement, being thus uninterrupted by such a counter-movement as I had projected, was further assisted through the rawness and inadequacy of our staff organization through which I was left unacquainted with the actual state of affairs on my left. The Federal attack, already thus greatly favored, and encouraged, moreover, by the rout of General Bee’s advanced line, failed for two reasons : their forces were not handled with concert of masses (a fault often made later on both sides), and the individual action of the Confederate troops was superior, and for a very palpable reason. That one army was fighting for union and the other for disunion is a political expression; the actual fact on the battle-field, in the face of cannon and musket, was that the Federal troops came as invaders, and the Southern troops stood as defenders of their homes, and further than this we need not go. The armies were vastly greater than had ever before fought on this continent, and were the largest volunteer armies ever assembled since the era of regular armies. The personal material on both sides was of exceptionally good character, and collectively superior to that of any subsequent period of the war. (10) The Confederate army was filled with generous youths who had answered the first call to arms. For certain kinds of field duty they were not as yet adapted, many of them having at first come with their baggage and servants; these they had to dispense with, but, not to offend their susceptibilities, I then exacted the least work from them, apart from military drills, even to the prejudice of important fieldworks, when I could not get sufficient negro labor; they “had come to fight, and not to handle the pick and shovel,” and their fighting redeemed well their shortcomings as intrenchers. Before I left that gallant army, however, it had learned how readily the humbler could aid the nobler duty.
As to immediate results and trophies, we captured a great many stands of arms, batteries, equipments, standards, and flags, one of which was sent to me, through General Longstreet, as a personal compliment by the Texan “crack shot,” Colonel B. F. Terry, who lowered it from its mast at Fairfax Court House, by cutting the halyards by means of his unerring rifle, as our troops next morning reoccupied that place. We captured also many prisoners, including a number of surgeons, whom (the first time in war) we treated not as prisoners, but as guests. Calling attention to their brave devotion to their wounded, I recommended to the War Department that they be sent home without exchange, together with some other prisoners, who had shown personal kindness to Colonel Jones, of the 4th Alabama, who had been mortally wounded early in the day.
SUBSEQUENT RELATIONS OF MR. DAVIS AND THE WRITER
The military result of the victory was far short of what it should have been. It established as an accomplished fact, on the indispensable basis of military success, the Government of the Confederate States, which before was but a political assertion; but it should have reached much further. The immediate pursuit, but for the false alarm which checked it, would have continued as far as the Potomac, but must have stopped there with no greater result than the capture of more prisoners and material. The true immediate fruits of the victory should have been the dispersion of all the Federal forces south of Baltimore and east of the Alleghanies, the liberation of the State of Maryland, and the capture of Washington, which could have been made only by the Upper Potomac. And from the high source of this achievement other decisive results would have continued to flow. From my experience in the Mexican war I had great confidence in intelligent volunteer troops, if rightly handled; and with such an active and victorious war-engine as the Confederate Army of the Potomac could have immediately been made,— reenforced, as time went, by numbers and discipline,— the Federal military power in the East could never have reached the head it took when McClellan was allowed to organize and discipline at leisure the powerful army that, in the end, wore out the South. In war one success makes another easier, and its right use is as the step to another, until final achievement. This was the use besought by me in the plan of campaign I have mentioned as presented to Mr. Davis on the 14th of July, a few days before the battle, but rejected by him as impracticable, and as rather offering opportunity to the enemy to crush us. To supply the deficiency of transportation (our vehicles being few in number, and many so poor as to break down in ordinary camp service), I myself had assigned to special duty Colonel (since Governor) James L. Kemper, of Virginia, who quickly obtained for me some two hundred good wagons, to which number I had limited him so as not to arouse again the jealousy of the President’s staff. If my plan of operations for the capture of Washington had been adopted, I should have considered myself thereby authorized and free to obtain, as I readily could have done, the transportation necessary. As it was—though the difficult part of this “impracticable” plan of operations had been proven feasible, that is, the concentration of the Shenandoah forces with mine (wrung later than the eleventh hour through the alarm over the march upon Richmond, and discountenanced again nervously at the twelfth hour by another alarm as to how “the enemy may vary his plans” in consequence), followed by the decisive defeat of the main Federal forces — nevertheless the army remained rooted in the spot, although we had more than fifteen thousand troops who had been not at all or but little in the battle and were perfectly organized, while the remaining commands, in the high spirits of victory, could have been reorganized at the tap of the drum, and many with improved captured arms and equipments. I had already urged my views with unusual persistency, and acted on them against all but an express order to the contrary; and as they had been deliberately rejected in their ultimate scope by Mr. Davis as the commander-in-chief, I did not feel authorized to urge them further than their execution had been allowed, unless the subject were broached anew by himself. But there was no intimation of any such change of purpose, and the army, consistently with this inertia, was left unprovided for manoeuvre with transportation for its ammunition; its fortitude, moreover, as a new and volunteer army, while spending sometimes 24 hours without food, being only less wonderful than the commissary administration at Richmond, from which such a state of affairs could proceed even two weeks after the battle of Manassas. Although certain political superstitions about not consolidating the North may then have weighed against the action I proposed, they would have been light against a true military policy, if such had existed in the head of the Government. Apart from an active material ally, such as the colonies had afield and on sea in the War of Independence with Great Britain, a country in fatal war must depend on the vigor of its warfare; the more inferior the country, the bolder and more enterprising the use of its resources, especially if its frontiers are convenient to the enemy. I was convinced that our success lay in a short, quick war of decisive blows, before the Federals, with their vast resources, could build up a great military power; to which end a concerted use of our forces, immediate and sustained, was necessary, so that, weaker though we were at all separate points, we might nevertheless strike with superior strength at some chosen decisive point, and after victory there reach for victory now made easier elsewhere, and thus sum up success. Instead of this, which in war we call concentration, our actual policy was diffusion, an inferior Confederate force at each separate point defensively confronting a superior Federal force; our power daily shrinking, that of the enemy increasing; the avowed Federal policy being that of “attrition,” their bigger masses grinding our smaller, one by one, to naught. Out of this state we never emerged, when the direction of the Government was, as almost always, necessary, excepting when “Richmond ” was immediately in danger.
Thus, in the fall of 1861, about three months after the battle of Manassas,— after throwing my whole force forward to Fairfax Court House, with outposts flaunting our flags on the hills in sight of Washington, in order to chafe the Federals to another battle, but without success,— I proposed that the army should be raised to an effective of 60,000 men, by drawing 20,000 for the immediate enterprise from several points along the seaboard, not even at that time threatened, and from our advanced position be swiftly thrown across the Potomac at a point which I had had carefully surveyed for that purpose, and moved upon the rear of Washington, thus forcing McClellan to a decisive engagement before his organization (new enlistments) was completed, and while our own army had the advantage of discipline and prestige — seasoned soldiers, whose term, however, would expire in the early part of the coming summer. This plan, approved by General Gustavus W. Smith (then immediately commanding General Johnston’s own forces) as well as by General Johnston, was submitted to Mr. Davis in a conference at my headquarters, but rejected because he would not venture to strip those points of the troops we required. Even if those points had been captured, though none were then even threatened, they must have reverted as a direct consequence to so decisive a success. I was willing, then, should it have come to that, to exchange even Richmond temporarily for Washington. Yet it was precisely from similar combinations and elements that the army was made up, to enable it the next spring, under General Lee, to encounter McClellan at the very door of Richmond. If that which was accepted as a last defensive resort against an overwhelming aggressive army had been used in an enterprising offensive against that same army while yet in the raw, the same venture had been made at less general risk, less cost of valuable lives, and with greater certain results. The Federal army would have had no chance meanwhile to become tempei’ed to that magnificent military machine which, through all its defeats and losses, remained sound, and was stronger, with its readily assimilating new strength, at the end of the war than ever before; the pressure would have been lifted from Kentucky and Missouri, and we should have maintained what is called an active defensive warfare, that is, should have taken and kept the offensive against the enemy, enforcing peace.
No people ever warred for independence with more relative advantages than the Confederates; and if, as a military question, they must have failed, then no country must aim at freedom by means of war. We were one in sentiment as in territory, starting out, not with a struggling administration of doubtful authority, but with our ancient State governments and a fully organized central government. As a military question, it was in no sense a civil war, but a war between two countries—for conquest on one side, for self-preservation on the other. The South, with its great material resources, its defensive means of mountains, rivers, railroads, and telegraph, with the immense advantage of the interior lines of war, would be open to discredit as a people if its failure could not be explained otherwise than by mere material contrast. The great Frederick, at the head of a little people, not only beat back a combination of several great military powers, but conquered and kept territory; and Napoleon held combined Europe at the feet of France till his blind ambition overleaped itself. It may be said that the South had no Fredericks or Napoleons; but it had at least as good commanders as its adversary. Nor was it the fault of our soldiers or people. Our soldiers were as brave and intelligent as ever bore arms; and, if only for reasons already mentioned, they did not lack in determination. Our people bore a devotion to the cause never surpassed, and which no war-making monarch ever had for his support; they gave their all—even the last striplings under the family roofs filling the ranks voided by the fall of their fathers and brothers. But the narrow military view of the head of the Government, which illustrated itself at the outset by ordering from Europe, not 100,000 or 1,000,000, but 10,000 stands of arms, as an increase upon 8000, its first estimate, was equally narrow and timid in its employment of our armies.
The moral and material forces actually engaged in the war made our success amoral certainty, but for the timid policy which—ignoring strategy as a science and boldness of enterprise as its ally — could never be brought to new the whole theater of war as one subject, of which all points were but integral parts, or to hazard for the time points relatively unimportant for the purpose of gathering for an overwhelming and rapid stroke at some decisive point; and which, again, with characteristic mis-elation, would push a victorious force directly forward into unsupported and disastrous operations, instead of using its victory to spare from it strength sufficient to secure an equally important success in another quarter. The great principles of war are truths, and the same to-day as in the time of Caesar or Napoleon, notwithstanding the ideas of some thoughtless persons—their applications being but intensified by the scientific discoveries affecting transportation and communication of intelligence. These principles are few and simple, however various their deductions and application. Skill in strategy consists in seeing through the intricacies of the whole situation, and bringing into proper combination forces and influences, though seemingly unrelated, so as to apply these principles, and with boldness of decision and execution appearing with the utmost force, and, if possible, superior odds, before the enemy at some strategic, that is, decisive point. And although a sound military plan may not be always so readily conceived, yet any plan that offers decisive results, if it agree with the principles of war, is as plain and intelligible as these principles themselves, and no more to be rejected than they. There still remains, of course, the hazard of accident in execution, and the apprehension of the enemy’s movements upsetting your own; but hazard may also favor as well as disfavor, and will not unbefriend the enterprising any more than the timid. It was this fear of possible consequences that kept our forces scattered in inferior relative strength at all points of the compass, each holding its bit of ground till by slow local process our territory was taken and our separate forces destroyed, or, if captured, retained by the enemy without exchange in their process of attrition. To stop the slow consumption of this passive mode of warfare I tried my part, and, at certain critical junctures, proposed to the Government active plans of operation looking to such results as I have described,— sometimes, it is true, in relation to the employment of forces not under my control, as I was the soldier of a cause and people, not of a monarch nor even of a government. Two occasions there were when certain of the most noted Federal operations, from their isolated or opportune character, might, with energy and intelligent venture on the Confederate side, have been turned into fatal disaster; among them Grant’s movement in front of Vicksburg, and his change of base from the north to the south of the James River, where I was in command, in his last campaign against Richmond. I urged particularly that our warfare was sure of final defeat unless we attempted decisive strokes that might be followed up to the end, and that, even if earlier defeat might chance from the risk involved in the execution of the necessary combinations, we ought to take that risk and thereby either win or end an otherwise useless struggle. But, in addition to the radical divergence of military ideas,— the passive defensive of an intellect timid of risk and not at home in war, and the active defensive reaching for success through enterprise and boldness, according to the lessons taught us in the campaigns of the great masters,— there was a personal feeling that now gave cold hearing, or none, to any recommendations of mine. Mr. Davis’s friendship, warm at the early period of the war, was changed, some time after the battle of Manassas, to a corresponding hostility from several personal causes, direct and indirect, of which I need mention but one. My report of Manassas having contained, as part of its history, a statement of the submission of the full plan of campaign for concentrating our forces, crushing successively McDowell and Patterson and capturing Washington, Mr. Davis strangely took offense thereat; and, now that events had demonstrated the practicability of that plan, he sought to get rid of his self-accused responsibility for rejecting it, by denying that any such had been submitted — an issue, for that matter, easily settled by my production of the contemporaneous report of Colonel James Chesnut, the bearer of the mission, who, moreover, at the time of this controversy was on Mr. Davis’s own staff, where he remained. Mr. Davis made an endeavor to suppress the publication of my report of the battle of Manassas. The matter came up in a secret debate in the Confederate Congress, where a host of friends were ready to sustain me; but I sent a telegram disclaiming any desire for its publication, and advising that tli i safety of the country should be our solicitude, and not personal ends.
Thenceforth Mr. Davis’s hostility was watchful and adroit, neglecting no opportunity, great or small; and though, from motives all its opposite, it was not exposed during the war by any murmurs of mine, it bruited sometimes in certain quarters of its own force. Thus, when in January, 1862, the Western representatives expressed a desire that I should separate myself for a time from my Virginia forces and go to the defense of the Mississippi Valley from the impending offensive of Halleck and Grant, it was furthered by the Executive with inducements which I trusted,— in disregard of Senator Toombs’s sagacious warning, that under this furtherance lurked a purpose to effect my downfall, urged in one of his communications through his son-in-law, Mr. Alexander, in words as impressive as they proved prophetic: “Urge General Beauregard to decline all proposals and solicitations. The Blade of Joab. Verbum Sapienti” After going through the campaign of Shiloh and Corinth, not only with those inducements unfulfilled, but with vital drawbacks from the Government, including the refusal of necessary rank to competent subordinates to assist in organizing my hastily collected and mostly raw troops, I was forced, the following June, in deferred obedience to the positive order of my physicians, to withdraw from my immediate camp to another point in my department for recovery from illness, leaving under the care of my lieutenant, General Bragg, my army, then unmenaced and under reorganization with a view to an immediate offensive I had purposed. In anticipation and exclusion of the receipt of full dispatches following my telegram, the latter was tortuously misread, in a manner not creditable to a school-boy and repugnant to Mr. Davis’s exact knowledge of syntax, so as to give pretext to the shocking charge that I had abandoned my army, and a telegram was sent in naked haste directly to General Bragg, telling him to retain the permanent command of the army. The “Blade of Joab” had given its thrust. The representatives in Congress from the West and South-west applied to Mr. Davis in a body for my restoration; and when, disregarding his sheer pretext that I had abandoned my army, they still insisted, Mr. Davis declared that I should not be restored if the whole world should ask it! This machination went to such length that it was given out in Richmond that I had softening of the brain and had gone crazy. So carefully was this report fostered (one of its tales being that I would sit all day stroking a pheasant (11)) that a friend of mine, a member of the Confederate Congress, thought it his duty to write me a special letter respecting the device, advising me to come directly to Richmond to confound it by my presence — a proceeding which I disdained to take. I had not only then, but from later, still more offensive provocation, imperative cause to resign, and would have done so but for a sense of public obligation. Indeed, in my after fields of action the same hostility was more and more active in its various embarrassments, reckless that the strains inflicted upon me bore upon the troops and country depending on me and relatively upon the cause, so that I often dreaded failure more from my own Government behind me than from the enemy in my front; and, when success came in spite of this, it was acknowledged only by some censorious official “inquiry” contrasting with the repeated thanks of the Congress. I was, however, not the only one of the highest military rank with whom Mr. Davis’s relations were habitually unwholesome. It is an extraordinary fact that during the four years of war Mr. Davis did not call together the five generals [see page 241] with a view to determining the best military policy or settling upon a decisive plan of operations involving the whole theater of war, though there was often ample opportunity for it. We needed for President either a military man of a high order, or a politician of the first class without military pretensions, such as Howell Cobb. The South did not fall crushed by the mere weight of the North; but it was nibbled away at all sides and ends because its executive head never gathered and wielded its great strength under the ready advantages that greatly reduced or neutralized its adversary’s naked physical superiority. It is but another of the many proofs that timid direction may readily go with physical courage, and that the passive defensive policy may make a long agony, but can never win a war.
POSTSCRIPT.—Since the publication of the foregoing pages in “The Century” for November, 1884, General J. E. Johnston, in the course of a paper also contributed to “The Century” [see page 240], took occasion, for the first time, to set up with positiveness and circumstantiality the claim to having exercised a controlling connection with the tactics of all the phases of the battle of the 21st of July, 1861. Respecting such a pretension I shall be content for the present to recall that, while entirely at variance with the part I have ascribed to him in relation to that field, it is logically untenable, at this day, when confronted with the records of the period. In my own official report of the battle closely contemporaneous with the events narrated — a report that was placed in his hands for perusal before transmission— it is distinctly related that for certain reasons, chiefly military, General Johnston had left in my hands for the impending conflict the command of the Confederate forces. The precise circumstances of my direct conduct of and responsibility for the battle are stated in such terms that, had I not been in actual direction of the day’s operations on the part of the Confederates, General Johnston must have made the issue squarely then and there in his own official report. And all the more incumbent upon him was the making of such an issue, it seems to me, then or never, in view of the fact that the Confederate Secretary of War on the 24th of July, 1861, wrote me in these words:
“MY DEAR GENERAL: Accept my congratulations for the glorious and most brilliant victory achieved by you. The country will bless and honor you for it. Believe me, dear General,
“Truly your friend, L. P. WALKER.”
Further, General Lee thus addressed me:
“MY DEAR GENERAL : I cannot express the joy I feel at the brilliant victory of the 21st. The skill, courage, and endurance displayed by yourself excite my highest admiration. You and your troops have the gratitude of the whole country, and I offer to all my heartfelt congratulations at their success. . . . Very truly yours, R. E. LEE.”
Of the exact purport of these two letters General Johnston could not have been ignorant when he wrote his report of the battle. Nor could he have been unaware that the leading Southern newspapers had in effect attributed to me the chief direction of that battle on the Confederate side. Therefore, if it were the gross historical error which, twenty odd years after the affair, General Johnston characterizes it to be, and one that imputed to him the shirking of a duty which he could not have left unassumed without personal baseness, certainly that was the time for him by a few explicit words in his official report to dispose of so affronting an error. In that report, however, no such exigent, peremptory statement of his relation to the battle is to be found. On the other hand, upon page 57 of his “Narrative” published in 1874 (D. Appleton & Co.), may be found, I fear, the clew to the motive of his actual waiver of command in this curious paragraph:
“If the tactics of the Federals had been equal to their strategy, we should have been beaten. If, instead of being brought into action in detail, their troops had been formed in two lines, with a proper reserve, and had assailed Bee and Jackson in that order, the two Southern brigades must have been swept from the field in a few minutes, or enveloped. General McDowell would have made such a formation, probably, had he not greatly underestimated the strength of his enemy.”
Coupled with the disquieting, ever-apprehensive tenor of his whole correspondence with the Confederate War Department, from the day he assumed command in the Valley of Virginia in May, 1861, down to the close of the struggle hi 1865, the fair inference from such language as that just cited from his “Narrative” is that General Johnston came to Manassas beset with the idea that our united forces would not be able to cope with the Federal army, and that we should be beaten— a catastrophe in which he was not solicitous to figure on the pages of history as the leading and responsible actor. Originally and until 1875,I had regarded it as a generous though natural act on the part of General Johnston, in such a juncture, to leave me in command and responsible for what might occur. The history of military operations abounds in instances of notable soldiers who have found it proper to waive chief command under similar conditions.
(1) The professionally educated officers on the Confederate side at Bull Run included Generals Johnston, Beauregard, Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, Kirby Smith, Ewell, Early, Bee, D. E. Jones, Holmes, Evans, Elzey, and Jordan, all in high positions, besides others not so prominent.— EDITORS.
(2) For the forces actually engaged in the campaign and on the field, see pp. 194-5.— EDITORS.
(3) “I am, however, inclined to believe he [the enemy] may attempt to turn my left flank by a movement in the direction of Vienna, Frying-pan Church, and, possibly, Gum Spring, and thus cut off Johnston’s line of retreat and communication with this place [Manassas Junction] via the Manassas Gap railroad, while threatening my own communications with Richmond and depots of supply by the Alexandria and Orange railroad, and opening his communications with the Potomac through Leesburg and Edward’s Ferry.”—(Extract from a letter addressed by General Beauregard to Jefferson Davis, July 11th, 1801.)
(4) It is denied that a serious attempt “to force a passage” was made on the 18th. (See page 178.) This engagement was called by the Confederates the battle of Bull Run, the main fight on the 21st being known in the South as the battle of Manassas (pronounced Ma-nass’-sa).—EDITORS.
(5) [TELEGRAM.] RICHMOND, July 19, 1861.
GENERAL BEAUREGARD, Manassas, Va.
We have no intelligence from General Johnston. If the enemy in front of you has abandoned an immediate attack, and General Johnston has not moved, you had better withdraw your call upon him, so that he may be left to his full discretion. All the troops arriving at Lynchburg are ordered to join you. From this place we will send as fast as transportation permits. The enemy is advised at Washington of the projected movement of Generals Johnston and Holmes, and may vary his plans in conformity thereto.
S. COOPER, Adjutant-General.
(6) Lack of rations, as well as the necessity for information, detained McDowell at Centreville during these two days.—EDITORS.
(8) According to General Fry (page 188), the Union force in the seizure of the Henry hill consisted of four brigades, a cavalry battalion, and two batteries, or (as we deduce from General Fry’s statements of the strength of McDowell’s forces, page 195) about 11,000 men.— EDITORS.
(9) General R. S. Ewell. See statement of Major Campbell Brown, page 259.— EDITORS.
(10) This battle was noteworthy for the number of participants whose names are now prominently associated with the war. On the Confederate side, besides Generals Johnston and Beauregard, were Generals Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, Ewell, Early, J. E. B. Stuart, Kirby Smith, Wade Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, Thomas Jordan, R. E. Rodes, E. P. Alexander, and others. On the Federal side were Generals McDowell, W. T. Sherman, Burnside, Hunter, Heintzelman, Howard, Franklin, Slocum, Keyes, Hunt, Barry, Fry, Sykes, Barnard, Wadsworth, and others. —EDITORS.
(11) This silly tale was borrowed from an incident of Shiloh. Toward the end of the first day’s battle a soldier had found a pheasant cowering, apparently paralyzed under the ceaseless din, and brought it to my headquarters as a present to me. It was a beautiful bird, and I gave directions to place it in a cage, as I intended sending it as a pleasant token of the battle to the family of Judge Milton Brown, of Jackson, Tennessee, from whom I had received as their guest, while occupying that place, the kindest attentions; but in the second day’s conflict the poor waif was lost.— G. T. B. VOL. 1. 15
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Tags: Battles and Leaders, Beauregard, Memoirs, Resources
Categories : Reminiscences, Resources, The Battle
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Tags: Resources, Tables
Categories : Resources, Tables
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Tags: After Action Reports, Resources, Tables
Categories : Official Reports, Resources, Tables
Reports of General G. T. Beauregard, Commanding Confederate Army of the Potomac, of Operations from July 17 to 20
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 439-448
MANASSAS, July 17, 1861
President of the Confederate States:
The enemy has assailed my outposts in heavy force. I have fallen back on the line of Bull Run, and will make a stand at Mitchell’s Ford.If his force is overwhelming I shall retire to the Rappahannock Railroad Bridge, saving my command for defense there and future operations. Please inform Johnston of this, via Staunton, and also Holmes. Send forward any re-enforcements at the earliest possible instant and by every possible means.
G. T. BEAUREGARD
HDQRS. FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Manassas, August –, 1861
GENERAL: With the general results of the engagement between several brigades of my command and a considerable force of the enemy in the vicinity of Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s Fords, at Bull Run, on the 18th ultimo, you were made duly acquainted at the time by telegraph, but it is my place now to submit in detail the operations of that day.
Opportunely informed of the determination of the enemy to advance on Manassas, my advanced brigades, on the night of the 16th of July, were made aware from these headquarters of the impending movement, and in exact accordance with my instructions (a copy of which is appended, marked A), their withdrawal within the lines of Bull Run was effected with complete success during the day and night of the 17th ultimo, in face of and in immediate proximity to a largely superior force, despite a well-planned, well-executed effort to cut off the retreat of Bonham’s brigade first at Germantown and subsequently at Centreville, whence he withdrew by my direction after midnight without collision, although enveloped on three sides by their lines. This movement had the intended effect of deceiving the enemy as to my ulterior purposes, and led him to anticipate an unresisted passage of Bull Run.
As prescribed in the first and second sections of the paper herewith, marked A, on the morning of the 18th of July, my troops, resting on Bull Run from Union Mills Ford to the stone bridge, a distance of about eight miles, were posted as follows:
Ewell’s brigade occupied a position in vicinity of the Union Mills Ford. It consisted of Rodes’ Fifth and Seibels’ Sixth Regiments of Alabama, and Seymour’s Sixth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, with four 12-pounder howitzers of Walton’s battery, and Harrison’s, Green’s, and Cabell’s companies of Virginia Cavalry.
D. R. Jones’ brigade was in position in rear of McLean’s Ford, and consisted of Jenkins’ Fifth South Carolina and Burt’s Eighteenth and Featherston’s Seventeenth Regiments of Mississippi Volunteers, with two brass 6-pounder guns of Walton’s battery, and one company of cavalry.
Longstreet’s brigade covered Blackburn’s Ford, and consisted of Moore’s First, Garland’s Eleventh, and Corse’s Seventeenth Regiments Virginia Volunteers, with two 6-pounder brass guns of Walton’s battery.
Bonham’s brigade held the approaches to Mitchell’s Ford. It was composed of Kershaw’s Second, Williams’ Third, Bacon’s Seventh, and Cash’s Eighth Regiments South Carolina Volunteers; of Shields’ and Del. Kemper’s batteries, and of Flood’s, Radford’s, Payne’s, Ball’s, Wickham’s, and Powell’s companies of Virginia Cavalry, under Colonel Radford.
Cooke’s brigade held the fords below and in the vicinity of the stone bridge, and consisted of Withers’ Eighteenth, Lieutenant-Colonel Strange’s Nineteenth, and R. T. Preston’s Twenty-eighth Regiments, with Latham’s battery, and one company of cavalry, Virginia Volunteers.
Evans held my left flank, and protected the stone bridge crossing, with Sloan’s Fourth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, Wheat’s special battalion Louisiana Volunteers, four 6-pounder guns, and two companies of Virginia Cavalry.
Early’s brigade, consisting of Kemper’s Seventh and Early’s Twenty-fourth Regiments Virginia Volunteers; Hays’ Seventh Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, and three rifled pieces of Walton’s battery–Lieutenant Squires–at first were held in position in the rear of and as a support to Ewell’s brigade, until after the development of the enemy in heavy offensive force in front of Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s Fords, when it was placed in rear of and nearly equidistant between McLean’s, Blackburn’s, and Mitchell’s Fords.
Pending the development of the enemy’s purpose, about 10 o’clock a.m. I established my headquarters at a central point (McLean’s farmhouse), near to McLean’s and Blackburn’s Fords, where two 6-pounders of Walton’s battery were in reserve, but subsequently during the engagement I took post to the left of my reserve.
Of the topographical features of the country thus occupied it must suffice to say that Bull Run is a small stream, running in this locality nearly from west to east to its confluence with the Occoquan River, about twelve miles from the Potomac, and draining a considerable scope of country from its source in Bull Run Mountain to a short distance of the Potomac at Occoquan. At this season habitually low and sluggish, it is, however, rapidly and frequently swollen by the summer rains until unfordable. The banks for the most part are rocky and steep, but abound in long-used fords. The country on either side, much broken and thickly wooded, becomes gently rolling and open as it recedes from the stream. On the northern side the ground is much the highest, and commands the other bank completely. Roads traverse and intersect the surrounding country in almost every direction. Finally, at Mitchell’s Ford the stream is about equidistant between Centreville and Manassas, some six miles apart.
On the morning of the 18th, finding that the enemy was assuming a threatening attitude, in addition to the regiments whose positions have been already stated, I ordered up from Camp Pickens as a reserve, in rear of Bonham’s brigade, the effective men of six companies of Kelly’s Eighth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers and Kirkland’s Eleventh Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, which, having arrived the night before en route for Winchester, I had halted in view of the existing necessities of the service. Subsequently the latter was placed in position to the left of Bonham’s brigade.
Appearing in heavy force in front of Bonham’s position, the enemy, about meridian, opened fire with several 20-pounder rifled guns from a hill over one and a half miles from Bull Run. At the same time Kemper, supported by two companies of light infantry, occupied a ridge on the left of the Centreville road, about six hundred yards in advance of the ford, with two 6-pounder (smooth) guns. At first the firing of the enemy was at random, but by 12.30 p.m. he had obtained the range of our position, and poured into the brigade a shower of shot, but without injury to us in men, horses, or guns. From the distance, however, our guns could not reply with effect, and we did not attempt it, patiently awaiting a more opportune moment.
Meanwhile a light battery was pushed forward by the enemy, whereupon Kemper threw only six solid shot, with the effect of driving back both the battery and its supporting force. This is understood to have been Ayres’ battery, and the damage must have been considerable to have obliged such a retrograde movement on the part of that officer. The purposes of Kemper’s position having now been fully served, his pieces and support were withdrawn across Mitchell’s Ford to a point previously designated, and which commanded the direct approaches to the ford.
About 11.30 o’clock a.m. the enemy was also discovered by the pickets of Longstreet’s brigade advancing in strong columns of infantry with artillery and cavalry on Blackburn’s Ford. At meridian the pickets fell back silently before the advancing foe across the ford, which, as well as the entire southern bank of the stream for the whole front of Longstreet’s brigade, was covered at the water’s edge by an extended line of skirmishers, while two 6-pounders of Walton’s battery, under Lieutenant Garnett, were advantageously placed to command the direct approach to the ford, but with orders to retire to the rear as soon as commanded by the enemy.
The northern bank of the stream in front of Longstreet’s position rises with a steep slope at least fifty feet above the level of the water, leaving a narrow berme in front of the ford of some twenty yards. This ridge formed for them an admirable natural parapet, behind which they could and did approach under shelter in heavy force within less than one hundred yards of our skirmishers. The southern shore was almost a plain, raised but a few feet above the water for several hundred yards; then rising with a very gradual, gentle slope and undulations back to Manassas. On the immediate bank there was a fringe of trees, but with little if any undergrowth or shelter, while on the other shore there were timber and much thick brush and covering. The ground in rear of our skirmishers and occupied by our artillery was an old field, extending along the stream about one mile, and immediately back for about half a mile to a border or skirting of dense second-growth pines. The whole of this ground was commanded at all points by the ridge occupied by the enemy’s musketry, as was also the country to the rear for a distance much beyond the range of 20-pounder rifled guns by the range of hills on which their batteries were planted, and which it may be further noted commanded also all our approaches from this direction to the three threatened fords.
Before advancing his infantry the enemy maintained a fire of rifled artillery from the batteries just mentioned for half an hour; then he pushed forward a column of over three thousand infantry to the assault, with such a weight of numbers as to be repelled with difficulty by the comparatively small force of not more than twelve hundred bayonets with which Brigadier-General Longstreet met him with characteristic vigor and intrepidity. Our troops engaged at this time were the First and Seventeenth and four companies of the Eleventh Regiments Virginia Volunteers. Their resistance was resolute, and maintained with a steadiness worthy of all praise. It was successful, and the enemy was repulsed. In a short time, however, he returned to the contest with increased force and determination, but was again foiled and driven back by our skirmishers and Longstreet’s reserve companies, which were brought up and employed at the most vigorously-assailed points at the critical moment.
It was now that Brigadier-General Longstreet sent for re-enforcements from Early’s brigade, which I had anticipated by directing the advance of General Early with two regiments of infantry and two pieces of artillery. As these came upon the field the enemy had advanced a third time with heavy numbers to force Longstreet’s position. Hays’ regiment, Seventh Louisiana Volunteers, which was in advance, was placed on the bank of the stream under some cover to the immediate right and left of the ford, relieving Corse’s regiment (Seventeenth Virginia Volunteers). This was done under a heavy fire of musketry with promising steadiness. The Seventh Virginia, under Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, was then formed to the right, also under heavy fire, and pushed forward to the stream, relieving the First Regiment Virginia Volunteers. At the same time two rifled guns brought up with Early’s brigade were moved down in the field to the right of the road, so as to be concealed from the enemy’s artillery by the girth of timber on the immediate bank of the stream, and there opened fire, directed only by the sound of the enemy’s musketry.
Unable to effect a passage, the enemy kept up a scattering fire for some time. Some of our troops had pushed across the stream, and several small parties of Corse’s regiment, under command of Captain Marye, met and drove the enemy with the bayonet; but as the roadway from the ford was too narrow for a combined movement in force, General Longstreet recalled them to the south bank. Meanwhile the remainder of Early’s infantry and artillery had been called up; that is, six companies of the Twenty-fourth Regiment Virginia Volunteers, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hairston, and five pieces of artillery, one rifled gun, and four 6-pounder brass guns, including two 6-pounder guns under Lieutenant Garnett, which had been previously sent to the rear by General Longstreet. This infantry was at once placed in position to the left of the ford, in a space unoccupied by Hays, and the artillery was unlimbered in battery to the right of the road, in a line with the two guns already in action. A scattering fire of musketry was still kept up by the enemy for a short time, but that was soon silenced.
It was at this stage of the affair that a remarkable artillery duel was commenced and maintained on our side with a long-trained professional opponent, superior in the character as well as in the number of his weapons, provided with improved munitions and every artillery appliance, and at the same time occupying the commanding position. The results were marvelous, and fitting precursors to the artillery achievements of the 21st of July. In the outset our fire was directed against the enemy’s infantry, whose bayonets, gleaming above the tree-tops, alone indicated their presence and force. This drew the attention of a battery placed on a high, commanding ridge, and the duel began in earnest. For a time the aim of the adversary was inaccurate, but this was quickly corrected, and shot fell and shells burst thick and fast in the very midst of our battery, wounding in the course of the combat Captain Eshleman, five privates, and the horse of Lieutenant Richardson. From the position of our pieces and the nature of the ground their aim could only be directed at the smoke of the enemy’s artillery. How skillfully and with what execution this was done can only be realized by an eye-witness. For a few moments their guns were silenced, but were soon reopened. By direction of General Longstreet, his battery was then advanced by hand out of the range now ascertained by the enemy, and a shower of spherical case, shell, and round shot flew over the heads of our gunners. But one of our pieces had become hors de combat from an enlarged vent.
From the new position our guns fired as before, with no other aim than the smoke and flash of their adversaries’ pieces, renewed and urged the conflict with such signal vigor and effect, that gradually the fire of the enemy slackened, the intervals between their discharges grew longer and longer, finally to cease, and we fired a last gun at a baffled, flying foe, whose heavy masses in the distance were plainly seen to break and scatter in wild confusion and utter rout, strewing the ground with castaway guns, hats, blankets, and knapsacks as our parting shell were thrown among them. In their retreat one of their pieces was abandoned, but from the nature of the ground it was not sent for that night, and under cover of darkness the enemy recovered it.
The guns engaged in this singular conflict on our side were three 6-pounder rifled pieces and four ordinary 6-pounders, all of Walton’s battery, Washington Artillery, of New Orleans. The officers immediately attached were Captain Eshleman, Lieuts. C. W. Squires, Richardson, Garnett, and Whittington. At the same time our infantry held the bank of the stream in advance of our guns, and the missiles of the combatants flew to and fro above them, as cool and veteran-like for more than an hour they steadily awaited the moment and signal for the advance.
While the conflict was at its height before Blackburn’s Ford, about l o’clock p.m., the enemy again displayed himself in force before Bonham’s position. At this time Colonel Kershaw, with four companies of his regiment (Second South Carolina) and one piece of Kemper’s battery, were thrown across Mitchell’s Ford to the ridge which Kemper had occupied that morning. Two solid shot and three spherical case thrown among them with a precision inaugurated by that artillerist at Vienna effected their discomfiture and disappearance, and our troops in that quarter were again withdrawn within our lines, having discharged the duty assigned.
At the close of the engagement before Blackburn’s Ford I directed General Longstreet to withdraw the First and Seventeenth Regiments, which had borne the brunt of the action, to a position in reserve, leaving Colonel Early to occupy the field with his brigade and Garland’s regiment.
As a part of the history of this engagement I desire to place on record that on the 18th of July not one yard of intrenchments nor one rifle pit sheltered the men at Blackburn’s Ford, who, officers and men, with rare exceptions, were on that day for the first time under fire, and who, taking and maintaining every position ordered, cannot be too much commended for their soldierly behavior.
Our artillery was manned and officered by those who but yesterday were called from the civil avocations of a busy city. They were matched with the picked light artillery of the Federal Regular Army–Company E, Third Artillery, under Captain Ayres, with an armament, as their own chief of artillery admits, of two 10-pounder Parrott rifled guns, two 12-pounder howitzers, and two 6-pounder pieces, aided by two 20-pounder Parrott rifled guns of Company G, Fifth Artillery, under Lieutenant Benjamin. Thus matched, they drove their veteran adversaries from the field, giving confidence in and promise of the coming efficiency of that brilliant arm of our service.
Having thus related the main or general results and events of the action of Bull Run, in conclusion it is proper to signalize some of those who contributed most to the satisfactory results of that day. Thanks are due to Brigadier-Generals Bonham and Ewell and to Colonel Cocke and the officers under them for the ability shown in conducting and executing the retrograde movements on Bull Run directed in my orders of the 8th of July–movements on which hung the fortunes of this Army.
Brigadier-General Longstreet, who commanded immediately the troops engaged at Blackburn’s Ford on the 18th, equaled my confident expectations, and I may fitly say that by his presence at the right place at the right moment among his men, by the exhibition of characteristic coolness, and by his words of encouragement to the men of his command, he infused a confidence and spirit that contributed largely to the success of our arms on that day.
Colonel Early brought his brigade into position and subsequently into action with judgment, and at the proper moment; he displayed capacity for command and personal gallantry.
Colonel Moore, commanding the First Virginia Volunteers, was severely wounded at the head of his regiment, the command of which subsequently devolved upon Major Skinner, Lieutenant-Colonel Fry having been obliged to leave the field in consequence of a sun-stroke.
An accomplished, promising officer, Maj. Carter H. Harrison, Eleventh Regiment Virginia Volunteers, was lost to the service while leading two companies of his regiment against the enemy. He fell, twice shot, mortally wounded.
Brigadier-General Longstreet, while finding on all sides alacrity, ardor, and intelligence, mentions his special obligations to Colonels Moore, Garland, and Corse, commanding severally regiments of his brigade, and to their field officers, Lieutenant-Colonels Fry, Funsten, Munford, and Majors Brent and Skinner, of whom he says, “They displayed more coolness and energy than is usual among veterans of the old service.” General Longstreet also mentions the conduct of Captain Marye, of the Seventeenth Virginia Volunteers, as especially gallant on one occasion, in advance of the ford.
The regiments of Early’s brigade were commanded by Colonel Harry Hays and Lieutenant-Colonels Williams and Hairston, who handled their commands in action with satisfactory coolness and skill, supported by their field officers, Lieutenant-Colonel De Choiseul and Major Penn, of the Seventh Louisiana, and Major Patton, of the Seventh Virginia Volunteers.
The skill, the conduct, and the soldierly qualities of the Washington Artillery engaged were all that could be desired. The officers and men attached to the seven pieces already specified won for their battalion a distinction which I feel assured will never be tarnished, and which will ever serve to urge them and their corps to high endeavor. Lieutenant Squires worthily commanded the pieces in action. The commander of the battalion was necessarily absent from the immediate field, under orders in the sphere of his duties, but the fruits of his discipline, zeal, instruction, and capacity as an artillery commander were present, and must redound to his reputation.
On the left, at Mitchell’s Ford, while no serious engagement occurred, the conduct of all was eminently satisfactory to the general officers in command.
It is due, however, to Col. J. L. Kemper, Virginia forces, to express my sense of the value of his services in the preparation for and execution of the retreat from Fairfax Court-House on Bull Run. Called from the head of his regiment, by what appeared to me an imperative need of the service, to take charge of the superior duties of the quartermaster’s department with the advance at that critical juncture, he accepted the responsibilities involved, and was eminently efficient.
For further information touching officers and individuals of the First Brigade, and the details of the retrograde movement, I have to refer particularly to the report of Brigadier-General Bonham, herewith No. 66.
It is proper here to state that while from the outset it had been determined on the approach of the enemy in force to fall back and fight him on the line of Bull Run, yet the position occupied by General Ewell’s brigade, if necessary, could have been maintained against largely superior force. This was especially the case with the position of the Fifth Alabama Volunteers, Colonel Rodes, which that excellent officer had made capable of a resolute protracted defense against heavy odds. Accordingly, on the morning of the 17th ultimo, when the enemy appeared before that position, they were checked and held at bay with some confessed loss in a skirmish in advance of the works, in which Major Morgan and Captain Shelley, Fifth Regiment Alabama Volunteers, acted with intelligent gallantry, and the post was only abandoned under general, but specific, imperative orders, in conformity with a long-conceived established plan of action and battle.
Capt. E. P. Alexander, Confederate States Engineers, fortunately joined my headquarters in time to introduce the system of new field signals, which under his skillful management rendered me the most important service preceding and during the engagement.
The medical officers serving with the regiments engaged were at their proper posts and discharged their duties with satisfactory skill and zeal, and on one occasion at least, under an annoying fire, when Surgeon Cullen, First Regiment Virginia Volunteers, was obliged to remove our wounded from the hospital, which had become the special target of the enemy’s rifled guns, notwithstanding it was surmounted by the usual yellow hospital flag, but which, however, I hope for the sake of past associations was ignorantly mistaken for a Confederate flag. The name of each individual medical officer I cannot mention.
On the day of the engagement I was attended by my personal staff, Lieut. S. W. Ferguson, aide-de-camp and my volunteer aides-de-camp, Colonels Preston, Manning, Chesnut, Miles, Chisolm, and Hayward, of South Carolina, to all of whom I am greatly indebted for manifold essential services in the transmission of orders on the field and in the preliminary arrangements for the occupation and maintenance of the line of Bull Run.
Col. Thomas Jordan, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. C. H. Smith, assistant adjutant-general; Col. S. Jones, chief of artillery and ordnance; Major Cabell, chief quartermaster; Capt. W. H. Fowle, chief of subsistence department; Surg. Thomas H. Williams, medical director, and Assistant Surgeon Brodie, medical purveyor, of the general staff, attached to the Army of the Potomac, were necessarily engaged severally with their responsible duties at my headquarters at Camp Pickens, which they discharged with an energy and intelligence for which I have to tender my sincere thanks.
Messrs. McLean, Wilcoxen, Kinchelo, and Brawner, citizens of this immediate vicinity, it is their due to say, have placed me and the country under great obligations for the information relative to this region, which has enabled me to avail myself of its defensive features and resources. They were found ever ready to give me their time without stint or reward.
Our casualties, in all sixty-eight killed and wounded, were fifteen (including two reported missing) killed, and fifty-three wounded, several of whom have since died. The loss of the enemy can only be conjectured. It was unquestionably heavy. In the cursory examination, which was made by details from Longstreet’s and Early’s brigades, on the 18th of July, of that part of the field immediately contested and near Blackburn’s Ford, some sixty-four corpses were found and buried. Some few wounded and at least twenty prisoners were also picked up, besides one hundred and seventy-five stand of arms, a large quantity of accouterments and blankets, and quite one hundred and fifty hats.
The effect of this day’s conflict was to satisfy the enemy he could not force a passage across Bull Run in the face of our troops, and led him into the flank movement of the 21st of July and the battle of Manassas, the details of which will be related in another paper.
Herewith I have the honor to transmit the reports of the several brigade commanders engaged and of the artillery; also a map of the field of battle.(*)
The rendition of this report, it is proper to say in conclusion, has been unavoidably delayed by the constantly engrossing administrative duties of the commander of an army corps composed wholly of volunteers, duties vitally essential to its well being and future efficiency, and which I could not set aside or postpone on any account.
I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
G. T. BEAUREGARD,
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, C. S. Army
Special ORDERS, No. 100
HDQRS. ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Manassas Junction, July 8, 1861
Paragraph IV, of Special Orders, No. 51, from these headquarters, dated June 20, 1861, is revoked, and if attacked by a superior force of the enemy, the three brigades of the Army of the Potomac, serving in Fairfax County, will retire in the following manner and order:
I. The First Brigade on Mitchell’s Ford, of Bull Run, by way of Centreville.
II. The whole of the Fifth Brigade on Bull Run stone bridge, and adjacent fords, making a stand, if practicable, at the suspension bridge across Cub Run.
III. The Second Brigade, except Colonel Rodes’ regiment, will fall back via the railway and adjacent roads on Union Mills Ford and the railroad bridge across Bull Run, burning the bridges on their way.
The Fifth Regiment Alabama Volunteers, Colonel Rodes, will retire by way of Braddock’s old road and the nearest side roads to McLean’s Ford, on Bull Run, or Union Mills Ford, as most practicable. These brigades, thus in position, will make a desperate stand at the several points hereinbefore designated on the line of Bull Run, and will be supported as follows:
I. The Third Brigade will move forward to McLean’s Ford.
II. The Fourth Brigade will repair to Blackburn’s Ford.
III. The Sixth Brigade will be advanced to Union Mills Ford.
IV. Major Walton’s battery will repair to McLean’s farm-house by the shortest practicable route, with which he shall at once make himself and his officers thoroughly acquainted. At said farm-house he will await further orders.
Should the enemy march to the attack of Mitchell’s Ford via Centreville the following movements will be made with celerity:
I. The Fourth Brigade will march from Blackburn’s Ford to attack him on the flank and center.
II. The Third Brigade will be thrown to the attack of his center and rear towards Centreville.
III. The Second and Sixth Brigades united will also push forward and attack him in the rear by way of Centreville, protecting their own right flanks and rear from the direction of Fairfax Station and Court-House.
IV. In the event of the defeat of the enemy, the troops at Mitchell’s Ford and stone bridge, especially the cavalry and artillery, will join in the pursuit, which will be conducted with vigor but unceasing prudence, and continued until he shall have been driven beyond the Potomac.
V. The garrison of Camp Pickens and all existing guards and pickets inside of the lines of Bull Run and the Occoquan River will remain in position until otherwise ordered.
VI. The chiefs of the several staff corps attached to these headquarters will take all necessary measures to secure an efficient service of their respective departments in the exigency.
By order of Brigadier General Beauregard:
Acting Assistant Adjutant General
The plan of attack prescribed within would have been executed with modifications affecting First and Fifth Brigades to meet the attack upon Blackburn’s Ford but for the expected coming of General Johnston’s command, which was known to be en route to join me on the 18th of July.
G. T. BEAUREGARD,
(*) Map not found.
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Tags: After Action Reports, Beauregard, Blackburn's Ford, Resources, Sherman's Battery
Categories : Official Reports, Resources
Congratulatory Proclamation of Generals Johnston and Beauregard
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p. 574
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Manassas, Va., July 25, 1861
Soldiers of the Confederate States:
One week ago a countless host of men, organized into an army, with all the appointments which modern art and practical skill could devise, invaded the soil of Virginia. Their people sounded their approach with triumphant displays of anticipated victory. Their generals came in almost royal state; their great ministers, senators, and women came to witness the immolation of our army and the subjugation of our people, and to celebrate the result with wild revelry.
It is with the profoundest emotions of gratitude to an overruling God, whose hand is manifest in protecting our homes and our liberties, that we, your generals commanding, are enabled, in the name of our whole country, to thank you for that patriotic courage, that heroic gallantry, that devoted daring, exhibited by you in the actions of the 18th and 21st, by which the hosts of the enemy were scattered and a signal and glorious victory obtained.
The two affairs of the 18th and 21st were but the sustained and continued effort of your patriotism against the constantly-recurring columns of an enemy fully treble your numbers, and their efforts were crowned on the evening of the 21st with a victory so complete, that the invaders are driven disgracefully from the field and made to fly in disorderly rout back to their intrenchments, a distance of over thirty miles.
They left upon the field nearly every piece of their artillery, a large portion of their arms, equipments, baggage, stores, &c., and almost every one of their wounded and dead, amounting, together with the prisoners, to many thousands. And thus the Northern hosts were driven from Virginia.
Soldiers, we congratulate you on an event which insures the liberty of our country. We congratulate every man of you whose glorious privilege it was to participate in this triumph of courage and truth–to fight in the battle of Manassas. You have created an epoch in the history of liberty, and unborn nations will call you blessed. Continue this noble devotion, looking always to the protection of a just God, and before the time grows much older we will be hailed as the deliverers of a nation of ten millions of people.
Comrades, our brothers who have fallen have earned undying renown upon earth, and their blood, shed in our holy cause, is a precious and acceptable sacrifice to the Father of Truth and of Right. Their graves are beside the tomb of Washington; their spirits have joined with his in eternal communion. We will hold fast to the soil in which the dust of Washington is thus mingled with the dust of our brothers. We will transmit this land free to our children, or we will fall into the fresh graves of our brothers in arms. We drop one tear on their laurels and move forward to avenge them.
Soldiers, we congratulate you on a glorious, triumphant, and complete victory, and we thank you for doing your whole duty in the service of your country.
J. E. JOHNSTON,
General, C. S. Army
G. T. BEAUREGARD,
General, C. S. Army
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Tags: After Action Reports, Resources
Categories : Official Reports, Resources
Reports of Gen. G. T. Beauregard, C. S. Army, and Resulting Correspondence (Part 2)
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 504 – 515
The order issued by the War Department to General Johnston was not, as herein reported, to form a junction, “should the movement in his judgment be deemed advisable.” The following is an accurate copy of the order:
General Beauregard is attacked. To strike the enemy a decisive blow, a junction of all your effective force will be needed. If practicable, make the movement, sending your sick and baggage to Culpeper Court-House, either by railroad or by Warrenton. In all the arrangements exercise your discretion.
The words “if practicable” had reference to letters of General Johnston of 12th and 15th of July, which made it extremely doubtful if he had the power to make the movement, in view of the relative strength and position of Patterson’s forces as compared with his own.
The plan of campaign reported to have been submitted, but not accepted, and to have led to a decision of the War Department, cannot be found among its files, nor any reference to any decision made upon it, and it was not known that the Army had advanced beyond the line of Bull Run, the position previously selected by General Lee, and which was supposed to have continued to be the defensive line occupied by the main body of our forces. Inquiry has developed the fact that a message to be verbally delivered was sent by Hon. Mr. Chesnut. If the conjectures recited in the report were entertained, they rested on the accomplishment of one great condition, namely, that a junction of the forces of Generals Johnston and Holmes should be made with the army of General Beauregard, and should gain a victory. The junction was made, the victory was won, but the consequences that were predicted did not result. The reasons why no such consequences could result are given in the closing passages of the reports of both the commanding generals, and the responsibility cannot be transferred to the Government at Richmond, which certainly would have united in any feasible plan to accomplish such desirable results.
If the plan of campaign mentioned in the report had been presented in a written communication, and in sufficient detail to permit proper investigation, it must have been pronounced to be impossible at that time, and its proposal could only have been accounted for by the want of information of the forces and positions of the armies in the field. The facts that rendered it impossible are the following:
1. It was based, as related from memory by Colonel Chestnut, on the supposition of drawing a force of about twenty-five thousand men from the command of General Johnston. The letters of General Johnston show his effective force to have been only eleven thousand, with an enemy thirty thousand strong in his front ready to take possession of the valley of Virginia on his withdrawal.
2. It proposed to continue operations by effecting a junction of a part of the victorious forces with the army of General Garnett in Western Virginia. General Garnett’s forces amounted only to three or four thousand men, then known to be in rapid retreat before vastly superior forces under McClellan, and the news that he was himself killed, and his army scattered, arrived within forty-eight hours of Colonel Chesnuts arrival in Richmond.
3. The plan was based on the improbable and inadmissible supposition that the enemy was to await everywhere, isolated and motionless, until our forces could effect junctions to attack them in detail.
4. It could not be expected that any success obtainable on the battlefield would enable our forces to carry the fortifications on the Potomac, garrisoned, and within supporting distance of fresh troops; nor after the actual battle and victory did the generals on the field propose an advance on the capital, nor does it appear that they have since believed themselves in a condition to attempt such a movement.
It is proper also to observe that there is no communication on file in the War Department as recited at the close of the report, showing what were the causes which “prevented the advance of our forces and prolonged vigorous pursuit of the enemy to and beyond the Potomac.”
HEADQUARTERS FIRST CORPS ARMY POTOMAC,
Centreville, Va., November 8, 1861
GENERAL: My attention having been called to the date of my report of the battle of Manassas, August 26, 1861, when it was only received at the War Department October 15, 1861, I have to request that the date of the letter accompanying the report, October –, 1861, should be affixed to it. The delay arose from the fact that it was placed in the hands of the copyist on the day of its date, but was left open to be amended and corrected as the details of the battle became better known and developed, by discussion on the subject and the reports of the enemy then being published, which enabled me to furnish, not only the report, but the history of that battle, accompanied by a full set of drawings, showing the position of the contending forces during four periods of that grand drama.
I am led to infer also that the strategic portion of the report is an obstacle to its publication. Should that be the case, I have to request that it may be separated into two parts, to obviate the difficulty referred to; but I do not wish it understood, however, that I ask the publication of any part of it, leaving that entirely to the judgment of the War Department.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant-General, C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.
P. S.–What can be the matter with the mails? My letters are often from five to six days getting here from Richmond.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
July 16, 1861
Commanding Army of the Potomac:
SIR: In obedience to your order, I proceeded on Sunday last, 14th instant, to Richmond, with the purpose of laying before the President for his consideration your views and plans for the combined operation of the two armies under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston and yourself, respectively. I arrived in Richmond at 3.30 on the same day I left your quarters, and without delay reported to the President, who, although sick in bed, received me with great kindness and cordiality. After stating to him the object of my visit, he appointed an hour to meet him with General R. E. Lee, and Adjutant and Inspector General Cooper. At the appointed time the President, Generals Lee and Cooper, and Colonel Preston, of your staff, met me in private conference. Being requested by the President to lay before those present the subject-matter with which I was charged, I submitted on your part the following propositions:
That the Confederate armies were in front of the enemy with greatly inferior forces at all points; that it was desirable by uniting a portion of our forces to outnumber the enemy at some important point; that the point now occupied by you was at present in reference to the armies considered the most important. I stated also that the enemy were at present at or near Falls Church, with eight or ten thousand men, on the Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad, and also with some portion of his force at Springfield, on the Alexandria and Orange Railroad, with every indication of a purpose to advance on both lines, and that it was most probable the enemy would threaten our camp at Manassas with about ten thousand men, while the main body, twenty thousand or more, would advance towards Vienna, Frying Pan, and Pleasant Valley, to Hay Market,, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, view to cut off our communication with General Johnston. To accomplish this, possession would be taken of passes of the Blue Ridge at Manassas, Ashby’s, and Snicker’s Gaps. He would then endeavor to cut off your communication with Richmond by the Alexandria and Orange Railroad, and force you either to fight in open field with greatly inferior numbers or to retire towards Fredericksburg by way of Brentsville, to join forces with General Holmes, or to withdraw from the intrenched camp and retire by the Alexandria and Orange Railroad before the enemy could reach it.
Under these circumstances I stated you would propose, and did propose, that General Johnston should, with the bulk of his forces, say twenty thousand, unite with you, leaving from three to five thousand men to guard the passes of the Blue Ridge and to hold Patterson in cheek. Then, with the combined forces of General Johnston and yourself, you would move rapidly forward on Fairfax Court-House, establish yourself between the two lines of the enemy, attack them separately with larger masses, and thus exterminate them or drive them into the Potomac. This being done, General Johnston, with ten thousand of your forces in addition to his own, and rallying as he went those left to guard the passes, would return at once with superior numbers, say thirty-five thousand, to attack and destroy Patterson at Winchester or wherever he might be. One week from the time of leaving Winchester would be sufficient to accomplish all this. You would then either occupy the enemy’s works in front of Washington if he should abandon them, or fall back on your present positions, according to circumstances. General Johnston, having disposed of Patterson, would detach a sufficient number from his force to re-enforce Garnett and make him superior to General McClellan. Having defeated McClellan,. General Garnett could then unite with Johnston, and the two cross the Potomac at the nearest point for Maryland, and, arousing the people as they proceeded, march to the rear of Washington, while you would attack it in front.
To these propositions respectful and earnest consideration was given by the President and the two generals I have mentioned. The scheme was considered brilliant and comprehensive, but to its adoption at this time two leading objections were urged by the President and by General Lee One was that General Johnston’s force was not now sufficiently strong to allow of the withdrawal of numbers sufficient to effect your object, and at the same time leave enough to keep Patterson in check and keep him from coming down upon your left. And the other and main objection was that the enemy was as yet too close to their cover to allow the reasonable expectation of the accomplishment of your object; that they would immediately fall back upon their intrenchments, or, being so close to their large reserves, would be quickly re-en-forced in numbers sufficient to regain the superiority of numbers, and thus defeat your purpose; that the combination might be made at a later period, when the objection would be removed by a sufficient increase of your armies and by the lengthening of the enemy’s lines and increase of distance from cover and reserves for quick re-enforcement.
JAMES CHESNUT, JR.
RICHMOND, VA., August 4, 1861
General G. T. BEAUREGARD:
MY DEAR SIR: Inclosed I transmit copies of a resolution of inquiry and the reply to it.(*) You will perceive that the answer was made in view of the telegram which I inclose to you, that being the only information then before me. Since that time it has been communicated to me that your letter to the Hon. Mr. Miles,(+) on the wants of your army and the consequences thereof, was read to the Congress, and hence the inquiry instituted. Permit me to request that you will return the telegram to me, which I inclosed to show you the form in which the matter came before me. Some excitement has been created by your letters. The quartermaster and the commissary generals both feel that they have been unjustly arraigned. As for myself, I can only say that I have endeavored to anticipate wants, and any failure which has occurred from imperfect knowledge might have been best avoided by timely requisitions and estimates. I think you are unjust to yourself in putting your failure to pursue the enemy to Washington to the account of short supplies of subsistence and transportation. Under the circumstances of our Army, and in the absence of the knowledge since acquired–if, indeed, the statements be true–it would have been extremely hazardous to have done more than was performed. You will not fail to remember that, so far from knowing that the enemy was routed, a large part of our forces was moved by you in the night of the 21st to repel a supposed attack upon our right, and the next day’s operations did not fully reveal what has since been reported of the enemy’s panic. Enough was done for glory, and the measure of duty was full. Let us rather show the untaught that their desires are unreasonable than, by dwelling on possibilities, recently developed, give form and substance to the criticisms, always easy to those who judge after the event.
With sincere esteem, I am your friend,
RICHMOND, VA., October 30, 1861
General G. T. BEAUREGARD:
SIR: Yesterday my attention was called to various newspaper publications, purporting to have been sent from Manassas, and to be a synopsis of your report of the battle of July 21 last, and in which it is represented that you had been overruled by me in your plan for a battle with the enemy south of the Potomac, for the capture of Baltimore and Washington, and the liberation of Maryland. I inquired for your long-expected report, and it has to-day been submitted to my inspection. It appears, by official indorsement, to have been received by the Adjutant General on October 15, though it is dated August 26, 1861. With much surprise I found that the newspaper statements were sustained by the text of your report. I was surprised, because, if we did differ in opinion as to the measures and purposes of contemplated campaigns, such fact could have no appropriate place in the report of a battle. Further, because it seemed to be an attempt to exalt yourself at my expense, and especially because no such plan as that described was submitted to me. It is true that some time before it was ordered you expressed a desire for the junction of General Johnston’s army with your own. The movement was postponed until the operations of the enemy rendered it necessary, and until it became thereby practicable to make it, with safety, to the valley of Virginia; hence-I believe was secured the success by which it was attended. If you have retained a copy of the plan of campaign which, you say, was submitted to me, through Colonel Chesnut, allow me to request that you will furnish me with a duplicate of it.
Very respectfully, yours, &c.,
RICHMOND, VA., October 30, 1861
Col. JAMES CHESNUT, Camden, S. C:
MY DEAR SIR: I beg that you will as promptly as possible send me a statement of a communication made to me by yourself on or about July 13 last, as aide of General Beauregard, in relation to any proposed plan of battle or campaign. I ask this because I have had my attention directed to a synopsis in the newspapers of General Beauregard’s report so entirely at variance with the facts as they occurred that I think it well to recur to your recollection of the message brought by you from the general.
I am, very truly, your friend,
CAMDEN, S.C., November 9, 1861
To the PRESIDENT:
DEAR SIR: I have this morning received your letter of the 15th  ultimo,(*) and, according to your request, reply at once, although you will not get [it] as promptly as I desire, as to-morrow, being Sunday, no mail leaves this place.
You ask me to recur to my recollection and send you a statement of a communication which, as aide to General Beauregard, I made to you on or about July 13, last, “in relation to any proposed plan of battle or campaign.”
On Saturday night or Sunday morning of July 14 last, about midnight I received a message from General Beauregard, requesting my attendance at his room. I immediately repaired thither, and learned from him that he had formed a plan of campaign which he desired to lay before the President, and requested me to undertake the duty.
About 6 o’clock of the same morning I left headquarters and arrived in Richmond in the afternoon of the same day, several hours beyond the usual time of arrival. I had two interviews with you that day, one in the afternoon and another in company with other persons during the evening. Remaining Monday for the completion of my mission, I returned to camp at Manassas on Tuesday following. Immediately after reaching headquarters of General Beauregard I made to him verbally a full report of all things touching the subject matter with which I had been charged.
On Thursday, July 18 last, while we were preparing for the field, the general in person directed me to make at once a written report of the same matter. This I did, and handed it to the assistant adjutant general, Colonel Jordan, who filed it for information of the general commanding, when I left the camp to join the general on the battle-field. I think the written report bears date of the verbal report, say July 15 last, and I am sure is accurate and full to the points in question, according to the freshness of my recollection at the time. I will ask you, however, to write to General Beauregard requesting a copy of the report, as I myself will do.
In the mean time and now I will state to you my recollection of the interview and of the contents of the report. I am sure the two will be found identical in substance, however they may vary in phraseology. I stated to General Beauregard that when I arrived in Richmond I repaired immediately to your apartment, where I learned you were ill in bed; but upon being notified of my presence you at once caused me to be invited into your chamber, where I was kindly and cordially received. I informed you of the object of my visit at which you expressed yourself pleased, and sent messages to Generals Cooper and Lee to meet us that evening at 7 o’clock, with maps, in your parlor. I requested you to allow Col. John S. Preston, who was then in Richmond, to be present at the interview, to which you consented.
At the time and place appointed yourself and Generals Cooper and Lee and Colonel Preston and myself assembled. You stated to the gentlemen present that I had come with a message from General Beauregard, which you then requested me to explain, whereupon I submitted on the part of General Beauregard the following propositions:
That we were standing in front of the enemy with inferior forces at all points; that it was desirable, by uniting a portion of our forces, to outnumber the enemy at some important point; that the most important point was the one at Manassas, and that the indication then was that the enemy would soon advance upon us by the Alexandria and by the Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad, having then his advanced force, 8,000 or 10,000 Strong, at or near Falls Church; that it was probable he would continue the movement towards Vienna, Frying Pan, and Pleasant Valley to Hay Market, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, with a view to cut off General Johnston from us by sending a few thousand men to take possession of the passes in the Blue Ridge, namely, Manassas Gap, Ashby’s Gap, and Turkersville [Snicker’s] Gap, and then probably attempt to cut off our communication with Richmond by the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and force us to fight him with great odds in an open country, or to retire towards Fredericksburg by way of Brentsville, to join our forces with those of General Holmes, or to withdraw from our intrenched camp at Manassas by the Orange [and Alexandria] Railroad before the enemy could reach it; that the enemy was also advancing part of his force on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad on our front, with a view probably of covering his movements on our left by threatening our center and right with a force of about 10.000 men.
In view of this condition of things General Beauregard, through me, at that time proposed that General Johnston should at once join him with the larger portion of his force, say 20,000, leaving from 3,000 to 5,000 to occupy and guard the gaps already mentioned and to hold General Patterson in check; then, with the combined forces of Generals Johnston and Beauregard, make a rapid march forward on Fairfax; establish themselves between the two lines of the enemy; attack them separately and successfully, and thus exterminate them. This being done, General Johnston would return and attack Patterson with a force of about 35,000 men, made up of about 10,000 of General Beauregard’s and 20,000 of his own, and gathering up on his return the 5,000 which were left to guard the passes. All this it was thought could be done in one week from the time that General Johnston should leave Winchester. In the mean time General Beauregard, with the 10,000, or about that, left with him, would either hold his position, or occupy the works of the enemy in front of Washington, if abandoned, according to circumstances. After General Johnston should take or defeat Patterson it was proposed that he should send from his command a force sufficient to General Garnett to outnumber and destroy General McClellan, Garnett in the mean time having received orders to fall back in the direction of Johnston’s column. McClellan being disposed of, General Garnett would unite his forces with General Johnston’s, and both cross the Potomac at the nearest point into Maryland, march on Washington, taking it in the rear, while General Beauregard attacked it in front, General Johnston in the mean time arousing the people of Maryland wherever he passed to the defense of their homes and independence.
After I had laid before you, these views, both yourself and General Lee spoke in terms of kindness and compliment to General Beauregard; thought the plan well conceived, and might be brilliant in its results if we should meet with no disaster in the details, and if the time for its execution had arrived. General Lee expressed the opinion, to which you assented, that the time for its execution had not yet arrived. With deference I asked General Lee for the reason upon which the opinion was founded. He proceeded to say the subject had been thought of generally. He thought the enemy was as yet too close to his cover; that if he found us with combined and superior forces before him he would not, or might not, give battle, but retire behind the protection of the guns of his intrenchments, and thus defeat the objects of our combination; that in such an event we would be put to a great disadvantage of achieving nothing and leaving the other points exposed, &c.; that in his opinion it would be better to draw the enemy farther from his intrenchments, and by lengthening to weaken his line, which would give us a better chance of success, &c.
Many other matters were spoken of at that interview as to the war generally, its policy the character of our forces, &c.; but as they did not pertain to the object of my mission, they were not mentioned in my report nor are repeated here.
I believe I have given you the sum and substance of what occurred at the interview referred to in relation to the matter in question, and what is contained in the report which I made in writing to General Beauregard. I do not at this time pretend to verbal accuracy, but feel satisfied of the correctness of the substance of the matter. I had at the time, and I have before me now, a memorandum of the points submitted by me on the part of General Beauregard.
I am sure a full and dispassionate investigation and consideration of this subject will leave little ground for dissatisfaction. The success of our cause depends not merely on the ability and fidelity, but to a great extent also on the harmony and hearty co-operation, of those who are chief and chosen instruments in the direction of our affairs. Any extended distrust in the crisis of our fate will bring dire calamities upon us. We must heed not the unwise babbling of some nor the deliberate malice of many. Yourself and your generals are alike elevated above the reach of unworthy considerations. Firm in the consciousness of right, devoting all your faculties to the triumph of a common and a noble cause, you and they can already afford to live in the clear light of a future judgment.
With great respect, your friend and obedient servant,
JAMES CHESNUT, JR.
*See also Davis to Chesnut, November 11, p. 513
RICHMOND, VA., November 3, 1861
General J. E. JOHNSTON,
Commanding Department of the Potomac:
SIR: Reports have been and are being widely circulated to the effect that I prevented General Beauregard from pursuing the enemy after the battle of Manassas, and had subsequently restrained him from advancing upon Washington City. Though such statements may have been made merely for my injury, and in that view might be postponed to a more convenient season, they have acquired importance from the fact that they have served to create distrust, to excite disappointment, and must embarrass the administration in its further efforts to re-enforce the armies of the Potomac, and, generally, to provide for the public defense. For these public considerations I call upon you, as the commanding general, and as a party to all the conferences held by me on July 21 and 22, to say whether I obstructed the pursuit of the enemy after the victory at Manassas, or have ever objected to an advance or other active operations which it was feasible for the Army to undertake.(*)
Very respectfully, yours &c.,
*Answer, if any, not found.
RICHMOND, VA.. November 4, 1861
Generals COOPER and LEE, C. S. Army:
GENTLEMEN: The injurious effect produced by state, ants, widely published, to show that the Army or the Potomac had been needlessly doomed to inactivity by my rejection of plans for vigorous movements against the enemy which were presented to me by General Beauregard, induces me to ask you to state what was the communication made by that officer through the Hon. Mr. Chesnut, on the subject of his position at Manassas in July last, and what were the propositions and requests then conveyed to me. You are invited to refer to the introduction of General Beauregard’s report of the battle of Manassas, that you may see how far the statement made therein agrees with the communication made to me by the Hon. Mr. Chesnut in the interview at which you were present.
I have requested General Beauregard to furnish me with a duplicate of the plan of battle and campaign, which he says in his report was submitted to me, but have not received an answer.
Very respectfully, yours, &c.,
RICHMOND, VA. November 9, 1861
To his Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS,
President of Confederate States:
SIR: In reply to your letter of the 4th instant, I have the honor to state that I was present at an interview in the parlor of the Spottswood Hotel, on the occasion referred to in General Beauregard’s introductory remarks in his report of the battle of Manassas, wherein he states that he dispatched, on July 13, one of his staff, Col. James Chesnut, of South Carolina, to submit to the consideration of the President a plan of operations, &c.
My impression in respect to that interview is that General Beauregard, being fully satisfied that an early attack would be made on his position by the enemy, greatly superior in force, and feeling the necessity for additional aid to enable him to give battle on more equal terms, had sent Colonel Chesnut to urge upon the President an increase from General Johnston’s command, then in the valley of the Shenandoah. I am also under the impression that it was represented on the part of General Beauregard that, if compelled to abandon his position by superior numbers, he would retire by Fredericksburg, or in the direction of the Rappahannock. Beyond these representations or suggestions I am not sensible that any plan of operations was submitted, whether written or oral; nor can I call to mind that any written communication from General Beauregard was made to the President on the occasion of the interview. In respect to receiving aid from General Johnston, it will be recollected that that officer had in his front a large force of the enemy, at least double his own numbers, and it would have been fatal to our cause in the valley to have sent away at that time any considerable portion of his command for the object contemplated by General Beauregard. Nor was it possible for him to do so, with any reasonable hope of success, until the tardiness and inactivity of the enemy in his front rendered such movement practicable, when it was finally accomplished under your telegraphic instructions of July 17, which resulted in the success of our arms at the battle of Manassas on the 21st.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
General, C. S Army
RICHMOND, VA., November 11, 1861
Col. JAMES CHESNUT:
MY DEAR SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge yours of the 2d instant, in reply to my inquiry of the 30th ultimo.(*) My memory is confirmed as to the fact that you delivered to me orally a message from General Beauregard, but left with me no plan of battle or of campaign; and I regret, as our conversation was to be reported and to be filed with the papers of General Beauregard, that the propositions were not reduced to writing and submitted for a written reply, or at least that I was not permitted to see the report of the interview before it became a public document. I well remember that you came to explain the hazard of General Beauregard’s position, and to ask for re-enforcements, suggesting that General Johnston should make a junction with him; but do not remember that any proposition was made to select Fairfax Court-House as a battle-field, and cannot realize how I should have objected to the choice of that field, as I did not then know how bad a selection it would have been. The rest seems to have been merely hypothetical propositions, and such as would only have impressed themselves on my memory by their errors, both as to numbers of available troops and topography of the country. The general’s report does not give those details, but presents a summary of things which no one desired more than myself, with a conclusion that the plan for their achievement was not accepted, &c Thus has apparent confirmation been given to the slander that I would not permit the Army to advance to the capture of Washington and the liberation of Maryland, attributing to me political views which I think you must know were not entertained by me. The importance of this is not any effect it may have on me individually, but is the injury inflicted on the public interest by the belief created that the Army has been doomed to inactivity, to avoid the exasperation of the enemy.
That I have not heeded “the unwise babbling of some nor the deliberate malice of many,” is to be found in the fact that they were never noticed by me until a respectable foundation appeared for them. My confidence and friendship for General Beauregard have been unmistakably manifested, and none can regret more than myself the error he has committed in bringing extraneous matter into his report of a battle, without any perceivable motive for so doing which is consistent with the good opinion I entertained of him. To a request for a duplicate of the plan of battle and campaign, which he had reported was submitted to me through you, he replies by assuring me that the plan, as stated in his report, is the one you were sent to submit-that he has a written statement of the result of your conference with me, which has been sent to New Orleans, and of which he promises to furnish a copy.
Your letter shows that you bore merely a message from General Beauregard, and his official announcement of a plan of operations submitted but not accepted is poorly sustained by reference to a conversation with me by a third person, even though it was reduced to writing after having been orally communicated to him. When the newspapers published a synopsis of General Beauregard’s report, in which reference is made to the plan said to have been submitted to me by him, I could not believe he was responsible for the statement until I saw his report.
I accept your friendly advice in the spirit which suggests it, and can assure you that our cause is to me so far above any personal considerations, that I can find no difficulty in fully co-operating with any one who can and will promote its success.
*Colonel Chesnut refers to this letter as of October 15. See his letter of November 2, p.509.
RICHMOND, November 12, 1861
General G. T. BEAUREGARD,
Comdg. District of Potomac, Centreville, Va.:
GENERAL: I have received your letter of the 8th instant,(*) and in compliance with your request have caused to be affixed to your report of the battle of Manassas the date of your letter of the 14th October, which accompanied it, although this was unnecessary, inasmuch as the letter had already been filed with the report itself.
In respect to the strategic portion of the report as an obstacle to its publication, I would remark that it is a rule of the Department to furnish copies of reports of battles only to Congress, by whose authority alone they are printed. Under this rule they are withheld from publication by the Department in the daily papers. Some few of these reports of battles have found their way into the papers, but the newspapers obtained their copies before the reports reached this office.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Adjt. and Insp. Gen.
P. S.–I am unable to account for the irregularity of the mails between this city and Centreville, and this reminds me that I duly received your note of the 23d October, in which you asked for information in respect to aides-de-camp and other matters, and to which I promptly replied as fully as I had the means of doing, offering at the same time to supply you with anything in addition that you might require. I was surprised to learn from Colonel Deas a few days ago that you had never received my answer.
COOSAWHATCHIE, S.C., November 24, 1861
His Excellency THE PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES:
My absence on an examination of the coast of South Carolina and Georgia has prevented until now my reply to your note of the 4th instant, asking what communication was made by General Beauregard to you through the honorable Mr. Chesnut on the subject of his position at Manassas in July last, and what were the propositions and requests conveyed by him.
I have not seen the report of General Beauregard of the battle of Manassas, and am unable to refer to his introductory statement to which you call my attention. I cannot, therefore, say how far it agrees with the communication of Mr. Chesnut, I recollect, however, that at the interview at which I was present Mr. Chesnut urged, on the part of General Beauregard, the importance of re-enforcing the Army of the Potomac to enable it to oppose the Federal forces accumulating in its front. As a means of accomplishing this end he suggested that a portion of the Army in the Shenandoah Valley, under General Johnston, be ordered to join it. With the aid thus afforded General Beauregard thought he could successfully resist an attack of the enemy. Should he succeed in repulsing him, he could in turn re-enforce General Johnston. Should General Johnston succeed in driving back General Patterson, then in his front, he could re-enforce the Army in Northwestern Virginia. The advantages of the union of the armies on the Potomac had been more than once the subject of consideration by you, and I do not recollect that at the interview in question they were less apparent. The difficulty of timing the march of the troops so as to benefit one army without jeopardizing the object of the other was therefore mainly considered, and you decided that the movements of the enemy in and about Alexandria were not sufficiently demonstrative to warrant the withdrawing of any of the forces from the Shenandoah Valley. A few days afterwards, how-ever–I think three or four–the reports from General Beauregard showed so clearly the enemy’s purpose, that you ordered General Johnston, with his effective force, to march at once to the support of General Beauregard, and directed General Holmes, with such troops as could be spared from the defense of the approaches to Fredericksburg, to move upon Manassas.
The successful combination of the armies was made, and the glorious victory of July 21 followed.
I have the honor, &c.,
R. E. LEE
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