Research Assignment: Why Were Ricketts and Griffin on Henry Hill?

24 07 2015
"The Capture of Rickett's Battery" by Sidney King, 1964 (oil on plywood). On display in the Henry Hill Visitor Center at Manassas National Battlefield Park.

“The Capture of Rickett’s Battery” by Sidney King, 1964 (oil on plywood). On display in the Henry Hill Visitor Center at Manassas National Battlefield Park.

This will either be fun, or go over like a lead balloon. As you may or may not know, one of the things I find most interesting in researching the First Battle of Bull Run is the fact that contemporary documents do not always support the contentions – statements of fact, even – of historians of the battle. The other day, friend and artillery guy Craig Swain and I were discussing the move of Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries from their positions north of the pike to Henry Hill. This move has often been criticized over the years, sometimes even described as a turning point of the battle. But, why exactly did McDowell send his artillery there? What was he thinking? How did he want to uses them, as flying artillery, in place of infantry, as what?

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to take a look at the evidence. Were written orders issued? What did the actors say about the move later? What have historians said? I’ll even help you out. Below are the reports and testimonies of the four individuals who may or may not have known. Read them over. Look for the why. Check what they presented against what historians have written (you’ll have to use your own resources there.) How have the historians substantiated their assertions? Discuss in the comments section.

BG Irvin McDowell, who issued the order (Reports and Correspondence #1, and #2, and JCCW testimony #1, and #2.)

Maj. W. F. Barry, to whom McDowell issued the order, and who forwarded it to the battery commanders (Report, JCCW testimony)

Capt. Charles Griffin (Report, JCCW testimony)

Capt. James Ricketts (Report, JCCW testimony)

 

 





Holkum’s Branch – Manassas National Battlefield Park, 11/15/2014

22 11 2014

Last Saturday at Manassas National Battlefield Park I took a little walk to Holkum’s Branch of Bull Run, east of the Henry Hill Visitor’s Center not far from the site of Portici on the M. Lewis farm, which was Joe Johnston’s HQ during the battle. The site is significant for a meeting that occurred there late in the day on July 21, 1861. In this area Brigadier General Thomas J. Jackson encountered CSA President Jefferson Davis and proclaimed (according to surgeon Hunter McGuire who had just tended to Jackson’s wounded finger): “Give me ten thousand men and I shall take Washington City tomorrow.”

Interpretive marker

Interpretive marker

View north to Holkum’s Branch from marker

Follow trail east from behind Jackson's guns on Henry Hill. Where the trail turns left (north) to the Stone Bridge, turn right (south) to Portici.

Follow First Manassas Trail east from behind Jackson’s guns on Henry Hill. Where the trail turns left (north) to the Stone Bridge, turn right (south) to Portici.





Thornberry House

21 11 2014

This past Saturday I paid a visit to Manassas National Battlefield Park. One of the spots we hit was the north end of the park, the area of the Thornberry House and Sudley Church. The Thornberry children were used by photographers Barnard and Gibson in many of their March 1862 photos of the battlefield, and the house was used as a hospital in both battles of Manassas. It was near this house that Sullivan Ballou’s body was buried and subsequently dug up, mutilated, and burned (see here, here, and here.) Laura Thornberry later recorded her recollections of the battle. And here are some images of the house and surroundings I recorded earlier. Below are the images from Saturday, November 15, 2014. Click for much larger images.

Interpretive Marker

Interpretive Marker

House from west

House from west

House from south

House from south

Looking south down Sudley Road trace, west of Thornberry house

Looking south down Sudley Road trace, west of Thornberry house

Thornberry House 1862

Thornberry House 1862





Sudley Springs Ford Now and Then

20 11 2014

From my battlefield visit this past Saturday, here’s a photo of Sudley Springs Ford on Catharpin Run, over which the divisions of Hunter and Heintzelman crossed on the morning of July 21, 1861. Compare it to the Barnard and Gibson photo from March 1862. Notice anything? See the pile of rubble on the other side of the run, left of center (click on the image if you can’t make it out)? They are all that remains of the Sudley Spring house. It appears nice and square in the 1862 photo to the left of the Union cavalrymen, who are facing off against the Thornberry kids on the near side. Look at the trees that frame the left of both photos. Clearly not the same trees, but notice how they are both leaning similarly. What does it mean? OK, nothing. But it’s cool, nonetheless.

10396291_886522461371485_249971227697202730_ncav-at-sudley





That Big Puddle on Henry Hill

19 11 2014

IMG_20141115_142217_942

This past Saturday I visited Manassas National Battlefield Park for a quick tour with my nephew. I snapped this photo of the typically wet area just east of the Visitor’s Center parking lot, the one you usually have to walk around on your trek to Stonewall on Steroids. Why take a picture of a puddle, especially a dry one? Well, in 1862, some theorize – I tend to concur – this feature was photographed at least three times, twice by the team of Whitney & Woodbury, and once by Barnard and Gibson. At the time, the marshy area was surrounded by shallow and supposedly Confederate graves. Think about that next time you’re busy keeping your feet dry.

Whitney & Woodbury

Whitney & Woodbury

Whitney & Woodbury

Whitney & Woodbury

Barnard & Gibson

Barnard & Gibson





More On the Bartow Monument

18 11 2014

If nothing is showing up, click on the post title.





Manassas NBP Visit 11/15/2014

17 11 2014

I posted some photos I took on a quick trip to show some of the battlefield to my nephew this past Saturday. You can find them on Facebook here. Eventually I’ll set up a gallery here as well. It was a beautiful day, perfect for photos, even though I only had my phone camera with me. We took a walk out to the site of Portici and saw a (to me) new marker at Holkum’s Branch, the site of the post battle meeting of Jefferson Davis and “Stonewall” Jackson. Also saw a (to me) new marker at the site of Christian Hill (read about its significance here.) I do have concerns about bringing attention to that place. I never have as much time as I’d like on the rare occasions I get to visit, but each time I see something I’ve missed before. Get out there – you can’t understand the battle if you don’t walk the ground.








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