How First Bull Run was REALLY Lost

4 03 2010

Well, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter hit the shelves day before yesterday.  By most accounts it’s a big hit, and may even be made into a movie (unlike some folks, I don’t see Johnny Depp as Abe – maybe John Wilkes Booth).  Anyway, seeing the book in Barnes and Noble today reminded me that there’s an, umm, interesting account of the fighting at Bull Run, and what turned the tide for the Confederacy.  An enlisted man in a Massachusetts regiment wrote home to his wife after the battle, in a letter residing in the Harvard University Archives (where it “has long been mistaken for a work of epistolary fiction”):

We had [the Confederates] whipped at the start.  Blessed with greater numbers, we drove south up Henry House Hill, and into a group of trees at its peak.  What a sight to see them scatter like mice!  To see our ranks spread half a mile wide!  Th hear the cracking of gunpowder from all directions!

“Let us chase them all the way to Georgia!” cried Colonel Hunter, to the delight of the men.

As we neared the top of the hill, the rebels covered their retreat by firing on us.  The gun smoke grew so thick that one could scarcely see ten yards into the trees where they hid.  From behind this curtain of smoke suddenly came a chorus of wild yells.  The voices of twenty or thirty men, growing louder by the moment.  “First Ranks!  Fix bayonets!” ordered the colonel.  As they did, a small band of Confederates emerged from the smoke, running toward us as fast as any men have ever run.  Even from a distance, I could see their strange, wild eyes.  There was not a rifle, or a pistol, or a sword among them.

Our first ranks began to fire, yet their rifles seemed to have no effect.  Melissa, I swear until my grave that I saw bullets strike these men in their chests.  In their limbs and faces. Yet they continued to charge as if they had not been hit at all!  The rebels smashed into our ranks and tore men apart all in front of my eyes.  I do not mean to suggest that they ran them through with bayonets, or fired on them with revolvers.  I mean to say that these rebels–these thirty unarmed men–tore one hundred men to pieces with nothing more than their bare hands.  I saw arms pulled off.  Heads twisted backward.  I saw blood pour from the throats and bellies of men gutted by mere fingertips; a boy grasping at the holes where his eyes had been a moment before.  A private three yards in front of me had his rifle plucked away.  I was close enough to feel his blood on my face as its stock was used to smash his skull in.  Close enough to taste his death on my tongue.

Our lines broke.  I am not ashamed to say that I dropped my rifle and ran with the others, Melissa.  The rebels gave chase, overtaking and savaging men on either side of me as we retreated.  Their screams following me down the hill.

Well, there you have it.  As if we needed any more proof of the evil that was the so-called Confederacy.  Just for fun,though, care to take a stab at the factual accuracy of the account, with the exception of bloodsucking assistance?

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The Regular Infantry in the First Bull Run Campaign – Dangerfield Parker

3 03 2010

THE REGULAR INFANTRY IN THE FIRST BULL RUN CAMPAIGN.

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

BY DANGERFIELD PARKER, MAJOR NINTH US INFANTRY

UNITED SERVICE – Volume XIII (1885), pp. 521-531

The rays of the afternoon sun of the 16th of July, 1861, were brightly reflected from the rifle-barrels of a compact little battalion of infantry just about to move from camp at Arlington Heights, Virginia, and take its place in the heavy column already beginning the march toward Fairfax Court-House. The battalion consisted of Companies C and G, Second, B, D, G, H, Third, and G, Eighth United States Infantry, under the command of Major George Sykes, Fourteenth Infantry (afterward major-general of volunteers, and in command of the Fifth Corps), who had recently been promoted from captain Third Infantry. Captain N. H. Davis, Second Infantry (now inspector-general United States Army) was the acting major. There were but few of the remaining officers who had had much experience in the field, they being for the most part either fresh from West Point or civil life.

It is not my purpose in this article to attempt an elaborate description of the campaign ending in the disastrous battle of Bull Run, for this has been done by far abler hands, but rather to relate the part taken in it by the little force to which I had the honor to belong, together with such incidents as will be likely, I trust, to interest the general reader. In order, however, to render my narrative intelligible, it will be necessary, here and there, to describe with as light a touch as I may, such dispositions of troops, etc., as may be requisite to throw into relief the role performed by the actors in my little drama.

Five companies, only, of the Third Infantry had succeeded, a few weeks previously, in withdrawing from Texas (where they were stationed before the war), the remaining ones having been taken prisoners at Indianola by an overwhelming force of Confederates, and afterwards paroled. They rejoined the regiment the ensuing year. I afterwards heard some of the older officers say that when this was effected, the enlisted men of these paroled companies were reported “Present or accounted for,” though many received tempting offers of commissions in the Confederate service.

The battalion which we have just seen as about to commence its march (1) formed a portion of the First Brigade (Porter’s), Second Division (Hunter’s). The troops composing the remainder of this brigade were: a battalion of seven companies of regular cavalry, belonging to the First and Second Regiments, and Second Dragoons, under the command of Major (now General) Innis Palmer, a battalion of marines under Major Reynolds, the Eighth, Fourteenth, and Twenty-seventh New York Infantry, and Griffin’s battery of the Fifth United States Artillery.

Before proceeding with our narrative it will not be amiss, perhaps, to take a glance at the city of Washington as it then appeared. But for the handsome public buildings scattered here and there, the place presented all the characteristics of a southern town,—and a second-rate one at that,—and bore no resemblance to the beautiful city of to-day. The streets were wretchedly paved and lighted, and, in spots, an air of shabbiness—not to say dilapidation—prevailed.

The troops that since the “call” of the President had been pouring into the city were, in part, the organized militia of the different States, and, in part, volunteers. All having been mustered into the United States service, however, this distinction was but a technical one. The streets of the city fairly swarmed with these troops; mounted orderlies galloped hither and yon, the music of the bands of incoming regiments filled the air, the hotel corridors were filled with embryo brigadiers, and all was excitement, bustle, and seeming confusion. I remember, but a few brief weeks before the period of which I write, to have met daily, General (then major in the adjutant-general’s department) McDowell on his way to muster in the latest arrived battalions. He was always in the full dress of that day,—i.e., the soft felt hat with ostrich feathers, epaulets, and sash; and I recall the impression made upon me by his fine physique and soldierly appearance.

So far as I am informed, the First Bull Run campaign was the only one in which the troops represented—regulars, militia, and volunteers— preserved their distinctive names, and, to a certain extent, uniforms. The last-named feature gave to the columns rather a parti-colored, not to say variegated, appearance. I recall that the Fourteenth New York, for instance (familiarly known as the Fourteenth Brooklyn), wore a semi-zouave uniform. The Twelfth New York Volunteers wore the full-dress hat of the regular infantry. There were a few regiments uniformed in gray,—Wisconsin and Minnesota troops,—and this fact gave rise during the battle to the report that one or more of these organizations were fired upon by our own men. I am under the impression also that some of the companies wore the old-fashioned “swallow-tail.”

But to resume. The march to Centreville was necessarily a tedious one. The troops were, as a body, raw, and almost all of them inexperienced in field service. So far as drill was concerned, most of them had some knowledge of company and battalion movements. But in regard to marching, target-practice, and the thousand and one details of practical soldiering, they were utterly, and necessarily so, uninstructed. The regular troops had quite a number of old soldiers in their ranks, with the usual sprinkling of recruits. The paucity of their numbers—so far, at least, as the cavalry and infantry were concerned— prevented their being an important factor in the attack, but it was far otherwise, as we shall see, in the retreat.

Leaving out the element of inexperience—or rawness, if you will— of the volunteer troops engaged in this campaign, I have always been of the opinion that they were an exceptionally fine body of men, and that their conduct on the field of battle was, under the circumstances in which they were placed, all that could possibly be expected of them. They only did, indeed, what veteran troops had done, upon occasion, in similar cases from time immemorial.

Of the battalion of marines, consisting of about three hundred and fifty, rank and file, all, excepting about a dozen non-commissioned officers, were raw recruits; and of the commissioned officers there were comparatively few of experience. Their veteran major (Reynolds), being keenly alive to this fact, let no opportunity slip of endeavoring to get them into shape, and the novel spectacle of battalion drills by moonlight, after a tedious day’s march, was presented several times, much to the interest and amusement of our men. The good result of this, however, was satisfactorily demonstrated on the field of battle.

The march of the 16th was necessarily a short one, the evening of the 17th finding us in the vicinity of Fairfax Court-House. During this day’s march—a hot and dusty one, I remember—a private belonging to some organization ahead of us passed us at “double-quick” on his way to the front. I have never forgotten his appearance. Like many another commencing his campaign experience, he had prepared for the march by literally packing himself, and beside the regulation knapsack, haversack, canteen, blanket, and rifle, he appeared to carry an assorted cargo of “a little of everything.” As he passed us with pots rattling, etc., he turned a jolly red face toward the column and exclaimed, “Lord, Jee! I wisht I was a mule!” The roar of laughter that followed seemed greatly to refresh and speed him on his way.

The close of the day’s march on the 18th found us in bivouac near Centreville. I cannot now recall whether it was during that night, or that of the 19th, that the following incident occurred: As a distinguished general officer, describing the rout of the Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville, said, “somebody fired a gun” (but not the enemy, who was some distance away), and straightway such a fusilade across our camp began—apparently from every direction—that we were fain to look about for any shelter that might present itself. One of the officers’ “strikers” who was leisurely crossing the camp-ground, apparently oblivious to the fact that anything unusual was going on, had his march suddenly arrested by Captain D , who shouted “Lie down, you d— fool!”—which he proceeded to do instanter. He had been taught to obey orders, but not to avoid friendly bullets in an enemy’s country. It was one of the hottest fires I ever experienced.

While here, also, we witnessed a scene novel to most of us, and probably the last of its kind that took place in our army. It was the punishment, by whipping, of two deserters. Before the war this was the penalty prescribed for desertion in time of peace, and these criminals had committed the act some time previously. The battalion was drawn up in square, the punishment taking place within it. I will not enlarge on this scene further than to say it was a very painful one. A young officer, who displayed conspicuous gallantry in action a couple of days thereafter, fainted in ranks. One of the volunteers inquired of an officer of the Third, “If I, too, should desert, would I receive such punishment?” He was answered, “No, you would be shot!” But he did not seem to think this would be an improvement.

Having previously had many associations with the navy, I had a personal acquaintance with several of the older officers of the battalion of marines, from whom I received numerous invitations to meals, which, as they lived very well, to say nothing of their genial manners and hearty hospitality, I was very glad to accept. No one had tents, of course, but in some mysterious way they had been able to carry along tables. Though we dined and supped, therefore, alfresco, these appliances of civilization—with the addition of real tumblers, etc.— were most acceptable. I remember that at Centreville, after supper one evening, having permission to be absent from our own tattoo, I remained to hear the half-score or so of little marine drummers and fifers “sound off” that call. The field music of the corps used to be (and I presume still is) excellent, and during the two or three days we were at Centreville the performance of tattoo attracted crowds of volunteers, who evinced their appreciation of the music by loud clapping of hands, etc.

Major (afterwards General) George Sykes was an officer for whom I have always had an ardent admiration. He was a born soldier, and displayed conspicuous ability in every position in which he was placed. He possessed in a high degree that union of soldierly qualities that, while holding his men well in hand and under perfect control, enabled him to effect some decisive stroke with the least possible damage to his command. Thus his troops were in course of the war frequently called upon to enact upon the field of battle a dual or triple role,—to assist in opening the engagement, then to be withdrawn to the reserve, and finally (as at both Bull Runs, first and second) to make the final charge of the day. His troops seemed imbued with something of the order of his own daily life and demeanor, influenced by the same regularity and discipline, of which the ever-buttoned coat and spotless white glove were the outward symbols. As a man, he was upright and chivalrous; as a companion, courteous and—to his intimates—genial.

THE BATTLE

Day had not yet broken on the morning of July 21,1861, when our little force was paraded in readiness for the march to the battle-field; but, owing to the tardy march of troops in front, our division did not reach Centreville, about a mile distant, until after four o’clock, and it was some time after sunrise before we crossed Cub Run, on the Warrenton turnpike, and turned to the right on the “wood road” leading to Sudley Ford, with the “objective” of turning the Confederate left. This delay in the movement of the column in our front was particularly unfortunate, as the result proved, as this circumstance, coupled with the fact that the distance to be traversed was greater than the general-in-chief was led to expect, and the impossibility of concealing the movement of so large a column on a dusty road not especially favored topographically for this purpose, turned what had been intended as a “manoeuvre-march” into a simple “manoeuvre.” It will be remembered that McDowell’s original plan was to attempt to turn the Confederate right, and that this was abandoned for the reasons, as he himself says in his official report, that, upon examination, the roads on that flank ” were too narrow and crooked for so large a body to move over, and the distance around too great to admit of it with any safety.” Further, that the affair at Blackburn’s Ford, on the 18th, showed the enemy was too strong there to admit of forcing a passage without great loss, and if successful “would bring us in front of his strong position at Manassas, which was not desired.” And again, it has been stated that a demonstration in any direction was delayed by the non-arrival of subsistence stores (rations), which did not arrive until the night of the 19th and were distributed on the 20th.

The weather was extremely hot, and although the wood through which we now marched furnished here and there some protection from the fierce rays of the sun, yet its very denseness shut out the breeze and made the heat almost intolerable. The Second Brigade (Burnside’s) slowly preceded us under these circumstances, and it must have been fully ten o’clock before we arrived in the vicinity of Sudley Ford, probably eight or nine miles from our point of departure on the Warrenton turnpike. Turning south we speedily saw the smoke from the fire of the troops on the Confederate left, resting at that time on the Sudley road and the high ground north of the valley of Young’s Branch. The troops engaged were afterwards understood to be South Carolina and Louisiana regiments under General Evans, and opposed to them was Burnside’s second brigade of our division, which “opened the ball.” Just at this time an order reached Sykes to bring his battalion forward in support of Burnside. Before doing so he made us a short address. It was to the point, and gave us to understand that there would probably be some work for us to do. Shortly before this time, also, the first soldier I ever saw wounded in action passed us,—a cavalryman shot in the sword arm. The Sudley and Newmarket road, by which the column was now marching, was thickly wooded between the command and the creek (Bull Run) for a distance of about a mile, and then the country becomes more open on both sides of the road, gradually clearing into a series of undulating or rolling fields extending as far as the Warrenton turnpike, distant from the ford about two miles. Young’s Branch crosses the turnpike near the intersection of the two roads named, and it was in the more or less open space in this vicinity that the battle raged the fiercest.

We moved along at double time until, striking the open space referred to, we formed line, and swinging forward our left, charged through a belt of timber, taking several prisoners. Just previously we passed Rickett’s splendid battery, belonging to Franklin’s brigade of the Third (Heintzleman’s) Division. It was drawn to one side to allow us to pass, (2) and poor “Dang” Ramsay attracted our attention by waving his cap which he had placed on his sheathed sabre. He was killed shortly after this.

It was upon emerging from this wood, as I remember, that the battalion found itself opposite a masked battery posted near a house in the vicinity of the junction of the Warrenton turnpike and the Sudley road, and supported by an infantry force in position among the trees around it. The three left companies of the battalion were deployed as skirmishers under Captain Dodge, Eighth Infantry (now colonel Eleventh Infantry), and gallantly advancing to the attack were soon hotly engaged. The remainder of the battalion advanced across an open plain, the right skirting a belt of heavy timber. Having arrived at the apex of the angle formed by the southern limit of this wood with its eastern side, we changed direction to the right, and wheeling into line took up position to support the Rhode Island battery. This battery was served and handled with marked gallantry.

The troops on the Confederate left at this time consisted, as afterward appeared, of Evans’s demi-brigade, supported by Bee’s brigade posted near the historic Henry house, and afterward further strengthened, when the Confederate left fell back, by Hampton’s Legion and other troops.

By some Confederate writers the “turning column” has been estimated as about eighteen thousand strong. The official returns for July 16 and 17 give the total strength of the Second and Third Divisions as twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five, from which it is to be presumed that on the day of the battle the usual number of non-effectives (the sick, etc.) must be deducted, as well as one entire regiment of the Third Division (the Fourth Michigan) not engaged.

The position of affairs on our right at this time was about as follows:

The Second Division (Hunter’s) hotly engaged; the Second (Burnside’s) Brigade on the right; the Third (Heintzleman’s) Division rapidly taking position on our left. The Rhode Island battery, which was the first one in position, was on the right, the two boat-howitzers attached to the Seventy-first New York Regiment on its left. A few hundred yards to the left, at intervals, Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were posted in the order named. Arnold’s battery came into action a little later, and was posted on the left centre. From the position, of affairs, the brunt of the fighting was sustained, so far as artillery was concerned, by these batteries, and nobly they did their work. They were superbly handled.

Griffin’s battery was supported by the marines, and Rickett’s by the Fire Zouaves (Eleventh New York), with the Fourteenth New York as a reserve support.

The battalion of regular cavalry—all there was of this arm in the column—was posted slightly in rear of the extreme right. History recounts the distinguished part played by this little force—seven companies—both in the action and in assisting to cover the retreat.

The First Division (Tyler’s) was posted as follows: Richardson’s brigade at Blackburn’s Ford, the other three (Sherman’s, Schenck’s, and Keyes’s) at or near the Stone Bridge. The Fifth Division (Miles’s) was held in reserve, and at no time engaged, except in slight skirmishing on the retreat. The Fourth Division (Runyon’s) was several miles to the rear.

It was originally intended, I believe, that the Third Division should turn off to the left, by a road supposed to be about midway between the Warrenton turnpike and Sudley Ford; but as such a road did not exist, this division followed the Second to the ford. This suppositious road was to lead to an equally suppositious ford east of Sudley’s.

After a stout resistance the Confederate left gave way, and was pressed back with such energy as speedily to throw it into confusion.

Meanwhile, Sherman’s and Keyes’s brigades having, accidentally as it appeared, discovered a ford on the run above the Stone Bridge, advanced and took an active part in the conflict.

The engagement now became general along the line. Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were brought farther to the front. The arrival of Jackson’s command, and of some of the fresh troops of the Army of the Shenandoah just arrived, enabled the Confederates to rally their shattered battalions, and by taking the offensive in turn, to pierce our centre and recover some of their lost ground.

It was now after two o’clock. Our right, though checked, was readily rallied and put in order for another forward movement. The delay required to effect this probably enabled the Confederates to have at hand, an hour later, Elzey’s brigade and the other fresh troops, now rapidly advancing from Manassas Station. Our line again advanced, and recovered the plateau upon which were situated the Henry and Robinson houses, but was again repulsed, with the loss of nearly the whole of Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries, the intrepid cannoneers being mostly shot down at their guns, while their supports fell back in disorder. The strong flanking position held by us on the right, however, enabled us still to hold our grip there, until the troops on our left were relieved and put in order for what was to be the final charge of the day on our part.

Up to this time, I believe it to be generally conceded that the fortunes of the day were in our favor. Even with the last advantage gained by the Confederates, we still retained our hold on the right so tenaciously as to enable us to reform a line of battle, presenting a firm and bold front. But the accession of fresh troops to the Confederate ranks afforded them the means of renewing the offensive so energetically that the result was inevitable. Moving around our right, under cover of the woods there, our flank began to yield, and before an advance of the whole Confederate line our men at length gave way, and in a twinkle were seized with a panic that, beginning in a retreat, degenerated into a rout.

Our battalion, which had remained under a hot fire for over an hour in support of the Rhode Island battery,—many of our men assisting in working it,—gradually worked its way farther to the right, the necessity for its longer stay in support of the battery having ceased, as the fiercest fighting was now developing in that direction. The line on this flank had extended somewhat in the manoeuvre for position.

Sykes now received an order to advance and cover the retreat of the troops in this part of the field. Shortly after getting in motion our little force was joined by a small detachment of what I now believe to have been Minnesota troops. They evidently must have been “spoiling for a fight,” at any rate, and had just left friends not so anxious for another round or two as they were. These men (uniformed, singularly enough, in gray) fell in on our left, and gallantly advanced to the front with us, and remained until we were ordered to form square. I then lost sight of them.

Though the number of troops engaged in this movement was insignificant, I have often thought that the order and regularity in which the men marched, and their gallant and determined bearing, must have excited the surprise, if not admiration, of our foe in the light of the events that preceded.

All was lost! The whole field, so far as the eye could reach, was covered with panic-stricken and flying men. The battalion advanced to the hill opposite, one upon which a house stood (probably Chinn’s, to the right and rear of the Henry house), where, being threatened with cavalry, it formed square. It remained in that position until, all of our men having fallen back, it was withdrawn in line-of-battle, suffering meanwhile severely from the fire of a section of artillery which was particularly attentive so long as it had a knowledge of our whereabouts. Being, on its march, still threatened by cavalry, the battalion, upon reaching the crest of another hill, faced about, opened fire, and held them in check. By this time the guns of the Confederates seemed from every height to converge their fire upon us, but by avoiding the road, the dust raised by the little column was so inconsiderable that our march was masked, and we were thus enabled to reach Centreville without further loss.

The reports of the different military commanders, as well as the accounts given by historians, agree in warmly praising the conduct of the regular infantry in this action. General McDowell says, “The battalion of regular infantry alone moved up the hill opposite to the one with the house, and there maintained itself until our men could get down to and across the Warrenton turnpike,” etc. General Barnard, the Compte de Paris, Swinton, and General Beauregard mention the conduct of the battalion in substantially the same terms.

The loss to the battalion, considering the small number engaged, was heavy, aggregating (killed, wounded, and missing) eighty-three. Lieutenant William Dickinson (now captain retired), acting adjutant of the battalion of the Third Infantry, was wounded and taken prisoner, as was also Lieutenant (now major Fourth Infantry) Jacob F. Kent.

I recall—the outcome of my inexperience—that in passing through these woods, I turned to Sykes and asked, “What do you make of this, major?” “Looks very much like a rout, lieutenant!” he replied, in the dry and somewhat nasal tone habitual to him.

Truly there is scarcely a step from the sublime to the ridiculous. I never think now of this incident without amusement: when the battalion formed square, as has been related, one of our friends in gray— apparently about six and a half feet high and slim in proportion— jumped up in the air and exclaimed frantically, “They’re trying to flank us! they’re trying to flank us!” His manner was so excited, and his appearance so outre (I think he wore a shako, which had slipped to the back of his head) that, if I had not been in a slightly mixed state of mind myself, I think I should have laughed outright. As it was, he made such a row that I felt strongly inclined to use some strong language. But all the same, he was a gallant fellow.

As we marched through Centreville we met the Fifth Division drawn up and seemingly in perfect order. I recollect that one regiment was singing “John Brown’s body.”

The fatigue of that terrible march, the gloom that settled like a pall upon the participants, can never be forgotten by them. General Sykes says in his official report, “Our officers and men were on their feet from 10 P.M. on the 20th until 10 A.M. on the 22d.” I must have fallen asleep (3) while marching, for I found myself with a strange regiment (I think the Twelfth New York Volunteers) when day broke. My command had halted for a short rest at Fairfax Court-House, and soon overtook me, after I had “fallen out” upon discovering my mistake.

The sun was high in the heavens when our worn-out officers and men reached camp at Arlington Heights, and after breaking ranks,— for the battalion had come “all the way through” in perfect order,— just threw their exhausted bodies down in the nearest shade that could be found.

Although, after the final charge of the Confederates on our right, with its attendant circumstances, there was no doubt in the mind of our leaders as to the final result, it would appear that the Confederate commanders were not at first prepared to decide upon the character of the reverse. So far as the disaster on our right, with its attendant circumstances, was concerned, there could be but one opinion. But was it a bona fide rout? It was, unquestionably. But were the Confederate leaders sure of it at first? We had heavy columns—of which fact they were doubtless aware—in reserve, as has been seen. The hardest part of the fighting had been done by the “turning column” and Keyes’s and Sherman’s brigades of Tyler’s division. Mr. Jefferson Davis writes to General Beauregard, under date of August 4, 1861, “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.”

So far as an advance upon Washington was concerned, it seems to have formed no part of the plan of the Confederate general-in-chief, nor of Mr. Davis,—at any rate at that time,—and this for what appear to have been good strategical reasons. Indeed, General Johnston makes a statement to that effect. He says, in his official report of the battle, “The apparent firmness of the United States troops at Centreville, who had not been engaged, which checked our pursuit; the strong forces occupying the works near Georgetown, Arlington, and Alexandria; the certainty, too, that General Patterson, if needed, would reach Washington with his army of thirty thousand men sooner than we could, and the condition and inadequate means of the army in ammunition, provisions, and transportation, prevented any serious thoughts of advancing against the capital.”

As to the numbers engaged on both sides, the official returns of the troops composing General McDowell’s army reported an aggregate of thirty-five thousand seven hundred and thirty-two. Of these about eighteen thousand—or let us say, at the outside, twenty thousand— were actively engaged. The Confederate field-return of the First Corps (Army of the Potomac) reports an aggregate of twenty-one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and the number actually engaged as nine thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven; but the return of casualties shows losses in organizations not embraced in this return. Of the Army of the Shenandoah engaged, General Beauregard reports the number as eight thousand three hundred and thirty-four. The reader can draw his own inference.

A few days after the battalion of regular infantry was re-established in camp, President Lincoln, accompanied by General McDowell, came over to review it. In their passage down the line they drew rein in front of the colors, when the general, turning to Mr. Lincoln, said, “Mr. President, these are the men who saved your army at Bull Run,”—doubtless an extravagant compliment. The President, looking keenly up and down the line, replied, “I’ve heard of them.”

This was all; but it made a powerful impression upon all present, as it more than compensated for the effect of the injurious reports rife in Washington upon our arrival there after the battle, viz., that “the regulars had run.”

Notes:

(1) This force was characterized by General Beauregard in his article in the November (1884) number of the Century as “a small but incomparable body of regular infantry.”

(2) If I remember correctly, it was this battery that was drawn by West Point horses.

(3) I believe this is not a very uncommon circumstance. I had done the same thing once before (in the “Patterson Campaign”) on the return march from Hagerstown to Williamsport.

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Virginia Scenes in ’61 – Constance Cary Harrison

2 03 2010

VIRGINA SCENES IN ‘61

BY CONSTANCE CARY HARRISON.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 160-166

The only association I have with my old home in Virginia that is not one of unmixed happiness relates to the time immediately succeeding the execution of John Brown at Harper’s Ferry. Our homestead was in Fairfax County, at some distance from the theater of that tragic episode; and, belonging as we did to a family among the first in the State to manumit slaves,—our grandfather having set free those that came to him by inheritance, and the people who served us being hired from their owners and remaining in our employ through years of kindliest relations,— there seemed to be no especial reason for us to share in the apprehension of an uprising of the blacks. But there was the fear — unspoken, or pooh-poohed at by the men who were mouth-pieces for our community—dark, boding, oppressive, and altogether hateful. I can remember taking it to bed with me at night, and awaking suddenly oftentimes to confront it through a vigil of nervous terror, of which it never occurred to me to speak to any one. The notes of whip-poor-wills in the sweet-gum swamp near the stable, the mutterings of a distant thunder-storm, even the rustle of the night wind in the oaks that shaded my window, filled me with nameless dread. In the daytime it seemed impossible to associate suspicion with those familiar tawny or sable faces that surrounded us. “We had seen them for so many years smiling or saddening with the family joys or sorrows; they were so guileless, so patient, so satisfied. What subtle influence was at work that should transform them into tigers thirsting for our blood? The idea was preposterous. But when evening came again, and with it the hour when the colored people (who in summer and autumn weather kept astir half the night) assembled themselves together for dance or prayer-meeting, the ghost that refused to be laid was again at one’s elbow. Rusty bolts were drawn and rusty fire-arms loaded. A watch was set where never before had eye or ear been lent to such a service. In short, peace had flown from the borders of Virginia.

Although the newspapers were full of secession talk and the matter was eagerly discussed at our tables, I cannot remember that, as late as Christmastime of the year 1860, coming events had cast any definite shadow on our homes. The people in our neighborhood, of one opinion with their dear and honored friend, Colonel Robert E. Lee, of Arlington, were slow to accept the startling suggestion of disruption of the Union. At any rate, we enjoyed the usual holiday gathering of kinsfolk in the usual fashion. The old Vaucluse house, known for many years past as a center of cheerful hospitality in the county, threw wide open its doors to receive all the members who could be gathered there of a large family circle. The woods about were despoiled of holly and spruce, pine and cedar, to deck the walls and wreathe the picture-frames. On Christmas Eve we had a grand rally of youths and boys belonging to the “clan,” as they loved to call it, to roll in a yule log, which was deposited upon a glowing bed of coals in the big “red-parlor” fire-place, and sit about it after-ward, welcoming the Christmas in with goblets of egg-nog and apple-toddy.

“Where shall we be a year hence?” some one asked at a pause in the merry chat; and, in the brief silence that followed, arose a sudden spectral thought of war. All felt its presence; no one cared to speak first of its grim possibilities.

On Christmas Eve of the following year the old house lay in ruins, a sacrifice by Union troops to military necessity; the forest giants that kept watch around her walls had been cut down and made to serve as breastworks for a fort erected on the Vaucluse property as part of the defenses of Washington. Of the young men and boys who took part in that holiday festivity, all were in the active service of the South,— one of them, alas! soon to fall under a rain of shot and shell beside his gun at Fredericksburg; the youngest of the number had left his mother’s knee to fight at Manassas, and found himself, before the year was out, a midshipman aboard the Confederate steamer Nashville, on her cruise in distant seas!

My first vivid impression of war-days was during a ramble in the neighboring woods one Sunday afternoon in spring, when the young people in a happy band set out in search of wild flowers. Pink honeysuckles, blue lupine, beds of fairy flax, anemones, and ferns in abundance sprung under the canopy of young leaves on the forest boughs, and the air was full of the song of birds and the music of running waters. We knew every mossy path far and near in those woods; every tree had been watched and cherished by those who went before us, and dearer than any other spot on earth was our tranquil, sweet Vaucluse. Suddenly the shrill whistle of a locomotive struck the ear, an unwonted sound on Sunday. “Do you know what that means?” said one of the older cousins who accompanied the party. “It is the special train carrying Alexandria volunteers to Manassas, and to-morrow I shall follow with my company.” Silence fell upon our little band. A cloud seemed to come between us and the sun. It was the beginning of the end too soon to come.

The story of one broken circle is the story of another at the outset of such a war. Before the week was over, the scattering of our household, which no one then believed to be more than temporary, had begun. Living as we did upon ground likely to be in the track of armies gathering to confront each other, it was deemed advisable to send the children and young girls into a place more remote from chances of danger. Some weeks later the heads of the household, two widowed sisters whose sons were at Manassas, drove away from their home in their carriage at early morning, having spent the previous night in company with a half-grown lad digging in the cellar hasty graves for the interment of two boxes of old English silver-ware, heirlooms in the family, for which there was no time to provide otherwise. Although the enemy were long encamped immediately above it after the house was burnt the following year, this silver was found there when the war had ended; it was lying loose in the earth, the boxes having rotted away.

The point at which our family reunited within the Confederate lines was Bristoe, the station next beyond Manassas, a cheerless railway inn; a part of the premises was used as a country grocery store; and there quarters were secured for us with a view to being near the army. By this time all our kith and kin of fighting age had joined the volunteers. One cannot picture accommodations more forlorn than these eagerly taken for us and for other families attracted to Bristoe by the same powerful magnet. The summer sun poured its burning rays upon whitewashed walls unshaded by a tree. Our bedrooms were almost uninhabitable by day or night, our fare the plainest. From the windows we beheld only a flat, uncultivated country, crossed by red-clay roads, then ankle-deep in dust. We learned to look for all excitement to the glittering lines of railway track, along which continually thundered trains bound to and from the front. It was impossible to allow such a train to pass without running out upon the platform to salute it, for in this way we greeted many an old friend or relative buttoned up in the smart gray uniform, speeding with high hope to the scene of coming conflict. Such shouts as went up from sturdy throats while we stood waving hands, handkerchiefs, or the rough woolen garments we were at work upon!  Then fairly awoke the spirit that made of Southern women the inspiration of Southern men throughout the war. Most of the young fellows we knew and were cheering onward wore the uniform of privates, and for the right to wear it had left homes of ease and luxury. To such we gave our best homage; and from that time forth the youth who was lukewarm in the cause or unambitious of military glory fared uncomfortably in the presence of the average Confederate maiden.

Thanks to our own carriage, we were able during those rallying days of June to drive frequently to visit “the boys” in camp, timing the expeditions to include battalion drill and dress parade, and taking tea afterward in the different tents. Then were the gala days of war, and our proud hosts hastened to produce home dainties dispatched from the far-away plantations— tears and blessings interspersed amid the packing, we were sure; though I have seen a pretty girl persist in declining other fare, to make her meal upon raw biscuit and huckleberry pie compounded by the bright-eyed amateur cook of a well-beloved mess. Feminine heroism could no farther go.

And so the days wore on until the 17th of July, when a rumor from the front sent an electric shock through our circle. The enemy were moving forward! On the morning of the 18th those who had been able to sleep at all awoke early to listen for the first guns of the engagement of Blackburn’s Ford. Deserted as the women at Bristoe were by every male creature old enough to gather news, there was, for us, no way of knowing the progress of events during the long, long day of waiting, of watching, of weeping, of praying, of rushing out upon the railway track to walk as far as we dared in the direction whence came that intolerable booming of artillery. The cloud of dun smoke arising over Manassas became heavier in volume as the day progressed. Still, not a word of tidings, till toward afternoon there came limping up a single, very dirty, soldier with his arm in a sling. What a heaven-send he was, if only as an escape-valve for our pent-up sympathies! We seized him, we washed him, we cried over him, we glorified him until the man was fairly bewildered. Our best endeavors could only develop a pin-scratch of a wound on his right hand; but when our hero had laid in a substantial meal of bread and meat, we plied him with trembling questions, each asking news of some staff or regiment or company. It has since occurred to me that he was a humorist in disguise. His invariable reply, as he looked from one to the other of his satellites, was: “The —-Virginia, marm?  Why, of coase. They warn’t no two ways o’ thinkin’ ’bout that ar reg’ment. They just kivered tharselves with glory!”

A little later two wagonloads of slightly wounded claimed our care, and with them came authentic news of the day. Most of us received notes on paper torn from a soldier’s pocket-book and grimed with gunpowder, containing assurance of the safety of our own. At nightfall a train carrying more wounded to the hospitals at Culpeper made a halt at Bristoe; and, preceded by men holding lanterns, we went in among the stretchers with milk, food, and water to the sufferers. One of the first discoveries I made, bending over in that fitful light, was a young officer whom I knew to be a special object of solicitude with one of my comrades in the search; but he was badly hurt, and neither he nor she knew the other was near until the train had moved on. The next day, and the next, were full of burning excitement over the impending general engagement, which people then said would decide the fate of the young Confederacy. Fresh troops came by with every train, and we lived only to turn from one scene to another of welcome and farewell. On Saturday evening arrived a message from General Beauregard, saying that early on Sunday an engine and car would be put at our disposal, to take us to some point more remote from danger. We looked at one another, and, tacitly agreeing the gallant general had sent not an order but a suggestion, declined his kind proposal.

Another unspeakably long day, full of the straining anguish of suspense. Dawning bright and fair, it closed under a sky darkened by cannon-smoke. The roar of guns seemed never to cease. First, a long sullen boom; then a sharper rattling fire, painfully distinct; then stragglers from the field, with varying rumors; at last, the news of victory; and, as before, the wounded, to force our numbed faculties into service. One of our group, the mother of an only son barely fifteen years of age, heard that her boy, after being in action all the early part of the day, had through sheer fatigue fallen asleep upon the ground, where he was found resting peacefully amidst the roar of the guns.

A few days later we rode over the field. The trampled grass had begun to spring again, and wild flowers were blooming around carelessly made graves. From one of these imperfect mounds of clay I saw a hand extended; and when, years afterward, I visited the tomb of Rousseau beneath the Pantheon in Paris, where a sculptured hand bearing a torch protrudes from the sarcophagus, I thought of that mournful spectacle upon the field of Manassas. Fences were everywhere thrown down; the undergrowth of the woods was riddled with shot; here and there we came upon spiked guns, disabled gun-carriages, cannon-balls, blood-stained blankets, and dead horses. We were glad enough to turn away and gallop homeward.

With August heats and lack of water, Bristoe was forsaken for quarters near Culpeper, where my mother went into the soldiers’ barracks, sharing soldiers’ accommodations, to nurse the wounded. In September quite a party of us, upon invitation, visited the different headquarters. We stopped overnight at Manassas, five ladies, sleeping upon a couch made of rolls of cartridge-flannel, in a tent guarded by a faithful sentry. I remember the comical effect of the five bird-cages (of a kind without which no self-respecting young woman of that day would present herself in public) suspended upon a line running across the upper part of our tent, after we had reluctantly removed them in order to adjust ourselves for repose. Our progress during that memorable visit was royal; an ambulance with a picked troop of cavalrymen had been placed at our service, and the convoy was “personally conducted” by a pleasing variety of distinguished officers. It was at this time, after a supper at the headquarters of the “Maryland line” at Fairfax, that the afterward universal war-song, “My Maryland !” was put afloat upon the tide of army favor. We were sitting outside a tent in the warm starlight of an early autumn night, when music was proposed. At once we struck up Randall’s verses to the tune of the old college song, “Lauriger Horatius,”—a young lady of the party, Jennie Gary, of Baltimore, having recently set them to this music before leaving home to share the fortunes of the Confederacy. All joined in the ringing chorus; and, when we finished, a burst of applause came from some soldiers listening in the darkness behind a belt of trees. Next day the melody was hummed far and near through the camps, and in due time it had gained the place of favorite song in the army. Other songs sung that evening, which afterward had a great vogue, were one beginning “By blue Patapsco’s billowy dash,” and “The years glide slowly by, Lorena.”

Another incident of note, during the autumn of ’61, was that to my cousins, Hetty and Jennie Cary, and to me was intrusted the making of the first three battle-flags of the Confederacy. They were jaunty squares of scarlet crossed with dark blue edged with white, the cross bearing stars to indicate the number of the seceded States. We set our best stitches upon them, edged them with golden fringes, and, when they were finished, dispatched one to Johnston, another to Beauregard, and the third to Earl Van Dorn, then commanding infantry at Manassas. The banners we’re received with all possible enthusiasm; were toasted, feted, and cheered abundantly. After two years, when Van Dorn had been killed in Tennessee, mine came back to me, tattered and storm-stained from long and honorable service in the field. But it was only a little while after it had been bestowed that there arrived one day at our lodgings in Culpeper a huge, bashful Mississippi scout,—one of the most daring in the army,—with the frame of a Hercules and the face of a child. He had been bidden to come there by his general, he said, to ask, if I would not give him an order to fetch some cherished object from my dear old home—something that would prove to me “how much they thought of the maker of that flag!” A week later I was the astonished recipient of a lamented bit of finery left “within the lines,”a wrap, brought to us by Dillon himself, with a beaming face. Mounted on a load of fire-wood, he had gone through the Union pickets, and while peddling poultry had presented himself at the house of my uncle, Dr. Fairfax, in Alexandria, whence he earned off his prize in triumph, with a letter in its folds telling us how relatives left behind longed to be sharing the joys and sorrows of those at large in the Confederacy.

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Book Trailer – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

2 03 2010

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a trailer for a book before, but this one is pretty cool.  It kind of reminds me of the Diet Mountain Dew commercial with a shirtless Abe.  The book comes out today.  I previewed it here, and reviewed it here.  I’m thinking a film is likely.

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The Confederate Commissariat at Manassas – L. B. Northrup

2 03 2010

THE CONFEDERATE COMMISSARIAT AT MANASSAS

BY COLONEL L. B. NORTHROP, COMMISSARY-GENERAL, C. S. A.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, p. 261

Generals Beauregard, Imboden, and Johnston in the foregoing articles [see pages 221, 239, and 250] criticise the management of my department in the matter of supplies for the Confederate army at Manassas either before or after the first battle. In the statements of these generals, there is some conflict, but they all concur in making me appear a preposterous imbecile, whom Mr. Davis was guilty of retaining. General Imboden in effect charges Mr. Benjamin with suppressing, in order to shield my incapacity, an official report of a board of officers convened by Johnston.

July 29th, 1861, General Beauregard wrote to his aides, Colonels Chesnut and Miles,—the latter read the letter in the Confederate Congress,— about his vision of capturing Washington, and thus laid the foundation of the cabal against Mr. Davis which made the Confederate Government a ”divided house.” It produced a resolution of inquiry, followed soon by a standing committee, and afterward, in January, 1865, by a unanimous resolution, in secret session of both houses, to appoint a joint select committee to investigate the condition and management of all the Bureaux of the War Department. The session of this committee on commissary affairs was held January 23d, 1865. During the war the investigations of the standing committee into my policy and methods were frequent; several were long taking testimony, for one member, H. S. Foote,—who when I was myself in prison published me as cruel to Federal prisoners,—was ever zealous to attack. Every investigation ended in approval. I have a letter from Mr. John B. Baldwin, chairman of the joint select committee, stating that he had declared in Congress, as the result of their examination, “that the commissary department of subsistence, under the control of Colonel Northrop, the Commissary-General, had been managed with a foresight and sagacity, and a far-reaching, comprehensive grasp of its business, such as we had found in no other bureau connected with the army supply, with perhaps a single exception.”

The facts are that the engineer, General Beauregard, neglected his communications, so that “troops for the battle” and “supplies” were “retarded”; but the supplies were at the depot. “Eighteen heavy cannon, called for two weeks before,” occupied unloaded cars at Fredericksburg, where there was a large supply of flour that had been accumulating since early June. Numerous cars were retained as stationary storehouses ”for provisions,” “useless baggage,” and “trunks”; one hundred and thirty-three cars were abstracted by the “military” power from the use of the railroads for two weeks and more before the battle until returned by the Quartermaster-General and Mr. Ashe, the Government agent. There was plenty of lumber available to construct a storehouse. General Beauregard was not “urgent on the Commissary-General for adequate supplies before the battle,” for there was no ground of complaint. It was after the battle, when the vision of capturing Washington had seduced him, that he tried to construct a ground of complaint anterior to the battle.

General Beauregard made but one demand on me (July 8th, by a telegram which I have) for a commissary of the old service. Lieutenant-Colonel Richard B. Lee was added; no one was removed. On the 6th day of July I ordered Fowle to buy all the corn-meal, and soon after all the bacon, he could. July 7th, Beauregard ordered him to keep in advance a two weeks’ supply for 25,000 men, and Major Noland was ready to supply any number of beeves. The findings of the Board (on which Colonel Lee sat) are incoherent as stated by Imboden. The interdictions alleged by him are refuted by Colonel Ruffin (my chief assistant), and by all the letters sent officially to me in August, 1861. I have Fowle’s detailed report of the rations at Manassas; there was plenty of provision for a march on Washington. If I had removed his commissaries as he alleges, or had “interdicted ” them as General Imboden states, General Beauregard need not have been hampered, in a country which all the generals have declared abounded in the essentials of food.

General Johnston’s comments on the commissariat are unfounded. He “requested” an increase of provisions which his commissary alone could determine, and allowed the accumulation to go on for twelve days after he knew that he had more than he wanted. When I was informed, I did what he should have done — telegraphed the shippers to stop. Two weeks before his move he promised my officer, Major Noland, the transportation deemed sufficient, and of which he had assumed direct control. Empty trains passed the meat which had been laid in piles, ready for shipment. Empty trains lay idle at Manassas for days, in spite of Noland’s efforts to get them. General Johnston says the stores of the other departments were brought off. Eight hundred new army saddles, several thousand pairs of new shoes, and a large number of new blankets were burned — Quartermaster’s stores then difficult of attainment.

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How Writing Leads to Thinking

1 03 2010

Lynn Hunt has this article up over on the American Historical Association site that any non-fiction writer – or aspiring writer – should read.  (Hat tip to Mark Grimsley via Facebook.)

A few tidbits from Ms. Hunt: 

  • My first rule…is not to look at notes. In the era of digitized databases, digital photographs of manuscripts and archives, and digital copies of notes taken of books and archives, such a rule is yet more imperative.
  • You want the number of your pages to increase steadily over time, culminating in the completion of a first draft. Whether you use an outline or not (I jot down bullet points in no particular order as a way of starting), what really counts is momentum, not momentum as in a jet racing forward to the completion of its route but rather momentum as in three steps forward, two steps back, two or three pages written (maybe even five!), then revised the next day while another one, two or three are added, and so on.
  • …life is short and if you want to write more than a dissertation or one book or two books and so on, you have to limit yourself to what can be done in a certain time frame. You cannot accumulate pages if you constantly second guess yourself. You have to second guess yourself just enough to make constant revision productive and not debilitating. You have to believe that clarity is going to come, not all at once, and certainly not before you write, but eventually, if you work at it hard enough, it will come. Thought does emerge from writing. Something ineffable happens when you write down a thought. You think something you did not know you could or would think and it leads you to another thought almost unbidden.
  • …writing crystallizes previously half-formulated or unformulated thoughts, gives them form, and extends chains of thoughts in new directions.
  • Nothing is more important to writing than the weeding, thinning, mulching, and watering that is known as revision. Sometimes another eye provides the added sunlight needed for new growth.
  • Most problems in writing come from the anxiety caused by the unconscious realization that what you write is you and has to be held out for others to see. You are naked and shivering out on that limb that seems likely to break off and bring you tumbling down into the ignominy of being accused of inadequate research, muddy unoriginal analysis, and clumsy writing. So you hide yourself behind jargon, opacity, circuitousness, the passive voice, and a seeming reluctance to get to the point. It is so much safer there in the foliage that blocks the reader’s comprehension, but in the end so unsatisfying.
  • When you are reading a book that grabs you, consider how the author accomplishes that effect. What is it that draws you in? What makes you think it beautiful or forceful or astute? Which quality do you cherish most? What can you learn about writing from it?
  • In short, one is not born a writer but rather becomes one. Learning to write well is a lifelong endeavor.

That’s a lot to chew on.  Maybe time for some introspection.

Lynn Hunt, professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles, is a former president of the AHA. Among numerous books that she has written, the most recent are Measuring Time, Making History, and Inventing Human Rights: A History.

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General Ewell at Bull Run – Campbell Brown

28 02 2010

GENERAL EWELL AT BULL RUN (1)

BY MAJOR CAMPBELL BROWN, AIDE-DE-CAMP AND ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL TO GENERAL EWELL.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 259-261

In General Beauregard’s article on Bull Run, in “The Century” for November [1884], is this severe criticism of one of his subordinates, the late Lieutenant-General R. S. Ewell:

“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. R. 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.”

This contains at least three errors, so serious that they should not be allowed to pass uncorrected among the materials from which history will one day be constructed:

1. That Ewell failed to do what a good soldier would have done — namely, to move forward immediately on hearing from D. R. Jones.

2. That Beauregard was made aware of this supposed backwardness of Ewell by a message from D. R. Jones.

3. That on receiving this message he at once ordered Ewell to advance.

The subjoined correspondence, (2) now [March, 1885] first in print, took place four days after the battle. It shows that Ewell did exactly what Beauregard says he ought to have done — namely, move forward promptly; that his own staff-officer, sent to report this forward movement, carried also to headquarters the first intelligence of the failure of orders to reach him; that no such message was received from D. R. Jones as is here ascribed to him; and that the order sent back by Beauregard to Ewell was not one to advance, but to retire from an advance already begun.

It is not easy to understand these mistakes, as General Beauregard has twice given a tolerably accurate though meager account of the matter — once in his official report, and once in his biography published by Colonel Roman in 1884. Neither of these accounts can be reconciled with the later attitude.

Upon reading General Beauregard’s article, I wrote to General Fitzhugh Lee, who was Ewell’s assistant adjutant-general at Manassas, asking his recollection of what took place. I have liberty to make the following extracts from his reply. After stating what troops composed the brigade, he goes on:

“These troops were all in position at daylight on the 21st July, ready for any duty, and held the extreme right of General Beauregard’s line of battle along Bull Run, at Union Mills. As hour after hour passed, General Ewell grew impatient at not receiving any orders (beyond those to be ready to advance, which came at sunrise), and sent me between 9 and 10 A. M. to see General D. R. Jones, who commanded the brigade next on his left at McLean’s Ford, to ascertain if that officer had any news or had received any orders from army headquarters. I found General Jones making preparations to cross Bull Run, and was told by him that, in the order he had received to do so, it was stated that General Ewell had been sent similar instructions.

“Upon my report of these facts, General Ewell at once issued the orders for his command to cross the Run and move out on the road to Centreville.”

General Lee then describes the recall across Bull Run and the second advance of the brigade to make a demonstration toward Centreville, and adds that the skirmishers of Rodes’s 5th Alabama Regiment, which was in advance, had actually become engaged, when we were again recalled and ordered to “move by the most direct route at once, and as rapidly as possible, for the Lewis house” — the field of battle on the left. Ewell moved rapidly, sending General Lee and another officer ahead to report and secure orders. On his arrival near the field they brought instructions to halt, when he immediately rode forward with them to General Beauregard, “and General Ewell begged General Beauregard to be allowed to go in pursuit of the enemy, but his request was refused.”

As to the real causes of the miscarriage of General Beauregard’s plan of attack there need be little doubt. They are plainly stated by his immediate superior in command, General Joseph E. Johnston, in his official report, as being the “early movements of the enemy on that morning and the non-arrival of the expected troops” from Harper’s Ferry. He adds: ”General Beauregard afterward proposed a modification of the abandoned plan, to attack with our right, while the left stood on the defensive. This, too, became impracticable, and a battle ensued, different in place and circumstances from any previous plan on our side.”

There are some puzzling circumstances connected with the supposed miscarriage of the order for our advance. The delay in sending it is unexplained. General Beauregard says it was sent “at about 8 A. M.,” but D. R. Jones had received his corresponding order at 10 minutes past 7, and firing had begun at half-past 5.

The messenger was strangely chosen. It was the most important order of the day, for the movements of the army were to hinge on those of our brigade. There was no scarcity of competent staff-officers; yet it was intrusted to “a guide,” presumably an enlisted man, perhaps even a citizen, whose very name was unknown.

His instructions were peculiar. Time was all-important. He was ordered not to go direct to Ewell, but first to make a detour to Holmes, who lay in reserve nearly two miles in our rear.

His disappearance is mysterious. He was never heard of after receiving the order; yet his route lay wholly within our lines, over well-beaten roads and far out of reach of the enemy.

Lastly, General Beauregard, in his official report, gives as his reason for countermanding the movement begun by Ewell at 10 o’clock, that in his judgment it would require quite three hours for the troops to get into position for attack. Had the messenger dispatched at 8 been prompt, Ewell might have had his orders by 9. But at 9 we find Beauregard in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, waiting for an attack which, by his own figures, he should not have expected before 12.

It is not for me to reconcile these contradictions.

(1) This article appeared substantially as here printed in “The Century ” for March, 1885.— EDITORS.

(2) [CORRESPONDENCE.]

Union Mills, July 25th, 1861.

General Beauregard.

Sir: In a conversation with Major James, Louisiana 6th Regiment, he has left the impression on my mind  that you think some of your orders on the 21st were either not carried out or not received by me.

My flrst order of that day was to hold myself in readiness to attack — this at sunrise. About 10. General Jones sent a copy of an order received by him In which it was stated that I had been ordered to cross and attack, and on receipt of this I moved on until receiving the following:

10 &1/2 A.M.

On account of the difficulties of the ground in our front it is thought advisable to fall back to our former position.

(Addressed) General Ewell.       

(Signed) G. T. B.

If any other order was sent to me, I should like to have a copy of it, as well as the name of the courier who brought it.

Every movement I made was at once reported to you at the time, and this across Bull Run, as well as the advance in the afternoon, I thought were explained in my report sent in to-day.

If an order were sent earlier than the copy through General Jones, the courier should be held responsible, as neither General Holmes nor myself received it. I send the original of the order to fall back in the morning. The second advance in the afternoon and recall to Stone Bridge were in consequence of verbal orders.

My chief object in writing to you is to ask you to leave nothing doubtful in your report, both as regards my crossing in the morning and recall —and not to let it lie inferred by any possibility that I blundered on that day. I moved forward as soon as notified by General Jones that I was ordered and he had been.

If there was an order sent me to advance before the one I received through General Jones, it is more than likely it would have been given to the same express.

Respectfully,

R. S. EWELL. B. G.

Manassas, Va., July 26th, 1861.

General: Your letter of the 25th inst. is received. I do not attach the slightest blame to you for the failure of the movement on Centreville, but to the guide who did not deliver the order to move forward, sent at about 8 A. M. to General Holmes and then to you —corresponding in every respect to the one sent to Generals Jones, lion ha MI. and Longstreet — only their movements were subordinate to yours. Unfortunately no copy, in the hurry of the moment, was kept of said orders: and so many guides, about a dozen or more, were sent off in different directions, that it is next to impossible to find out who was the bearer of the orders referred to. Our guides and couriers were the worst set I ever employed, whether from ignorance or over-anxiety to do well and quickly I cannot say: but many regiments lost their way repeatedly on their way toward the field of battle, and of course I can attach no more blame to their commanding officers than I could to you for not executing un order which I am convinced you did not get.

I am fully aware that you did all that could have been expected of you or your command. I merely expressed my regret that my original plan could not be carried into effect, as it would have been a most complete victory with only half the trouble and lighting.

The true cause of countermanding your forward movement after you had crossed was that it was then too late, as the enemy was about to annihilate our left flank, and had to be met and checked there, for otherwise he would have taken us in flank and rear and all would have been lost.

Yours truly,

G. T. Beauregard

General R. S. Ewell, Union Mills, Va.

P. S. Please read the above to Major James. Ewell, Union Mills, Va.

N. B. The order sent you at about 8 A. M., to commence the movement on Centreville, was addressed to General Holmes and yourself, as he was to support you, but being nearer Camp Pickens, the headquarters, than Union Mills, where you were, it was to be communicated to him first, and then to you; but he has informed me that it never reached him. With regard to the order sent you in the afternoon to recross the Bull Run (to march toward the Stone Bridgei), it was sent you by General J. E. Johnston, as I am informed by him, for the purpose of supporting our left, if necessary.

G. T. B.

Do not publish until we know what the enemy is going to do—or reports are out —which I think will make it all right.

B.

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