Dr. Elizabeth Hoole McArthur was kind – and yes, savvy – enough to send me a copy of her short book, Bound for Glory: A Brief History of the Darlington Rifles, Precursor Volunteer Militia to Company A, Eighth South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A, Origin through First Manasas, for review. I finished off the 68 pages of text pretty quickly. This is a readable, concise account of the company from its militia days, beginning in 1834, through the end of the First Battle of Bull Run. However, it draws primarily upon official reports of 8th SC commander Col. E. B. C. Cash, Army of the Potomac commander P. G. T. Beauregard, and memoirs of D. A. Dickert of the 3rd SC, which along with the 8th was part of Bonham’s brigade at Bull Run and afterwards. Because Dr. McArthur is working on a biography of Co. A’s Captain Axalla John Hoole (her great-grandfather) as well as a history of the 8th SC for Broadfoot’s SC Regimental-Roster series, I suppose I expected more extracts from letters, diaries and memoirs of members of Co. A and the rest of the 8th SC. But for folks looking for detail on Co. A, the author has included several appendices, including a listing of the members of the Darlington Rifles on 2/9/1861, a listing of the members of Co. A of the 8th SC on 10/18/1861, and three additional rolls for the company from after the war. I’m hopeful that Bound for Glory represents a good start for Dr. McArthur as she continues her work on her ancestor, his company and his regiment.
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Categories : Articles, Books
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
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE FIRST BULL RUN
BY JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON, GENERAL, C. S. A.
When the State of Virginia seceded, being a citizen of that State, I resigned my office in the United States Army; and as I had seen a good deal of military service, in the Seminole and Mexican wars and in the “West, the President of the Confederacy offered me a commission in the highest grade in his army. I accepted the offer because the invasion of the South was inevitable. But I soon incurred Mr. Davis’s displeasure by protesting against an illegal act of his by which I was greatly wronged. (1) Still he retained me in important positions, although his official letters were harsh. In 1864, however, he degraded me to the utmost of his power by summarily removing me from a high command. Believing that he was prompted to this act by animosity, and not by dispassionate opinion, I undertake to prove this animosity by many extracts from his “Rise and Fall of the Confederacy” (D. Appleton & Co.: 1881), and my comments thereon.
Mr. Davis recites (“R. and F.,” I, p. 307) the law securing to officers who might leave the United States Army to enter that of the Confederacy the same relative rank in the latter which they had in the former, provided their resignations had been offered in the six months next following the 14th of March, and then adds:
“The provisions hereof are in the view entertained that the army was of the States, not of the Government, and was to secure to officers adhering to the Confederate States the same relative rank which they had before those States had withdrawn from the Union. . . .
“How well the Government of the Confederacy observed both the letter and spirit of the law will be seen by reference to its action in the matter of appointments.”
Those of the five generals were the most prominent, of course. All had resigned within the time prescribed. Their relative rank in the United States Army just before secession had been: 1st, J. E. Johnston, Brigadier-General; 2d, Samuel Cooper, Colonel; 3d, A. S. Johnston, Colonel; 4th, R. E. Lee, Lieutenant-Colonel; and 5th, G. T. Beauregard, Major. All of them but the third had had previous appointments, when, on the 31st of August, the Confederate Government announced new ones: Cooper’s being dated May 16th, A. S. Johnston’s May 28th, Lee’s June 14th, J. E. Johnston’s July 4th, and Beauregard’s July 21st. So the law was violated, 1st, by disregarding existing commissions; 2d, by giving different instead of the same dates to commissions; and 3d, by not recognizing previous rank in the United States Army. The only effect of this triple violation of law was to reduce J. E. Johnston from the first to the fourth place, which, of course, must have been its object. Mr. Davis continues:
“It is a noteworthy fact that the three highest officers in rank . . . were all so indifferent to any question of personal interest that they had received their appointment before they were aware it was to be conferred” (p. 307).
This implies that the conduct described was unusual. On the contrary, it was that of the body of officers who left the United States Army to enter that of the Confederacy. It is strange that the author should disparage so many honorable men. He states (“R. and F.,” L, 309) that General Lee, when ordered from Richmond to the South for the first time, asked what rank he held in the army: “So wholly had his heart and his mind been consecrated to the public service that he had not remembered, if he ever knew, of his advancement.”
As each grade has its duties, an officer cannot know his duty if ignorant of his rank. Therefore General Lee always knew his rank, for he never failed in his duty. Besides, his official correspondence at the time referred to shows that he knew that he was major-general of the Virginia forces until May 25th, 1861, and a Confederate general after that date.
Describing the events which immediately preceded the battle of Manassas, Mr. Davis says (“Rise and Fall,” I., 340):
“The forces there assembled [in Virginia] were divided into three armies, at positions the most important and threatened : one, under General J. E. Johnston, at Harper’s Ferry, covering the valley of the Shenandoah. . . . Harper’s Ferry was an important position both for military and political considerations. . . . The demonstrations of General Patterson, commanding the Federal army in that region, caused General Johnston earnestly to insist on being allowed to retire to a position nearer to Winchester.”
Harper’s Ferry is 22 miles east of the route into the Shenandoah Valley, and could be held only by an army strong enough to drive an enemy from the heights north and east of it. So it is anything but an important position. These objections were expressed to the Government two days after my arrival, and I suggested the being permitted to move the troops as might be necessary. All this before Patterson had advanced from Chambersburg.
On page 341,” R. and F.,” Mr. Davis quotes from an official letter to me from General Cooper, dated June 13th, 1861, which began thus:
“The opinions expressed by Major Whiting in his letter to you, and on which you have indorsed your concurrence, have been duly considered. You hail been heretofore instructed to exercise your discretion as to retiring from your position at Harper’s Ferry.”(2)
This latter statement is incorrect. No such instructions had been given. The last instructions on the subject received by me were in General Lee’s letter of June 7th.(3) On page 341 Mr. Davis says:
“The temporary occupation [of Harper’s Ferry] was especially needful for the removal of the valuable machinery and material in the armory located there.”
The removal of the machinery was not an object referred to in General Cooper’s letter. But the presence of our army anywhere in the Valley within a day’s march of the position, would have protected that removal. That letter (page 341) was received two days after the army left Harper’s Ferry to meet General McClellan’s troops, believed by intelligent people of Winchester to be approaching from the west.
On page 345 Mr. Davis says it was a difficult problem to know which army, whether Beauregard’s at Manassas or Johnston’s in the Valley, should be reenforced by the other, because these generals were “each asking reinforcements from the other.” All that was written by me on the subject is in the letter (page 345) dated July 9th:
“I have not asked for reinforcements because I supposed that the War Department, informed of the state of affairs everywhere, could best judge where the troops at its disposal are most required. . . . If it is proposed to strengthen us against the attack I suggest as soon to be made, it seems to me that General Beauregard might with great expedition furnish 5000 or 6000 men for a few days.”
Mr. Davis says, after quoting from this letter:
“As soon as I became satisfied that Manassas was the objective point of the enemy’s movement, I wrote to General Johnston urging him to make preparations for a junction with General Beauregard.”
There is abundant evidence that the Southern President never thought of transferring the troops in the “Valley” to Manassas until the proper time to do it came — that is, when McDowell was known to be advancing. This fact is shown by the anxiety he expressed to increase the number of those troops.(4) And General Lee, writing [from South Carolina] to Mr. Davis, November 24th, 1861 (“Official Records,” II, 515), says in regard to General Beauregard’s suggestion that he be reenforeed from my army:
“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 afterward, however,— 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.”
This letter is in reply to one from Mr. Davis, to the effect that statements had been widely published to show that General Beauregard’s forces had been held inactive by his (Mr. Davis’s) rejection of plans for vigorous offensive operations proposed to him by the general, and desiring to know of General Lee what those plans were, and why they were rejected.
“On the 17th of July, 1861,” says Mr. Davis (“R. and F.” I, 346), “the following telegram was sent by the adjutant-general” to General Johnston, Winchester, Va.:
“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. S. COOPER , Adjutant and Inspector-General.”
Mr. Davis asserts that I claim that discretion was given me by the words “all the arrangements.” I claimed it from what he terms the only positive part of the order, viz., “If practicable, make the movement, sending your sick to Culpeper Court House.” Mr. Davis adds:
“The sending the sick to Culpeper Court House might have been after or before the effective force had moved to the execution of the main and only positive part of the order.”
“Make the movement” would have been a positive order, but “if practicable” deprived it of that character, and gave the officer receiving it a certain discretion. But, as the movement desired was made promptly, it was surely idle to discuss, twenty years after, whether the officer could lawfully have done what he did not do. At the time the decision of such a question might have been necessary; but, as Mr. Davis will give no more orders to generals, and as the officer concerned will execute no more, such a discussion is idle now. The use of the wagons required in the march of the army would have been necessary to remove the sick to the railroad station at Strasburg, eighteen miles distant; so this removal could not have been made after the march. There being seventeen hundred sick, this part of their transportation would have required more time than the transfer of the troops to Manassas, which was the important thing. The sick were, therefore, properly and quickly provided for in Winchester. I was the only judge of the “practicable”; and “if practicable” refers to the whole sentence—as much to sending the sick to Culpeper as to “make the movement.” Still he says (“R. and F.,” I., 347):
“His [my] letters of the 12th and 15th expressed his doubts about his power to retire from before the superior force of General Patterson. Therefore, the word ‘practicable’ was in that connection the equivalent of ‘possible.'”
It is immaterial whether “if practicable” or “if possible” was written. I was the only judge of the possibility or practicability; and, if General Patterson had not changed his position after the telegram was received, I might have thought it necessary to attack him, to “make the movement practicable.” But as to my power to retire. On the 15th General Patterson’s forces were half a day’s march from us, and on the 12th more than a day’s march; and, as Stuart’s cavalry did not permit the enemy to observe us, retreat would have been easy, and I could not possibly have written to the contrary.(5)
As to Mr. Davis’s telegram (“R. and F.,” I., 348) (6), and the anxiety in Mr. Davis’s mind lest there should be some unfortunate misunderstanding between General Beauregard and me,—my inquiry was intended and calculated to establish beyond dispute our relative positions. As a Confederate brigadier-general I had been junior to General Beauregard, but had been created general by act of Congress. But, as this had not been published to the army, it was not certain that it was known at Manassas. If it was not, the President’s telegram gave the information, and prevented what he seems to have apprehended.
THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN.
On page 349, to the end of the chapter, the President describes his visit to the field of battle near Manassas. “As we advanced,” he says, “the storm of battle was rolling westward.” But, in fact, the fighting had ceased before he left Manassas. He then mentions meeting me on a hill which commanded a general view of the field, and proceeding farther west, where he saw a Federal “column,” which a Confederate squadron charged and put to flight. But the captain in command of this squadron (7) says in his report that the column seen was a party of our troops. Mr. Davis also dilates on the suffering of our troops for want of supplies and camp equipage, and on his efforts to have them provided for. After the battle ended, officers were duly directed by me to have food brought to the ground where the troops were to pass the night.
I was not in the conference described by Mr. Davis (“R. and F.,” I., 353, 354, 355). Having left the field after 10 o’clock, and ridden in the dark slowly, it was about half-past 11 when I found the President and General Beauregard together, in the latter’s quarters at Manassas. We three conversed an hour or more without referring to pursuit or an advance upon Washington. The “conference” described by him must have occurred before my arrival, and Mr. Davis may very well have forgotten that I was not present then.
But, when the President wrote, he had forgotten the subject of the conference he described; for the result, as he states it, was an order, not for pursuit by the army, but for the detail of two parties to collect wounded men and abandoned property near the field of battle. This order (pages 355, 356) is “to the same effect,” Mr. Davis says, as the one he wrote, and which he terms a direction to pursue the Federal army at early dawn.
It is asserted (“R. and F.,” I, 354) (8) that I left the command over both Confederate armies in General Beauregard’s hands during the engagement. Such conduct would have been as base as flight from the field in the heat of battle, and would have brought upon me the contempt of every honorable soldier. It is disproved by the fact that General Beauregard was willing to serve under me there, and again in North Carolina, near the close of the war; and that he associated with me. As this accusation is published by the Southern President, and indorsed by General Beauregard, it requires my contradiction.
Instead of leaving the command in General Beauregard’s hands, I assumed it over both armies immediately after my arrival on the 20th, showing General Beauregard as my warrant the President’s telegram defining my position. The usual order (9) assuming command was written and sent to General Beauregard’s office for distribution. He was then told that as General Patterson would no doubt hasten to join General McDowell as soon as he discovered my movement, we must attack the Federal army next morning. General Beauregard then pointed out on a map of the neighborhood the roads leading to the enemy’s camp at Centreville from the different parts of our line south of the stream, and the positions of the brigades near each road; and a simple order of march, by which our troops would unite near the Federal position, was sketched. Having had neither sleep nor recumbent rest since the morning of the 17th, I begged General Beauregard to put this order of march on paper, and have the necessary copies made and sent to me for inspection in a grove, near, where I expected to be resting—this in time for distribution before night. This distribution was to be by him, the immediate commander of most of the troops. Seeing that 8 brigades were on the right of the line to Centreville, and but 1 to the left of it at a distance of 4 miles, I desired General Beauregard to have Bee’s and Jackson’s brigades placed in this interval near the detached brigade.
The papers were brought to me a little before sunrise next morning. They differed greatly from the order sketched the day before; but as they would have put the troops in motion if distributed, it would have been easy then to direct the course of each division. By the order sketched the day before, all our forces would have been concentrated near Centreville, to attack the Federal army. By that prepared by General Beauregard but 4 brigades were directed ” to the attack of Centreville,” of which one and a half had not yet arrived from the Valley, while 6 brigades were to move forward to the Union Mills and Centreville road, there to hold themselves in readiness to support the attack on Centreville, or to move, 2 to Sangster’s cross-roads, 2 to Fairfax Station, and 2 to Fairfax Court House. The two and a half brigades on the ground, even supported by the half brigade of the reserve also on the ground, in all probability would have been defeated by the whole Federal army before the three bodies of 2 brigades each could have come to their aid, over distances of from 3 to 5 miles. Then, if the enemy had providentially been defeated by one-sixth or one-eighth of their number, Sangster’s cross-roads and Fairfax Station would have been out of their line of retreat.
Soon after sunrise on the 21st, it was reported that a large body of Federal troops was approaching on the Warrenton Turnpike. This offensive movement of the enemy would have frustrated our plan of the day before, if the orders for it had been delivered to the troops. It appears from the reports of the commanders of the six brigades on the right that but one of them, General Longstreet, received it. Learning that Bee’s and Jackson’s brigades were still on the right, I again desired General Beauregard to transfer them to the left, which he did, giving the same orders to Hampton’s Legion, just arrived. These, with Cocke’s brigade then near the turnpike, would necessarily receive the threatened attack.
General Beauregard then suggested that all our troops on the right should move rapidly to the left and assail the attacking Federal troops in flank. This suggestion was accepted; and together we joined those troops. Three of the four brigades of the first line, at Mitchell’s, Blackburn’s, and McLean’s fords, reported strong bodies of United States troops on the wooded heights before them. This frustrated the second plan. Two Federal batteries — one in front of Bonham’s brigade at Mitchell’s Ford, the other before Longstreet’s at Blackburn’s Ford — were annoying us, although their firing was slow.
About 8 o’clock, after receiving such information as scouts could give, I left General Beauregard near Longstreet’s position, and placed myself on Lookout Hill, in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, to await the development of the enemy’s designs. About 9 o’clock the signal officer, Captain Alexander, reported that a column of Federal troops could be seen crossing the valley of Bull Run, two miles beyond our left.
General McDowell had been instructed by his general-in-chief to pass the Confederate right and seize the railroad in our rear. But, learning that the district to be passed through was rugged and covered with woods, and therefore unfavorable to a large army, he determined, after devoting three days to reconnoissance, to operate on the open and favorable ground to his right, and turn our left. He had another object in this second plan, and an important one—that this course would place his between the two Confederate armies, and prevent their junction; and if it had been made a day or two sooner, this manoeuvre would have accomplished that object.
General McDowell marched from Centreville by the Warrenton Turnpike with three divisions, sending a fourth division to deceive us by demonstrations in front of our main body. Leaving the turnpike a half mile from the Stone Bridge, he made a long detour to Sudley Ford, where he crossed Bull Run and turned toward Manassas. Colonel Evans, who commanded fourteen companies near the Stone Bridge, discovered this manoeuvre, and moved with his little force along the base of the hill north of the turnpike, to place it before the enemy near the Sudley and Manassas road. Here he was assailed by greatly superior numbers, which he resisted obstinately.
General Beauregard had joined me on Lookout Hill, and we could distinctly hear the sounds and see the smoke of the fight. But they indicated no hostile force that Evans’s troops and those of Bee, Hampton, and Jackson, which we could see hurrying toward the conflict in that order, were not adequate to resist.
On reaching the broad, level top of the hill south of the turnpike, Bee, appreciating the strength of the position, formed his troops (half of his own and half of Bartow’s brigade) on that ground. But seeing Evans struggling against great odds, he crossed the valley and formed on the right and a little in advance of him. Here the 5 or 6 regiments, with 6 field-pieces, held their ground for an hour against 10,000 or 12,000 United States troops,(10) when, finding they were overlapped on each flank by the continually arriving enemy, General Bee fell back to the position from which he had moved to rescue Evans — crossing the valley, closely pressed by the Federal army.
Hampton with his Legion reached the valley as the retrograde movement began. Forming it promptly, he joined in the action, and contributed greatly to the orderly character of the retreat by his courage and admirable soldiership, seconded by the excellent conduct of the gentlemen composing his command. Imboden and his battery did excellent service on this trying occasion. Bee met Jackson at the head of his brigade, on the position he had first taken, and he began to re-form and Jackson to deploy at the same time.
In the mean time I had been waiting with General Beauregard on Lookout Hill for evidence of General McDowell’s design. The violence of the firing on the left indicated a battle, but the large bodies of troops reported by chosen scouts to be facing our right kept me in doubt. But near 11 o’clock reports that those troops were felling trees showed that they were standing on the defensive; and new clouds of dust on the left proved that a large body of Federal troops was arriving on the field. It thus appeared that the enemy’s great effort was to be against our left. I expressed this to General Beauregard, and the necessity of reenforcing the brigades engaged, and desired him to send immediate orders to Early and Holmes, of the second line, to hasten to the conflict with their brigades. General Bonham, who was near me, was desired to send up two regiments and a battery. I then set off at a rapid gallop to the scene of action. General Beauregard joined me without a word. Passing on the way Colonel Pendleton with two batteries, I directed him to follow with them as fast as possible.
It now seemed that a battle was to be fought entirely different in place and circumstance from the two plans previously adopted and abandoned as impracticable. Instead of taking the initiative and operating in front of our line, we were compelled to fight on the defensive more than a mile in rear of that line, and at right angles to it, on a field selected by Bee,— with no other plans than those suggested by the changing events of battle.
While we were riding forward General Beauregard suggested to me to assign him to the immediate command of the troops engaged, so that my supervision of the whole field might not be interrupted, to which I assented. So he commanded those troops under me; as elsewhere, lieutenant-generals commanded corps, and major-generals divisions, under me.
When we were near the ground where Bee was re-forming and Jackson deploying his brigade, I saw a regiment in line with ordered arms and facing to the front, but 200 or 300 yards in rear of its proper place. On inquiry I learned that it had lost all its field-officers; so, riding on its left flank, I easily marched it to its place. It was the 4th Alabama, an excellent regiment; and I mention this because the circumstance has been greatly exaggerated.
After the troops were in good battle order I turned to the supervision of the whole field. The enemy’s great numerical superiority was discouraging. Yet, from strong faith in Beauregard’s capacity and courage, and the high soldierly qualities of Bee and Jackson, I hoped that the fight would be maintained until I could bring adequate reinforcements to their aid. For this Holmes and Early were urged to hasten their march, and Ewell was ordered to follow them with his brigade with all speed. Broken troops were reorganized and led back into the fight with the help of my own and part of General Beauregard’s staff. Cocke’s brigade was held in rear of the right to observe a large body of Federal troops in a position from which Bee’s right flank could have been struck in a few minutes.
After these additions had been made to our troops then engaged, we had 9 regiments of infantry, 5 batteries, and 300 cavalry of the Army of the Shenandoah, and about 2 regiments and a half of infantry, 6 companies of cavalry, and 6 field-pieces of the Army of the Potomac, holding at bay 3 divisions of the enemy. The Southern soldiers had, however, two great advantages in the contest: greater skill in the use of fire-arms, and the standing on the defensive, by which they escaped such disorder as advancing under fire produced in the ranks of their adversaries, undisciplined like themselves.
A report received about 2 o’clock from General Beauregard’s office that another United States army was approaching from the north-west, and but a few miles from us, caused me to send orders to Bonham, Longstreet, and Jones to hold their brigades south of Bull Run, and ready to move.
When Bonham’s two regiments appeared soon after, Cocke’s brigade was ordered into action on our right. Fisher’s North Carolina regiment coming up, Bonham’s two regiments were directed against the Federal right, and Fisher’s was afterward sent in the same direction; for the enemy’s strongest efforts seemed to be directed against our left, as if to separate us from Manassas Junction.
About 3:30 o’clock, General E. K. Smith arrived with three regiments of Elzey’s brigade, coming from Manassas Junction. He was instructed, through a staff-officer sent forward to meet him, to form on the left of our line, his left thrown forward, and to attack the enemy in flank. At his request I joined him, directed his course, and gave him these instructions. Before the formation was completed, he fell severely wounded, and while falling from his horse directed Colonel Elzey to take command. That officer appreciated the manoeuvre and executed it gallantly and well. General Beauregard promptly seized the opportunity it afforded, and threw forward the whole line. The enemy was driven from the long-contested hill, and the tide of battle at length turned. But the first Federal line driven into the valley was there rallied on a second, the two united presenting a formidable aspect. In the mean time, however, Colonel Early had come upon the field with his brigade. He was instructed by me to make a detour to the left and assail the Federal right in flank. He reached the ground in time, accompanied by Stuart’s cavalry and Beckham’s battery, and made his attack with a skill and courage which routed the Federal right in a moment. General Beauregard, charging in front, made the rout complete. The Federal right fled in confusion toward the Sudley Ford, and the center and left marched off rapidly by the turnpike.
Stuart pursued the fugitives on the Sudley road, and Colonel Radford, with two squadrons which I had held in reserve near me during the day, was directed to cross Bull Run at Ball’s Ford, and strike the column on the turnpike in flank. The number of prisoners taken by these parties of cavalry greatly exceeded their own numbers. But they were too weak to make a serious impression on an army, although a defeated one.
At twenty minutes before 5, when the retreat of the enemy toward Centreville began, I sent orders to Brigadier-General Bonham by Lieutenant-Colonel Lay, of his staff, who happened to be with me, to march with his own and Longstreet’s brigade (which were nearest Bull Run and the Stone Bridge), by the quickest route to the turnpike, and form them across it to intercept the retreat of the Federal troops. But he found so little appearance of rout in those troops as to make the execution of his instructions seem impracticable; so the two brigades returned to their camps. When the retreat began, the body of United States troops that had passed the day on the Centreville side of Bull Run made a demonstration on the rear of our right; which was repelled by Holmes’s brigade just arrived.
Soon after the firing ceased, General Ewell reported to me, saying that his brigade was about midway from its camp near Union Mills. He had ridden forward to see the part of the field on which he might be required to serve, to prepare himself to act intelligently.
The victory was as complete as one gained in an open country by infantry and artillery can be. Our cavalry pursued as far as they could effectively; but when they encountered the main column, after dispersing or capturing little parties and stragglers, they could make no impression.
General Beauregard’s first plan of attack was delivered to me by his aide-de-camp, Colonel Chisolm, when I was thirty-four miles from Manassas. It was, that I should leave the railroad at Piedmont station, thirty-six miles from the enemy at Centreville, and attack him in rear, and when our artillery announced that we had begun the fight, General Beauregard would move up from Bull Run and assail the enemy on that side. I rejected the plan, because such a one would enable an officer of ordinary sense and vigor to defeat our two armies one after the other. For McDowell, by his numerical superiority, could have disposed of my forces in less than two hours; that is to say, before Beauregard could have come up, when he also could have been defeated and the campaign ended.
An opinion seems to prevail with some persons who have written about the battle, that important plans of General Beauregard were executed by him. It is a mistake; the first intention, announced to General Beauregard by me when we met, was to attack the enemy at Centreville as early as possible on the 21st. This was anticipated by McDowell’s early advance. The second, to attack the Federals in flank near the turnpike with our main force, suggested by General Beauregard, was prevented by the enemy’s occupation of the high ground in front of our right.
As fought, the battle was made by me; Bee’s and Jackson’s brigades were transferred to the left by me. I decided that the battle was to be there, and directed the measures necessary to maintain it; a most important one being the assignment of General Beauregard to the immediate command of this left, which he held. In like manner the senior officer on the right would have commanded there, if the Federal left had attacked.
These facts in relation to the battle are my defense against the accusation indorsed by General Beauregard and published by Mr. Davis.
In an account of the battle published in “The Century” for November, 1884, General Beauregard mentions offensive operations which he “had designed and ordered against his [adversary’s] left flank and rear at Centreville,” and censures my friend General R. S. Ewell for their failure. At the time referred to, three of the four Federal divisions were near Bull Run, above the turnpike, and the fourth facing our right, so that troops of ours, going to Centreville then, if not prevented by the Federal division facing them, would have found no enemy. And General Ewell was not, as he reports, “instructed in the plan of attack”; for he says in his official report: “… I first received orders to hold myself in readiness to advance at a moment’s notice. I next received a copy of an order sent to General Jones and furnished me by him, in which it was stated I had been ordered at once to proceed to his support.” Three other orders, he says, followed, each contradictory of its predecessor. General Ewell knew that a battle was raging; but knew, too, that between him and it were other unengaged brigades, and that his commander was near enough to give him orders. But he had no reason to suppose that his commander desired him to move to Centreville, where there was then no enemy. There could have been no greater mistake on General Ewell’s part than making the movement to Centreville.
A brief passage in my official report of this battle displeased President Davis. In referring to his telegraphic order I gave its meaning very briefly, but accurately—”directing me, if practicable, to go to [General Beauregard’s] assistance, after sending my sick to Culpeper Court House.” Mr. Davis objected to the word after. Being informed of this by a friend, I cheerfully consented to his expunging the word, because that would not affect the meaning of the sentence. But the word is still in his harsh indorsement. He also had this passage stricken out: “The delay of sending the sick, nearly seventeen hundred in number, to Culpeper, would have made it impossible to arrive at Manassas in time. They were therefore provided for in Winchester “; and substituted this: “Our sick, nearly seventeen hundred in number, were provided for in Winchester.” Being ordered to send the sick to Culpeper as well as to move to Manassas, it was necessary to account for disobedience, which my words did, and which his substitute for them did not.
Mr. Davis (“R. and F.,” L, 359) expresses indignation that, as he says, “among the articles abandoned by the enemy . . . were handcuffs, the fit appendage of a policeman, but not of a soldier.” I saw none, nor did I see any one who had seen them.
Mr. Davis says (page 359): “On the night of the 22d, I held a second conference with Generals Johnston and Beauregard.” I was in no conference like that of which account is given on page 360. And one that he had with me on that day proved conclusively that he had no thought of sending our army against Washington; for in it he offered me the command in West Virginia, promising to increase the forces there adequately from those around us. He says (page 361):
“What discoveries would have been made, and what results would have ensued from the establishment of our guns upon the south bank of the river to open Are upon the capital, are speculative questions upon which it would be useless to enter.”
Mr. Davis seems to have forgotten what was as well known then as now— that our army was more disorganized by victory than that of the United States by defeat; that there were strong fortifications, well manned, to cover the approaches to Washington and prevent the establishment of our guns on the south bank of the river. He knew, too, that we had no means of cannonading the capital, nor a disposition to make barbarous war. He says (“R. and F.,” I., 362):
“When the smoke of battle had lifted from the field . . . some . . . censoriously asked why the fruits of the victory had not been gathered by the capture of Washington City. Then some indiscreet friends of the generals commanding in that battle . . . induced the allegation that the President had prevented the generals from making an immediate and vigorous pursuit of the routed enemy.”
Mr. Davis has no ground for this assertion; the generals were attacked first and most severely. It was not until the newspapers had exhausted themselves upon us that some of them turned upon him. On November 3d he wrote to me that reports were circulated to the effect that he
“prevented General Beauregard from pursuing the enemy after the battle of Manassas, and had subsequently restrained him from advancing upon Washington City. … I call upon vou, as the commanding general, and as a party to all the conferences held by me on the 21st and 22d of July, 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 operation which it was feasible for the army to undertake.” (“R. and P.,” I., 363.)
I replied on the 10th, answering the first question in the negative, and added an explanation which put the responsibility on myself. I replied to the second question, that it had never been feasible for the army to advance farther toward Washington than it had done, and referred to a conference at Fairfax Court House [October 1st, 1861] in reference to leading the army into Maryland, in which he informed the three senior officers that he had not the means of giving the army the strength which they considered necessary for offensive operations.
Mr. Davis was displeased by my second reply, because in his mind there was but one question in his letter. I maintain that there are two; namely, (1) Did he obstruct the pursuit of the enemy after the victory at Manassas? (2) Had he ever objected to an advance or other active operation which it was feasible for the army to undertake?
The second matter is utterly unconnected with the battle of Manassas, and as the question of advance or other active operation had been discussed nowhere by him, to my knowledge, but at the conference at Fairfax Court House, I supposed that he referred to it. He was dissatisfied with my silence in regard to the conferences which he avers took place on July 21st and 22d, the first knowledge of which I have derived from his book.
THE WITHDRAWAL FROM CENTREVILLE TO THE PENINSULA.
Mr. Davis refers (“Rise and Fall,” I., 444-5) to the instructions for the reorganization of the army given by him to the three general officers whom he met in conference at Fairfax Court House on October 1st, 1861. But the correspondence urging the carrying out of the orders was carried on with Generals Beauregard and G. W. Smith (my subordinates) in that same October. He neither conversed nor corresponded with me on the subject then, the letter to me being dated May 10th, 1862. The original order was dated October 22d, 1861, to be executed “as soon as, in the judgment of the commanding general, it can be safely done under present exigencies.” As the enemy was then nearer to our center than that center to either flank of our army, and another advance upon us by the Federal army was not improbable on any day, it seemed to me unsafe to make the reorganization then. From May 10th to 26th, when the President renewed the subject, we were in the immediate presence of the enemy, when reorganization would have been infinitely dangerous, as was duly represented by me. But, alluding to this conference at Fairfax Court House, he says (p. 449): “When, at that time and place, I met General Johnston for conference, he called in the two generals next in rank to himself, Beauregard and G. W. Smith.” These officers were with Mr. Davis in the quarters of General Beauregard, whose guest he was, when I was summoned to him. I had not power to bring any officer into the conference. If such authority had belonged to my office, the personal relations lately established between us by the President would not have permitted me to use it.
He says (pp. 448-9): “I will now proceed to notice the allegation that I was responsible for inaction of the Army of the Potomac in the latter part of 1861 and in the early part of 1862.” I think Mr. Davis is here fighting a shadow. I have never seen or heard of the “allegation” referred to; I believe that that conference attracted no public attention, and brought criticism upon no one. I have seen no notice of it in print, except the merely historical one in a publication made by me in 1874, (11) without criticism or comment.
In the same paragraph Mr. Davis expresses surprise at the weakness of the army. He has forgotten that in Richmond he was well informed of the strength of the army by periodical reports, which showed him the prevalence of epidemics which, in August and part of September, kept almost thirty per cent. of our number sick. He must have forgotten, too, his anxiety on this subject, which induced him to send a very able physician, Dr. Cartwright, to find some remedy or preventive.
He asserts also that “the generals” had made previous suggestions of a “purpose to advance into Maryland.” There had been no such purpose. On the contrary, in my letter to the Secretary of War, suggesting the conference, I wrote:
“Thus far the numbers and condition of this army have at no time justified our assuming the offensive. . . . The difficulty of obtaining the means of establishing a battery near Evansport (12). . . has given me the impression that you cannot at present put this army in condition to assume the offensive. If I am mistaken in this, and you can furnish those means, I think it important that either his Excellency the President, yourself, or some one representing you, should here, upon the ground, confer with me on this all-important question.”
In a letter dated September 29th, 1861, the Secretary wrote that the President would reach my camp in a day or two for conference. He came for that object September 30th, and the next evening, by his appointment, he was waited on by Generals Beauregard, Gustavus W. Smith, and myself. In discussing the question of giving our army strength enough to assume the offensive in Maryland, it was proposed to bring to it from the South troops enough to raise it to the required strength. The President asked what was that strength. General Smith thought 50,000 men, General Beauregard 60,000, and I 60,000, all of us specifying soldiers like those around us. The President replied that such reenforcements could not be furnished; he could give only as many recruits as we could arm. This decided the question. Mr. Davis then proposed an expedition against Hooker’s division, consisting, we believed, of 10,000 men. It was posted on the Maryland shore of the Potomac, opposite Dumfries. But I objected that we had no means of ferrying an equal number of men across the river in a day, even if undisturbed by ships of war, which controlled the river; so that, even if we should succeed in landing, those vessels of war would inevitably destroy or capture our party returning. This terminated the conference. Mr. Davis says, in regard to the reenforcements asked for (“R. and F.,” I., 449): “I had no power to make such an addition to that army without a total disregard of the safety of other threatened positions.” We had no threatened positions; and we could always discover promptly the fitting out of naval expeditions against us. And he adds (p. 451), with reference to my request for a conference in regard to reenforcements:
“Very little experience, or a fair amount of modesty without any experience, would serve to prevent one from announcing his conclusion that troops could be withdrawn from a place or places without knowing how many were there, and what was the necessity for their presence.”
The refutation of this is in General G. W. Smith’s memorandum of the discussion: “General Johnston said that he did not feel at liberty to express an opinion of the practicability of reducing the strength of our forces at points not within the limits of his command.” On page 452 [referring to possible minor offensive operations. — EDITORS ] Mr. Davis says he
“particularly indicated the lower part of Maryland, where a small force was said to be ravaging the country.”
He suggested nothing so impossible. Troops of ours could not have been ferried across the broad Potomac then. We had no steamer on that river, nor could we have used one. Mr. Davis says (“R. and F.,” I., 452):
“… Previously, General Johnston’s attention had been called to possibilities in the Valley of the Shenandoah, and that these and other like things were not done, was surely due to other causes than ‘the policy of the Administration’”. . . .
Then he quotes from a letter to me, dated August 1st, 1861, as follows:
“… The movement of Banks (13) will require your attention. It may be a ruse, but if a real movement, when your army has the requisite strength and mobility, you will probably find an opportunity, by a rapid movement through the passes, to strike him in rear or flank.”
It is matter of public notoriety that no incursion into the ” Valley ” worth the notice of a Confederate company was made until March, 1862. That the Confederate President should be ignorant of this is inconceivable. Mr. Davis says (p. 462):
“… I received from General Johnston notice that his position [at Centreville] was considered unsafe. Many of his letters to me have been lost, and I have thus far not been able to find the one giving the notice referred to, but the reply which is annexed clearly indicates the substance of the letter which was answered: ‘ General J. E. Johnston: . . . Your opinion that your position may be turned whenever the enemy chooses to advance,’ etc.”
The sentence omitted by him after my name in his letter from which he quotes as above contains the dates of three letters of mine, in neither of which is there allusion to the safety (or reverse) of the position. They are dated 22d, 23d, and 25th of February, and contain complaints on my part of the dreadful condition of the country, and of the vast accumulation by the Government of superfluous stores at Manassas. There is another omission in the President’s letter quoted, and the omission is this:
“… with your present force, you cannot secure your communications from the enemy, and may at any time, when he can pass to your rear, be compelled to retreat at the sacrifice of your siege train and army stores. . . . Threatened as we are by a large force on the south-east, you must see the hazard of your position, by its liability to isolation and attack in rear.”
By a singular freak of the President’s memory, it transferred the substance of these passages from his letter to my three.
Referring again to the conference at Fairfax Court House [October 1st], Mr. Davis says (p. 464):
“Soon thereafter, the army withdrew to Centreville, a better position for defense, but not for attack, and thereby suggestive of the abandonment of an intention to advance.”
The President forgets that in that conference the intention to advance was abandoned by him first. He says on the same page:
“On the 10th of March I telegraphed to General Johnston: ‘Further assurance given to me this day that you shall be promptly and adequately reenforced, so as to enable you to maintain your position, and resume first policy when the roads will permit.’ The first policy was to carry the war beyond our own border.”
The roads then permitted the marching of armies, so we had just left Manassas. (14)
On the 20th of February, after a discussion in Richmond, his Cabinet being present, the President had directed me to prepare to fall back from Manassas, and do so as soon as the condition of the country should make the marching of troops practicable. I returned to Manassas February 21st, and on the 22d ordered the proper officers to remove the public property, which was begun on the 23d, the superintendent of the railroad devoting himself to the work under the direction of its president, the Hon. John S. Barbour. The Government had collected three million and a quarter pounds of provisions there, I insisting on a supply of but a million and a half. It also had two million pounds in a meat-curing establishment near at hand, and herds of live stock besides. On the 9th of March, when the ground had become firm enough for military operations, I ordered the army to march that night, thinking then, as I do now, that the space of fifteen days was time enough in which to subordinate an army to the Commissary Department. About one million pounds of this provision was abandoned, and half as much more was spoiled for want of shelter. This loss is represented (“R. and F.,” I., 468) (15) as so great as to embarrass us to the end of the war, although it was only a six days’ supply for the troops then in Virginia. Ten times as much was in North Carolina railroad stations at the end of the war. Mr. Davis says (p. 467):
“It was regretted that earlier and more effective means wore not employed for the mobilization of the army, . . . or at least that the withdrawal was not so deliberate as to secure the removal of our ordnance, subsistence, nnd quartermaster’s stores.”
The quartermaster’s and ordnance stores were brought off; and as to subsistence, the Government, which collected immediately on the frontier five times the quantity of provisions wanted, is responsible for the losses. The President suggested the time of the withdrawal himself, in the interview in his office that has been mentioned. The means taken was the only one available,— the Virginia Midland Railroad. Mr. Davis says (“R. and F.,” I., 465):
“To further inquiry from General Johnston as to where he should take position, I replied that I would go to his headquarters in the field, and found him on the south bank of the river, to which he had retired, in a position possessing great natural advantages.”
There was no correspondence in relation to selecting a defensive position. I was not seeking one; but, instead, convenient camping-grounds, from which my troops could certainly unite with other Confederate forces to meet McClellan’s invasion. I had found and was occupying such grounds, one division being north of Orange Court House, another a mile or two south of it, and two others some six miles east of that place; a division on the south bank of the Rappahannock, and the cavalry beyond the river, and about 13,000 troops in the vicinity of Fredericksburg. Mr. Davis’s narrative [of a visit to Fredericksburg at this time, the middle of March.— EDITORS] that follows is disposed of by the proof that, after the army left Manassas, the President did not visit it until about the 14th of May.ft But such a visit, if made, could not have brought him to the conclusion that the weakness of Fredericksburg as a military position made it unnecessary to find a strong one for the army.
Mr. Davis (“R. and F.,” II., 81) credits me with expecting an attack which he shows General McClellan never had in his mind:
“In a previous chapter, the retreat of our army from Centreville has been described, and reference has been made to the anticipation of the commanding general, J. E. Johnston, that the enemy would soon advance to attack that position.”
This refers, I suppose, to a previous assertion (” R. and F.,” L, 462), my comments upon which prove that this ” anticipation ” was expressed in the President’s letter to me, dated February 28th, 1862. He says (” R. and F.,” II., 83):
“The withdrawal of our forces across the Rappahannock was fatal to the [Federal] programme of landing on that river and marching to Richmond before our forces could be in position to resist an attack on the capital.”
This withdrawal was expressly to enable the army to unite with other Confederate troops to oppose the expected invasion. I supposed that General MeClellan would march down the Potomac on the Maryland side, cross it near the mouth of Aquia Creek, and take the Fredericksburg route to Richmond. The position of Hooker, about midway between Washington and this crossing-place, might well have suggested that he had this intention.
POSTCRIPT.— In the first paragraph of General Beauregard’s postcript, it is asserted that I did not claim to have commanded in the first battle of Manassas until May, 1885, and that my official report of that action contains no such claim. It is, nevertheless, distinctly expressed in that report — thus:
“In a brief and rapid conference, General Beauregard was assigned to the command of the left, which, as the younger officer, he claimed, while I returned to that of the whole field.”
And in “Johnston’s Narrative,” published in 1874, it is expressed in these words, on page 49:
“After assigning General Beauregard to the command of the troops immediately engaged, which he properly suggested belonged to the second in rank, not to the commander of the army. I returned to the supervision of the whole field.”
So much for my not having claimed to have commanded at the” first Manassas ” until May, 1885.
General Beauregard in his official report states the circumstance thus:
“. . .I urged General Johnston to leave the immediate conduct of the field to me, while ho, repairing to Portici, the Lewis house, should urge reinforcements forward.”
This language would certainly limit his command as mine does. He did not attempt to command the army, while I did command it, and disposed of all the troops not engaged at the time of his assignment.
In his official report of the battle, General Beauregard further states:
“Made acquainted with my plan of operations and dispositions to meet the enemy, he gave them his entire approval, and generously directed their execution under my command.”
The only “plan” that he offered me [to move via Aldie] was rejected — on the 14th, before my arrival. The battle fought was on McDowell’s plan, not General Beauregard’s. The proof of this is, that at its commencement little more than a regiment of Beauregard’s command was on the ground where the battle was fought, and, of his 7 brigades, 1 was a mile and 6* were from 4 to 7 or 8 miles from it. The place of the battle was fixed by Bee’s aud Jackson’s brigades, sent forward by my direction. At my request General Beauregard did write an order of march against the Federal army, finished a little before sunrise of the 21st. In it I am invariably termed commander-in-chief, and he (to command one of the wings) “second in command,” or General Beauregard—conclusive proof that the troops were not “under his command.”
Two letters, from General Lee and Mr. Walker, Secretary of War, are cited as evidence that General Beauregard commanded. Those gentlemen were not in a position to know if I relinquished the command. But I had this letter from General Lee:
“RICHMOND, July 24th, 1861. MY DEAR GENERAL : I almost wept for joy at the glorious victory achieved by our brave troops. The feelings of my heart could hardly be repressed on learning the brilliant share you had in its achievement. I expected nothing else, and am truly grateful for your safety. . . .”
In conclusion, I cannot discover that my unfavorable opinion of the Federal general’s tactics, quoted by General Beauregard, indicates a fear to command against him.
(1) The letter of protest covered nine sheets of letter-paper, and the ninth sheet (to quote from the original) sums up the matter in these words:
“My commission is made to bear such a date that my once Inferiors in the service of the United States and of the Confederate States shall be above me. But it must not be dated as of the 21st of July nor be suggestive of the victory of Manassas. I return to my first position. I repeat that my right to my rank as General is established by the Acts of Congress of the 14th of March, 1861, and the 16th of May, 1861, and not by the nomination and confirmation of the 31st of August. 1861. To deprive me of that rank it was necessary for Congress to repeal those laws. That could be done by express legislative act alone. It was not done, it could not be done, by a mere vote in secret session upon a list of nominations. If the action against which I have protested be legal, it is not for me to question the expediency of degrading one who has served laboriously from the commencement of the war on this frontier, and borne a prominent part in the only great event of that war for the benefit of persons neither of whom has yet struck a blow for this Confederacy. These views and the freedom with whieh they are presented may be unusual. So likewise is the occasion which calls them forth. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
“J. E. JOHNSTON, General.
“To His Excellency, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, Richmond.”
This ninth sheet is all of the original letter that can be found by the present owner, Mrs. Bledsoe, widow of Dr. Albert T. Bledsoe, who, at the time the letter was written, was Assistant-Secretary of War. Dr. Bledsoe told his wife that President Davis handed the letter to him, with the remark that it would not go upon the official files, and that ho might keep it if he liked.— EDITORS.
(2) This letter of Major Whiting to General Johnston and General Johnston’s letter (probably referred to as the indorsement), are both dated May 28th 1861. The phrase of General Cooper, “You had been heretofore instructed,” should have read either “You had been theretofore [before May 28th] instructed,” or, “You have been heretofore [before June 13th] instructed.” The latter is probably what was meant, as the only letter of instructions to General Johnston received at Harper’s Ferry giving him permission to use his discretion which is to be found in the Official Records, is the one of June 7th from General Lee, in which he says: “It is hoped that you will be able to be timely informed of the approach of troops against you, and retire, provided they cannot be successfully opposed. You must exercise your discretion and judgment in this respect.”—EDITORS.
(3) “Official Records,” II, 910.
(4) See “Official Records,” II, 924, 935, 940, 973, 976-977.
(5) Mr. Davis has a few words of praise for General Johnston, which, in this connection, will be of interest to the reader: “It gives me pleasure to state that, from all the accounts received at the time, the plans of General Johnston for masking his withdrawal to form a junction with General Beauregard were conducted with marked skill” (“R. and P.,” I, 347).— EDITORS
(6) This telegram, sent in response to an inquiry from General Johnston, read as follows: “Richmond, July 20, 1861. General J. E. Johnston, Manassas Junction, Virginia: You are a general in the Confederate Army, possessed of the power attaching to that rank. You will know how to make the exact knowledge of Brigadier-General Beauregard, as well of the ground as of the troops and preparation, avail for the success of. the object in which you cooperate. The zeal of both assures me of harmonious action. JEFFERSON DAVIS”
(7) Captain John F. Lay. See “Official Records,” II., 573.— EDITORS.
(8) Not by Mr. Davis, but in a letter from General Thomas Jordan, quoted by Mr. Davis for another purpose.— EDITORS.
(9) General J. A. Early, in his narrative of these events, says: “During the 20th, General Johnston arrived at Manassas Junction by the railroad, and that day we received the order from him assuming command of the combined armies of General Beauregard and himself.”—J. E. J.
(10) General Fry (page 185) states that these troops were Andrew Porter’s and Burnside’s brigades, and one regiment of Heintzelman’s division. Reckoning by the estimate of strength given by General Fry on page 194 these would have made a total of about 0500 men.—EDITORS.
(11) See “Johnston’s Narrative” (New York: D. Appleton & Co.), pp. 78, 79.
(12) Evansport is on the Potomac below Alexandria, at the mouth of Quantico Creek.
(13) By orders dated July 19th, 1861, General N. P. Banks had been assigned to the command of the Department of the Shenandoah, relieving General Patterson in command of the army at Harper’s Ferry, General Patterson being by the same orders “honorably discharged from the service of the United States,” on the expiration of his term of duty.—EDITORS.
(14) Between the 7th and 11th of March, 1862, the Confederate forces in north-eastern Virginia, under the General Johnston, were withdrawn to the line of Rappahannock. On the 11-12th Stonewall Jackson evacuated Winchester and fell back to Strasburg.—EDITORS.
(15) Not by Mr. Davis, but in a statement quoted at the above page from General J. A. Early, who said, “The loss . . . was a very serious one to us, and embarrassed us for the remainder of the war, as it put us at once on a running stock.”— EDITORS
(16) In “The Century” magazine for May, 1885, General Johnston, to support his assertion, quoted statements by Major J. B. Washington, Dr. A. M. Fauntleroy, and Colonel E. J. Harvie, which are, now omitted for want of space.— EDITORS. VOL. I. 17
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Tags: Battles and Leaders, Handcuffs, Joseph Johnston, Memoirs, Resources
Categories : Reminiscences, Resources, The Battle
McDOWELL’S ADVANCE TO BULL RUN
BY JAMES B. FRY, BREVET MAJOR-GENERAL, U. S. A. (AT BULL RUN, CAPTAIN AND ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL ON McDOWELL’S STAFF).
As President Buchanan’s administration was drawing to a close, he was forced by the action of the South to decide whether the power of the general Government should be used to coerce into submission States that had attempted to secede from the Union. His opinion was that the contingency was not provided for, that while a State had no right to secede, the Constitution gave no authority to coerce, and that he had no right to do anything except hold the property and enforce the laws of the United States.
Before he went out of office the capital of the nation seemed to be in danger of seizure. For its protection, and in order to consult about holding Southern forts and arsenals, General Scott was in December called to Washington, from which he had been absent since the inauguration of Pierce, who had defeated him for the presidency. Jefferson Davis, Pierce’s Secretary of War, and General Scott had quarreled, and the genius of acrimony controlled the correspondence which took place between them. Notwithstanding the fact that on account of his age and infirmities he was soon overwhelmed by the rush of events, General Scott’s laurels had not withered at the outbreak of the war, and he brought to the emergency ability, experience, and prestige. A high light in the whole military world, he towered above the rest of our army at that time professionally as he did physically. As the effect of his unusual stature was increased by contrast with a short aide-de-camp (purposely chosen, it was suspected), so was his exalted character marked by one or two conspicuous but not very harmful foibles. With much learning, great military ability, a strict sense of justice, and a kind heart, he was vain and somewhat petulant. He loved the Union and hated Jefferson Davis.
By authority of President Buchanan, Scott assembled a small force of regulars in the capital, and for the first time in the history of the country the electoral count was made and a President was inaugurated under the protection of soldiery. But before the inauguration of Lincoln, March 4th, the secession movement had spread through the “cotton-belt” and delegates from the secession States had met as a congress at Montgomery, Alabama, February 4th. On the 8th they had organized the “Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America,” and on the 9th had elected Jefferson Davis President and Alexander H. Stephens Vice-President.
When the news of the firing upon Sumter reached Washington, President Lincoln prepared a proclamation, and issued it April 15th, convening Congress and calling forth 75,000 three-months militia to suppress combinations against the Government. The Federal situation was alarming. Sumter fell on the 13th of April, and was evacuated on the 14th. Virginia seceded on the 17th, and seized Harper’s Ferry on the 18th and the Norfolk Navy Yard on the 20th. On the 19th a mob in Baltimore assaulted the 6th Massachusetts volunteers as it passed through to Washington, and at once bridges were burned and railway communication was cut off between Washington and the North.
Lincoln had had no experience as a party leader or executive officer, and was without knowledge of military affairs or acquaintance with military men. Davis at the head of the Confederacy was an experienced and acknowledged Southern leader; he was a graduate of the Military Academy; had commanded a regiment in the Mexican war; had been Secretary of War under President Pierce, and had been chairman of the Military Committee in the United States Senate up to the time he left Congress to take part with the South. He was not only well versed in everything relating to war, but was thoroughly informed concerning the character and capacity of prominent and promising officers of the army. There was nothing experimental in his choice of high military commanders. With but few exceptions, those appointed at the beginning retained command until they lost their lives or the war closed.
The Southern States, all claiming to be independent republics after secession, with all their governmental machinery, including militia and volunteer organizations, in complete working order, transferred themselves as States from the Union to the Confederacy. The organization of a general government from such elements, with war as its immediate purpose, was a simple matter. Davis had only to accept and arrange, according to his ample information and well-matured judgment, the abundant and ambitious material at hand in the way that he thought would best secure his purposes. Lincoln had to adapt the machinery of a conservative old government, some of it unsuitable, some unsound, to sudden demands for which it was not designed. The talents of Simon Cameron, his first Secretary of War, were political, not military. He was a kind, gentle, placid man, gifted with powers to persuade, not to command. Shrewd and skilled in the management of business and personal matters, he had no knowledge of military affairs, and could not give the President much assistance in assembling and organizing for war the earnest and impatient, but unmilitary people of the North.
Officers from all departments of the Federal civil service hurried to the Confederacy and placed themselves at the disposal of Davis, and officers from all the corps of the regular army, most of them full of vigor, with the same education and experience as those who remained, went South and awaited assignment to the duties for which Davis might regard them as best qualified. All Confederate offices were vacant, and the Confederate President had large if not absolute power in filling them. On the other hand, the civil offices under Lincoln were occupied or controlled by party, and in the small regular army of the Union the law required that vacancies should as a rule be filled by seniority. There was no retired list for the disabled, and the army was weighed down by longevity; by venerated traditions; by prerogatives of service rendered in former wars; by the firmly tied red-tape of military bureauism, and by the deep-seated and well-founded fear of the auditors and comptrollers of the treasury. Nothing but time and experience—possibly nothing but disaster—could remove from the path of the Union President difficulties from which the Confederate President was, by the situation, quite free. In the beginning of the war, the military advantage was on the side of the Confederates, notwithstanding the greater resources of the North, which produced their effect only as the contest was prolonged.
After the firing of the first gun upon Sumter, the two sides were equally active in marshaling their forces on a line along the border States from the Atlantic coast of Virginia in the east to Kansas in the west. Many of the earlier collisions along this line were due rather to special causes or local feeling than to general military considerations. The prompt advance of the Union forces under McClellan to West Virginia was to protect that new-born free State. Patterson’s movement to Hagerstown and thence to Harper’s Ferry was to prevent Maryland from joining or aiding the rebellion, to re-open the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and prevent invasion from the Shenandoah Valley. The Southerners having left the Union and set up the Confederacy upon the principle of State rights, in violation of that principle invaded the State of Kentucky in opposition to her apparent purpose of armed neutrality. That made Kentucky a field of early hostilities and helped to anchor her to the Union. Missouri was rescued from secession through the energy of General F. P. Blair and her other Union men, and by the indomitable will of Captain Lyon of the regular army, whose great work was accomplished under many disadvantages. In illustration of the difficulty with which the new condition of affairs penetrated the case-hardened bureauism of long peace, it may be mentioned that the venerable adjutant-general of the army, when a crisis was at hand in Missouri, came from a consultation with the President and Secretary Cameron, and with a sorry expression of countenance and an ominous shake of the head exclaimed, “It’s bad, very bad; we’re giving that young man Lyon a great deal too much power in Missouri.”
Early in the contest another young Union officer came to the front. Major Irvin McDowell was appointed brigadier-general May 14th. He was forty-three years of age, of unexceptionable habits and great physical powers. His education, begun in France, was continued at the United States Military Academy, from which he was graduated in 1838. Always a close student, he was well informed outside as well as inside his profession. Distinguished in the Mexican war, intensely Union in his sentiments, full of energy and patriotism, outspoken in his opinions, highly esteemed by General Scott, on whose staff he had served, he at once secured the confidence of the President and the Secretary of War, under whose observation he was serving in Washington. Without political antecedents or acquaintances, he was chosen for advancement on account of his record, his ability, and his vigor.
Northern forces had hastened to Washington upon the call of President Lincoln, but prior to May 24th they had been held rigidly on the north side of the Potomac. On the night of May 23d-24th, the Confederate pickets being then in sight of the Capitol, three columns were thrown across the river by General J. K. F. Mansfield, then commanding the Department of Washington, and a line from Alexandria below to chain-bridge above Washington was intrenched under guidance of able engineers. On the 27th Brigadier General Irvin McDowell was placed in command south of the Potomac.(1)
By the 1st of June the Southern Government had been transferred from Montgomery to Richmond, and the capitals of the Union and of the Confederacy stood defiantly confronting each other. General Scott was in chief command of the Union forces, with McDowell south of the Potomac, confronted by his old classmate, Beauregard, hot from the capture of Fort Sumter.
General Patterson, of Pennsylvania, a veteran of the war of 1812 and the war with Mexico, was in command near Harper’s Ferry, opposed by General Joseph E. Johnston. The Confederate President, Davis, then in Richmond, with General R. E. Lee as military adviser, exercised in person general military control of the Southern forces. The enemy to be engaged by McDowell occupied what was called the “Alexandria line,” with headquarters at Manassas, the junction of the Orange and Alexandria with the Manassas Gap railroad. The stream known as Bull Run, some three miles in front of Manassas, was the line of defense. On Beauregard’s right, 30 miles away, at the mouth of Aquia Creek, there was a Confederate brigade of 3000 men and 6 guns under General Holmes. The approach to Richmond from the Lower Chesapeake, threatened by General B. F. Butler, was guarded by Confederates under Generals Huger and Magruder. On Beauregard’s left, sixty miles distant, in the Lower Shenandoah Valley and separated from him by the Blue Ridge Mountains, was the Confederate army of the Shenandoah under command of General Johnston. Beauregard’s authority did not extend over the forces of Johnston, Huger, Magruder, or Holmes, but Holmes was with him before the battle of Bull Run, and so was Johnston, who, as will appear more fully hereafter, joined at a decisive moment.
Early in June Patterson was pushing his column against Harper’s Ferry, and on the 3d of that month McDowell was called upon by General Scott to submit” an estimate of the number and composition of a column to be pushed toward Manassas Junction and perhaps the Gap, say in 4 or 5 days, to favor Patterson’s attack upon Harper’s Feny.” McDowell had then been in command at Arlington less than a week, his raw regiments south of the Potomac were not yet brigaded, and this was the first intimation he had of offensive operations. He reported, June 4th, that 12,000 infantry, 2 batteries, 6 or 8 companies of cavalry, and a reserve of 5000 ready to move from Alexandria would be required. Johnston, however, gave up Harper’s Ferry to Patterson, and the diversion by McDowell was not ordered. But the public demand for an advance became imperative—stimulated perhaps by the successful dash of fifty men of the 2d United States Cavalry, under Lieutenant C. H. Tompkins, through the enemy’s outposts at Fan-fax Court House on the night of June 1st, and by the unfortunate result of the movement of a regiment under General Schenck toward Vienna, June 9th, as well as by a disaster to some of General Butler’s troops on the 10th at Big Bethel, near Fort Monroe. On the 24th of June, in compliance with verbal instructions from General Scott, McDowell submitted a “plan of operations and the composition of the force required to carry it into effect.” He estimated the Confederate force at Manassas Junction and its dependencies at 25,000 men, assumed that his movements could not be kept secret and that the enemy would call up additional forces from all quarters, and added: ” If General J. E. Johnston’s force is kept engaged by Major-General Patterson, and Major-General Butler occupies the force now in his vicinity, I think they will not be able to bring up more than 10,000 men, so we may calculate upon having to do with about 35,000 men.” And as it turned out, that was about the number he “had to do with.” For the advance, McDowell asked “a force of 30,000 of all arms, with a reserve of 10,000.” He knew that Beauregard had batteries in position at several places in front of Bull Run and defensive works behind the Run and at Manassas Junction. The stream being fordable at many places, McDowell proposed in his plan of operations to turn the enemy’s position and force him out of it by seizing or threatening his communications. Nevertheless, he said in his report:
“Believing the chances are greatly in favor of the enemy’s accepting battle between this and the Junction and that the consequences of that battle will be of the greatest importance to the country, as establishing the prestige in this contest, on the one side or the other, —the more so as the two sections will be fairly represented by regiments from almost every State,—I think it of great consequence that, as for the most part our regiments are exceedingly raw and the best of them, with few exceptions, not over steady in line, they be organized into as many small fixed brigades as the number of regular colonels will admit, … so that the men may have as fair a chance as the nature of things and the comparative inexperience of most will allow.”
This remarkably sound report was approved, and McDowell was directed to carry his plan into effect July 8th. But the government machinery worked slowly and there was jealousy in the way, so that the troops to bring his army up to the strength agreed upon did not reach him until the 16th.
Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac at Manassas consisted of the brigades of Holmes, Bonham, Ewell, D. R. Jones, Longstreet, Cocke and Early, and of 3 regiments of infantry, 1 regiment and 3 battalions of cavalry, and 6 batteries of artillery, containing in all 27 guns, making an aggregate available force on the field of Bull Run of about 23,000 men. Johnston’s army from the Shenandoah consisted of the brigades of Jackson, Bee, Bartow, and Kirby Smith, 2 regiments of infantry not brigaded, 1 regiment of cavalry (12 companies), and 5 batteries (20 guns), making an aggregate at Bull Run of 8340.(2)
McDowell’s army consisted of 5 divisions, Tyler’s First Division, containing 4 brigades (Keyes’s, Schenck’s, W. T. Sherman’s, and Richardson’s); Hunter’s Second Division, containing 2 brigades (Andrew Porter’s and Burnside’s); Heintzelman’s Third Division, containing 3 brigades (Franklin’s, Willcox’s, and Howard’s); Runyon’s Fourth Division (9 regiments not brigaded); and Miles’s Fifth Division, containing 2 brigades (Blenker’s and Davies’s),—10 batteries of artillery, besides 2 guns attached to infantry regiments, 40 guns in all, and 7 companies of regular cavalry. Of the foregoing forces, 9 of the batteries and 8 companies of infantry were regulars, and 1 small battalion was marines. The aggregate force was about 35,000 men. Runyon’s Fourth Division was 6 or 7 miles in the rear guarding the road to Alexandria, and, though counted in the aggregate, was not embraced in McDowell’s order for battle.(3)
There was an ill-suppressed feeling of sympathy with the Confederacy in the Southern element of Washington society; but the halls of Congress resounded with the eloquence of Union speakers. Martial music filled the air, and war was the topic wherever men met. By day and night the tramp of soldiers was heard, and staff-officers and orderlies galloped through the streets between the headquarters of Generals Scott and McDowell. Northern enthusiasm was unbounded. “On to Richmond” was the war-cry. Public sentiment was irresistible, and in response to it the army advanced. It was a glorious spectacle. The various regiments were brilliantly uniformed according to the aesthetic taste of peace, and the silken banners they flung to the breeze were unsoiled and untorn. The bitter realities of war were nearer than we knew.
McDowell marched on the afternoon of July 16th, the men carrying three days’ rations in their haversacks; provision wagons were to follow from Alexandria the next day. On the morning of the 18th his forces were concentrated at Centreville, a point about 20 miles west of the Potomac and 6 or 7 miles east of Manassas Junction. Beauregard’s outposts fell back without resistance. Bull Run, flowing south-easterly, is about half-way between Centreville and Manassas Junction, and, owing to its abrupt banks, the timber with which it was fringed, and some artificial defenses at the fords, was a formidable obstacle. The stream was fordable, but all the crossings for eight miles, from Union Mills on the south to the Stone Bridge on the north, were defended by Beauregard’s forces. The Warrenton Turnpike, passing through Centreville, leads nearly due west, crossing Bull Run at the Stone Bridge. The direct road from Centreville to Manassas crosses Bull Run at Mitchell’s Ford, half a mile or so above another crossing known as Blackburn’s Ford. Union Mills was covered by Ewell’.s brigade, supported after the 18th by Holmes’s brigade; McLean’s Ford, next to the north, was covered by D. R. Jones’s brigade; Blackburn’s Ford was defended by Longstreet’s brigade, supported by Early’s brigade; Mitchell’s Ford was held by Bonham’s brigade, with an outpost of two guns and an infantry support east of Bull Run; the stream between Mitchell’s Ford and the Stone Bridge was covered by Cocke’s brigade; the Stone Bridge on the Confederate left was held by Evans with 1 regiment and Wheat’s special battalion of infantry, 1 battery of 4 guns, and 2 companies of cavalry.(4)
McDowell was compelled to wait at Centreville until his provision wagons arrived and he could issue rations. His orders having carried his leading division under Tyler no farther than Centreville, he wrote that officer at 8:15 A. M. on the 18th, “Observe well the roads to Bull Run and to Warrenton. Do not bring on an engagement, but keep up the impression that we arc moving on Manassas.” McDowell then went to the extreme left of his line to examine the country with reference to a sudden movement of the army to turn the enemy’s right flank. The reconnoissance showed him that the country was unfavorable to the movement, and he abandoned it. While he was gone to the left, Tyler, presumably to ” keep up the impression that we were moving on Manassas,” went forward from Centreville with a squadron of cavalry and two companies of infantry for the purpose of making a reconnoissance of Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s fords along the direct road to Manassas. The force of the enemy at these fords has just been given. Reaching the crest of the ridge overlooking the valley of Bull Run and a mile or so from the stream, the enemy was seen on the opposite bank, and Tyler brought up Benjamin’s artillery, 2 20-pounder rifled guns, Ayres’s field battery of 6 guns, and Richardson’s brigade of infantry. The 20-pounders opened from the ridge and a few shots were exchanged with the enemy’s batteries. Desiring more information than the long-range cannonade afforded, Tyler ordered Richardson’s brigade and a section of Ayres’s battery, supported by a squadron of cavalry, to move from the ridge across the open bottom of Bull Run and take position near the stream and have skirmishers ” scour the thick woods ” which skirted it. Two regiments of infantry, 2 pieces of artillery, and a squadron of cavalry moved down the slope into the woods and opened fire, driving Bonham’s outpost to the cover of intrenchments across the stream. The brigades of Bonham and Longstreet, the latter being reenforced for the occasion by Early’s brigade, responded at short range to the fire of the Federal reconnoitering force and drove it back in disorder. Tyler reported that having satisfied himself “that the enemy was in force,” and ascertained ” the position of his batteries,” he withdrew. J This unauthorized reconnoissance, called by the Federals the affair at Blackburn’s Ford, was regarded at the time by the Confederates as a serious attack, and was dignified by the name of the “battle of Bull Run,” the engagement of the 21st being called by them the battle of Manassas. The Confederates, feeling that they had repulsed a heavy and real attack, were encouraged by the result. The Federal troops, on the other hand, were greatly depressed. The regiment which suffered most was completely demoralized, and McDowell thought that the depression of the repulse was felt throughout his army and produced its effect upon the Pennsylvania regiment and the New York battery which insisted (their terms having expired) upon their discharge, and on the 21st, as he expressed it, “marched to the rear to the sound of the enemy’s cannon.” Even Tyler himself felt the depressing effect of his repulse, if we may judge by his cautious and feeble action on the 21st when dash was required. (5)
The operations of the 18th confirmed McDowell in his opinion that with his raw troops the Confederate position should be turned instead of attacked in front. Careful examination had satisfied him that the country did not favor a movement to turn the enemy’s right. On the night of the 18th the haversacks of his men were empty, and had to be replenished from the provision wagons, which were late in getting up. Nor had he yet determined upon his point or plan of attack. While resting and provisioning his men, he devoted the 19th and 20th to a careful examination by his engineers of the enemy’s position and the intervening country. His men, not soldiers, but civilians in uniform, unused to marching, hot, weary, and footsore, dropped down as they had halted and bivouacked on the roads about Centreville. Notwithstanding Beauregard’s elation over the affair at Blackburn’s ford on the 18th, he permitted the 19th and 20th to pass without a movement to follow up the advantage he had gained. During these two days, McDowell carefully examined the Confederate position, and made his plan to manoeuvre the enemy out of it. Beauregard ordered no aggressive movement until the 21st, and then, as appears from his own statement, through miscarriage of orders and lack of apprehension on the part of subordinates, the effort was a complete fiasco, with the comical result of frightening his own troops, who, late in the afternoon, mistook the return of one of their brigades for an attack by McDowell’s left, and the serious result of interfering with the pursuit after he had gained the battle of the 21st.
But Beauregard, though not aggressive on the 19th and 20th, was not idle within his own lines. The Confederate President had authorized Johnston, Beauregard’s senior, to use his discretion in moving to the support of Manassas, and Beauregard, urging Johnston to do so, sent railway transportation for the Shenandoah forces. But, as he states, “he at the same time submitted the alternative proposition to 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 he, Beauregard, “prepared for the operation at the first sound of the conflict, should strenuously assume the offensive in front.” “The situation and circumstances specially favored the signal success of such an operation,” says Beauregard. An attack by two armies moving from opposite points upon an enemy, with the time of attack for one depending upon the sound of the other’s cannon, is hazardous even with well disciplined and well-seasoned troops, and is next to fatal with raw levies. Johnston chose the wiser course of moving by rail to Manassas, thus preserving the benefit of “interior lines,” which, Beauregard says, was the “sole military advantage at the moment that the Confederates possessed.”
The campaign which General Scott required McDowell to make was undertaken with the understanding that Johnston should be prevented from joining Beauregard. With no lack of confidence in himself, McDowell was dominated by the feeling of subordination and deference to General Scott which at that time pervaded the whole army, and General Scott, who controlled both McDowell and Patterson, assured McDowell that Johnston should not join Beauregard without having “Patterson on his heels.” Yet Johnston’s army, nearly nine thousand strong, joined Beauregard, Bee’s brigade and Johnston in person arriving on the morning of the 20th, the remainder about noon on the 21st. Although the enforced delay at Centreville enabled McDowell to provision his troops and gain information upon which to base an excellent plan of attack, it proved fatal by affording time for a junction of the opposing forces. On the 21st of July General Scott addressed a dispatch to McDowell, saying: “It is known that a strong reenforcement left Winchester on the afternoon of the 18th, which you will also have to beat. Four new regiments will leave to-day to be at Fairfax Station to-night. Others shall follow to-morrow — twice the number if necessary.” When this dispatch was penned, McDowell was fighting the “strong reenforcement” which left Winchester on the 18th. General Scott’s report that Beauregard had been reenforced, the information that four regiments had been sent to McDowell, and the promise that twice the number would be sent if necessary, all came too late — and Patterson came not at all.(6)
During the 19th and 20th the bivouacs of McDowell’s army at Centreville, almost within cannon range of the enemy, were thronged by visitors, official and unofficial, who came in carriages from Washington, bringing their own supplies. They were under no military restraint, and passed to and fro among the troops as they pleased, giving the scene the appearance of a monster military picnic.(7) Among others, the venerable Secretary of War, Cameron, called upon McDowell. Whether due to a naturally serious expression, to a sense of responsibility, to a premonition of the fate of his brother who fell upon the field on the 21st, or to other cause, his countenance showed apprehension of evil; but men generally were confident and jovial.
McDowell’s plan of battle promulgated on the 20th, was to turn the enemy’s left, force him from his defensive position, and, “if possible, destroy the railroad leading from Manassas to the Valley of Virginia, where the enemy has a large force.” He did not know when he issued this order that Johnston had joined Beauregard, though he suspected it. Miles’s Fifth Division, with Richardson’s brigade of Tyler’s division, and a strong force of artillery was to remain in reserve at Centreville, prepare defensive works there and threaten Blackburn’s Ford. Tyler’s First Division, which was on the turnpike in advance, was to move at 2:30 A. M., threaten the Stone Bridge and open fire upon it at daybreak. This demonstration was to be vigorous, its first purpose being to divert attention from the movements of the turning column. As soon as Tyler’s troops cleared the way, Hunter’s Second Division, followed by Heintzelman’s Third Division, was to move to a point on the Warren ton Turnpike about 1 or 2 miles east of Stone Bridge and there take a country road to the right, cross the Run at Sudley Springs, come down upon the flank and rear of the enemy at the Stone Bridge, and force him to open the way for Tyler’s division to cross there and attack, fresh and in full force.
Tyler’s start was so late and his advance was so slow as to hold Hunter and Heintzelman 2 or 3 hours on the mile or two of the turnpike between their camps and the point at which they were to turn off for the flank march. This delay, and the fact that the flank march proved difficult and some 12 miles instead of about 6 as was expected, were of serious moment. The flanking column did not cross at Sudley Springs until 9:30 instead of 7, the long march, with its many interruptions, tired out the men, and the delay gave the enemy time to discover the turning movement. Tyler’s operations against the Stone Bridge were feeble and ineffective. By 8 o’clock Evans was satisfied that he was in no danger in front, and perceived the movement to turn his position. He was on the left of the Confederate line, guarding the point where the Warrenton Turnpike, the great highway to the field, crossed Bull Run, the Confederate line of defense. He had no instructions to guide him in the emergency that had arisen. But he did not hesitate. Reporting his information and purpose to the adjoining commander, Cocke, and leaving 4 companies of infantry to deceive and hold Tyler at the bridge, Evans before 9 o’clock turned his back upon the point he was set to guard, marched a mile away, and, seizing the high ground to the north of Young’s Branch of Bull Run, formed line of battle at right angles to his former line, his left resting near the Sudley Springs road, by which Burnside with the head of the turning column was approaching, thus covering the Warrenton Turnpike and opposing a determined front to the Federal advance upon the Confederate left and rear.(8) In his rear to the south lay the valley of Young’s Branch, and rising from that was the higher ridge or plateau on which the Robinson house and the Henry house were situated, and on which the main action took place in the afternoon. Burnside, finding Evans across his path, promptly formed line of battle and attacked about 9:45 A. M. Hunter, the division commander, who was at the head of Burnside’s brigade directing the formation of the first skirmish line, was severely wounded and taken to the rear at the opening of the action. Evans not only repulsed but pursued the troops that made the attack upon him. Andrew Porter’s brigade of Hunter’s division followed Burnside closely and came to his support. In the mean time Bee had formed a Confederate line of battle with his and Bartow’s brigades of Johnston’s army on the Henry house plateau, a stronger position than the one held by Evans, and desired Evans to fall back to that line; but Evans, probably feeling bound to cover the Warrenton Turnpike and hold it against Tyler as well as against the flanking column, insisted that Bee should move across the valley to his support, which was done.
After Bee joined Evans, the preliminary battle continued to rage upon the ground chosen by the latter. The opposing forces were Burnside’s and Porter’s brigades, with one regiment of Heintzelman’s division on the Federal side, and Evans’s, Bee’s, and Bartow’s brigades on the Confederate side. The Confederates were dislodged and driven back to the Henry house plateau, where Bee had previously formed line and where what Beauregard called “the mingled remnants of Bee’s, Bartow’s, and Evans’s commands” were re-formed under cover of Stonewall Jackson’s brigade of Johnston’s army.
The time of this repulse, as proved by so accurate an authority as Stonewall Jackson, was before 11:30 A. M., and this is substantially confirmed by Beauregard’s official report made at the time. Sherman and Keyes had nothing to do with it. They did not begin to cross Bull Run until noon. Thus, after nearly two hours’ stubborn fighting with the forces of Johnston, which General Scott had promised should be kept away, McDowell won the first advantage; but Johnston had cost him dearly.
During all this time Johnston and Beauregard had been waiting near Mitchell’s Ford for the development of the attack they had ordered by their light upon McDowell at Centreville. The gravity of the situation upon their left had not yet dawned upon them. What might the result have been if the Union column had not been detained by Tyler’s delay in moving out in the early morning, or if Johnston’s army, to which Bee, Bartow, and Jackson belonged, had not arrived?
But the heavy firing on the left soon diverted Johnston and Beauregard from all thought of an offensive movement with their right, and decided them, as Beauregard has said, “to 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.” Thereupon Beauregard ordered “Ewell, Jones, and Longstreet to make a strong demonstration all along their front on the other side of Bull Run, and ordered the reserves, Holmes’s brigade with six guns, and Early’s brigade, to move swiftly to the left,” and he and Johnston set out at full speed for the point of conflict, which they reached while Bee was attempting to rally his men about Jackson’s brigade on the Henry house plateau. McDowell had waited in the morning at the point on the Warrenton Turnpike where his flanking column turned to the right, until the troops, except Howard’s brigade, which he halted at that point, had passed. He gazed silently and with evident pride upon the gay regiments as they filed briskly but quietly past in the freshness of the early morning, and then, remarking to his staff, “Gentlemen, that is a big force,” he mounted and moved forward to the field by way of Sudley Springs. He reached the scene of actual conflict somewhat earlier than Johnston and Beauregard did, and, seeing the enemy driven across the valley of Young’s Branch and behind the Warrenton Turnpike, at once sent a swift aide-de-camp to Tyler with orders to “press the attack” at the Stone Bridge. Tyler acknowledged that he received this order by 11 o’clock. It was Tyler’s division upon which McDowell relied for the decisive fighting of the day. He knew that the march of the turning column would be fatiguing, and when by a sturdy fight it had cleared the Warrenton Turnpike for the advance of Tyler’s division, it had, in fact, done more than its fair proportion of the work. But Tyler did not attempt to force the passage of the Stone Bridge, which, after about 8 o’clock, was defended by only four companies of infantry, though he admitted that by the plan of battle, when Hunter and Heintzelman had attacked the enemy in the vicinity of the Stone Bridge, “he was to force the passage of Bull Run at that point and attack the enemy in flank.”(9) Soon after McDowell’s arrival at the front, Burnside rode up to him and said that his brigade had borne the brunt of the battle, that it was out of ammunition, and that he wanted permission to withdraw, refit and fill cartridge-boxes. McDowell in the excitement of the occasion gave reluctant consent, and the brigade, which certainly had done nobly, marched to the rear, stacked arms, and took no further part in the fight. Having sent the order to Tyler to press his attack and orders to the rear of the turning column to hurry forward, McDowell, like Beauregard, rushed in person into the conflict, and by the force of circumstances became for the time the commander of the turning column and the force actually engaged, rather than the commander of his whole army. With the exception of sending his adjutant-general to find and hurry Tyler forward, his subsequent orders were mainly or wholly to the troops under his own observation. Unlike Beauregard, he had no Johnston in rear with full authority and knowledge of the situation to throw forward reserves and reinforcements. It was not until 12 o’clock that Sherman received orders from Tyler to cross the stream, which he did at a ford above the Stone Bridge, going to the assistance of Hunter. Sherman reported to McDowell on the field and joined in the pursuit of Bee’s forces across the valley of Young’s Branch. Keyes’s brigade, accompanied by Tyler in person, followed across the stream where Sherman forded, but without uniting with the other forces on the field, made a feeble advance upon the slope of the plateau toward the Robinson house, and then about 2 o’clock filed off by flank to its left and, sheltered by the east front of the bluff that forms the plateau, marched down Young’s Branch out of sight of the enemy and took no further part in the engagement. McDowell did not know where it was, nor did he then know that Schenck’s brigade of Tyler’s division did not cross the Run at all.
The line taken up by Stonewall Jackson upon which Bee, Bartow, and Evans rallied on the southern part of the plateau was a very strong one. The ground was high and afforded the cover of a curvilinear wood with the concave side toward the Federal line of attack. According to Beauregard’s official report made at the time, he had upon this part of the field, at the beginning, 6500 infantry, 13 pieces of artillery, and 2 companies of cavalry, and this line was continuously reenforced from Beauregard’s own reserves and by the arrival of the troops from the Shenandoah Valley.
To carry this formidable position, McDowell had at hand the brigades of Franklin, Willcox, Sherman, and Porter, Palmer’s battalion of regular cavalry, and Ricketts’s and Giiffin’s regular batteries. Porter’s brigade had been reduced and shaken by the morning fight. Howard’s brigade was in reserve and only came into action late in the afternoon. The men, unused to field service, and not yet over the hot and dusty march from the Potomac, had been under arms since midnight. The plateau, however, was promptly assaulted, the northern part of it was earned, the batteries of Ricketts and Griffin were planted near the Henry house, and McDowell clambered to the upper story of that structure to get a glance at the whole field. Upon the Henry house plateau, of which the Confederates held the southern and the Federals the northern part, the tide of battle ebbed and flowed as McDowell pushed in Franklin’s, Willcox’s, Sherman’s, Porter’s, and at last Howard’s brigades, and as Beauregard put into action reserves which Johnston sent from the right and reinforcements which he hurried forward from the Shenandoah Valley as they arrived by cars. On the plateau, Beauregard says, the disadvantage of his “smooth-bore guns was reduced by the shortness of range.” The short range was due to the Federal advance, and the several struggles for the plateau were at close quarters and gallant on both sides. The batteries of Ricketts and Griffin, by their fine discipline, wonderful daring, and matchless skill, were the prime features in the fight. The battle was not lost till they were lost. When in their advanced and perilous position, and just after their infantry supports had been driven over the slopes, a fatal mistake occurred. A regiment of infantry came out of the woods on Griffin’s right, and as he was in the act of opening upon it with canister, he was deterred by the assurance of Major Barry, the chief of artillery, that it “was a regiment sent by Colonel Heintzelman to support the battery.”(10) A moment more and the doubtful regiment proved its identity by a deadly volley, and, as Griffin states in his official report, “every cannoneer was cut down and a large number of horses killed, leaving the battery (which was without support excepting in name) perfectly helpless.” The effect upon Ricketts was equally fatal. He, desperately wounded, and Ramsay, his lieutenant, killed, lay in the wreck of the battery. Beauregard speaks of his last advance on the plateau as “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.” Having become separated from McDowell, I fell in with Barnard, his chief engineer, and while together we observed the New York Fire Zouaves, who had been supporting Griffin’s battery, fleeing to the rear in their gaudy uniforms, in utter confusion. Thereupon I rode back to where I knew Burnside’s brigade was at rest, and stated to Burnside the condition of affairs, with the suggestion that he form and move his brigade to the front. Returning, I again met Barnard, and as the battle seemed to him and me to be going against us, and not knowing where McDowell was, with the concurrence of Barnard, as stated in his official report, I immediately sent a note to Miles, telling him to move two brigades of his reserve up to the Stone Bridge and telegraph to Washington to send forward all the troops that could be spared.
After the arrival of Howard’s brigade, McDowell for the last time pressed up the slope to the plateau, forced back the Confederate line, and regained possession of the Henry and Robinson houses and of the lost batteries. But there were no longer cannoneers to man or horses to move these guns that had done so much. By the arrival upon this part of the field of his own reserves and Kirby Smith’s brigade of Johnston’s army about half-past 3, Beauregard extended his left to outflank McDowell’s shattered, shortened, and disconnected line, and the Federals left the field about half-past 4. Until then they had fought wonderfully well for raw troops. There were no fresh forces on the field to support or encourage them, and the men seemed to be seized simultaneously by the conviction that it was no use to do anything more and they might as well start home. Cohesion was lost, the organizations with some exceptions being disintegrated, and the men quietly walked off. There was no special excitement except that arising from the frantic efforts of officers to stop men who paid little or no attention to anything that was said. On the high ground by the Matthews house, about where Evans had taken position in the morning to check Burnside, McDowell and his staff, aided by other officers, made a desperate but futile effort to arrest the masses and form them into line. There, I went to Arnold’s battery as it came by, and advised that he unlimber and make a stand as a rallying-point, which he did, saying he was in fair condition and ready to fight as long as there was any fighting to be done. But all efforts failed. The stragglers moved past the guns, in spite of all that could be done, and, as stated in his report, Arnold at my direction joined Sykes’s battalion of infantry of Porter’s brigade and Palmer’s battalion of cavalry, all of the regular army, to cover the rear, as the men trooped back in great disorder across Bull Run. There were some hours of daylight for the Confederates to gather the fruits of victory, but a few rounds of shell and canister checked all the pursuit that was attempted, and the occasion called for no sacrifices or valorous deeds by the stanch regulars of the rear-guard. There was no panic, in the ordinary meaning of the word, until the retiring soldiers, guns, wagons, congressmen, and carriages were fired upon, on the road east of Bull Run. Then the panic began, and the bridge over Cub Run being rendered impassable for vehicles by a wagon that was upset upon it, utter confusion set in: pleasure-carriages, gun-carriages, and ammunition wagons which could not bo put across the Run were abandoned and blocked the way, and stragglers broke and threw aside their muskets and cut horses from then- harness and rode off upon them. In leaving the field the men took the same routes, in a general way, by which they had reached it. Hence when the men of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions got back to Centreville, they had walked about 25 miles. That night they walked back to the Potomac, an additional distance of 20 miles; so that these undisciplined and unseasoned men within 36 hours walked fully 45 miles, besides fighting from about 10 A. M. until 4 p. M. on a hot and dusty day in July. McDowell in person reached Centreville before sunset,(11) and found there Miles’s division with Richardson’s brigade and 3 regiments of Runyon’s division, and Hunt’s, Tidball’s, Ayres’s, and Greene’s batteries and 1 or 2 fragments of batteries, making about 20 guns. It was a formidable force, but there was a lack of food and the mass of the army was completely demoralized. Beauregard had about an equal force which had not been in the fight, consisting of Ewell’s, Jones’s, and Longstreet’s brigades and some troops of other brigades. McDowell consulted the division and brigade commanders who were at hand upon the question of making a stand or retreating. The verdict was in favor of the latter, but a decision of officers one way or the other was of no moment; the men had already decided for themselves and were streaming away to the rear, in spite of all that could be done. They had no interest or treasure in Centreville, and their hearts were not there. Their tents, provisions, baggage, and letters from home were upon the banks of the Potomac, and no power could have stopped them short of the camps they had left less than a week before. As before stated, most of them were sovereigns in uniform, not soldiers. McDowell accepted the situation, detailed Richardson’s and Blenker’s brigades to cover the retreat, and the army, a disorganized mass, with some creditable exceptions, drifted as the men pleased away from the scene of action. There was no pursuit, and the march from Centreville was as barren of opportunities for the rear-guard as the withdrawal from the field of battle had been.(12) When McDowell reached Fairfax Court House in the night, he was in communication with Washington and exchanged telegrams with General Scott, in one of which the old hero said, ” We are not discouraged”; but that dispatch did not lighten the gloom in which it was received. McDowell was so tired that while sitting on the ground writing a dispatch he fell asleep, pencil in hand, in the middle of a sentence. His adjutant-general aroused him ; the dispatch was finished, and the weary ride to the Potomac resumed. When the unfortunate commander dismounted at Arlington next forenoon in a soaking rain, after 32 hours in the saddle, his disastrous campaign of 6 days was closed.
The first martial effervescence of the country was over. The three months men went home, and the three-months chapter of the war ended — with the South triumphant and confident; the North disappointed but determined.
(1) The aspect of affairs was so threatening after President Lincoln’s call of April 15th for 75,000 three-months militia, and General Scott was so averse to undertaking any active operations with such short-term troops, that, as early as May 3d, and without waiting for the meeting of Congress, the President entered upon the creation of an additional volunteer army to be composed of 42,034 three-years men, together with an increase of 22,714 regulars and 18,000 seamen.— J. B. F.
(2) Beauregard himself has said that on the 18th of July he had along the line of Bull Run about 17,000 men; that on the 19th General Holmes joined him with about 3000 men; and that “received from Richmond between the 18th and 21st about 2000 more”; and that Johnston brought about 8000 more, the advance arriving “on the morning of the 20th and the remainder about noon of the 21st,” making his whole force, as he states it, “nearly 3000 men of all arms.” The figures are probably under the mark, as Hampton’s Legion, McRea’s regiment, a North Carolina “regiment and two battalions of Mississippi and Alabama” joined between the 17th and 21st. Beauregard’s force may fairly be placed at 32,000; and the opposing armies, both in the aggregate and in the parts engaged, were nearer equal in that than in any other battle in Virginia.— J. B. F.
(3) The average length of service of McDowell’s men prior to the battle was about sixty days. The longest in service were the three-months men, and of these he had fourteen regiments.— J. B. F.
(4) The state of General Beauregard’s mind at the time is indicated by the following telegram on the 17th of July from him to Jefferson Davis: “The enemy has assaulted 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 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 reinforcements at the earliest possible instant and by every possible means.” The alarm in this dispatch and the apprehension it shows of McDowell’s “overwhelming” strength are not in harmony with the more recent assurance of the Confederate commander, that through sources in Washington treasonable to the Union, and in other ways, he “was almost as well informed of the strength of the hostile army in my [his] front as its commander.”—J. B. F.
(5) The casualties in the affair were: Union, 1 officer and 18 enlisted men killed ; 1 officer and 37 enlisted men wounded ; 26 enlisted men missing,— aggregate, 83. Confederate (Beauregard in his official report of 1861), “15 killed and 53 wounded men, several of whom have since died.”— J. B. F.
(6) On the 17th of July Patterson, with some 16,000 three-months men, whose terms began to expire on the ii4th, was at Charlestown, and Johnston, with about the same number, was at Winchester. On that day General Scott telegraphed Patterson, “McDowell’s first day’s work has driven the enemy behind Fairfax Court House. Do not let the enemy amuse and delay you with a small force in front while he reenforces the Junction with his main body.” To this Patterson replied at half past 1 o’clock in the morning of the 18th, stating his difficulties and asking, “Shall I attack?” General Scott answered on the same day: “I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy,” or that you “at least had occupied him by threats and demonstrations. You have been at least his equal and I suppose superior in numbers. Has he not stolen a march and sent reinforcements toward Manassas Junction?” Patterson replied on the same day (18th), “The enemy has stolen no march upon me. I have caused him to be reenforced”; and at 1 o’clock P.M. on that day he added : “I have succeeded, in accordance with the wishes of the General-in-Chief, in keeping General Johnston’s force at Winchester.” At the very hour that Patterson was writing this dispatch Johnston’s advance was leaving Winchester. On the 18th Johnston telegraphed to Richmond that Patterson was at Charlestown, and said: “Unless he prevents it, we shall move toward General Beauregard to-day.” He moved accordingly, and the Confederate armies were united for battle. It rested, however, with higher authority than Patterson to establish between his army and McDowell’s the relations that the occasion called for. In considering the requirements for McDowell’s movement against Manassas, General Scott gave great weight to the general and irresistible fear then prevailing in Washington that the capital might be seized by a dash. Its direct defense was the first purpose of the three months militia. The Potomac at Washington was itself a strong barrier, and with the field-works on its south bank afforded security in that quarter. The danger was thought to be from the Shenandoah, and that induced the Government to keep Patterson in the valley. Indeed, on the 30th of June Colonel C. P. Stone’s command was ordered from Point of Rocks to Patterson at Martinsburg, where it arrived on the 8th of July; whereas the offensive campaign against Manassas, ordered soon after, required Patterson to go to Stone, as he proposed to do June 21st, instead of Stone to Patterson. The campaign of McDowell was forced upon General Scott by public opinion, but did not relieve the authorities from the fear that Johnston might rush down and seize Washington. General Scott, under the pressure of the offensive in one quarter and the defensive in another, imposed upon Patterson the double task, difficult if not impossible, of preventing Johnston from moving on the capital and from joining Beauregard. If that task was possible, it could have been accomplished only by persistent fighting, and that General Scott was unwilling to order; though in his dispatch of the 18th in reply to Patterson’s question, “Shall I attack?” he said, “I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy.” Prior to that, his instructions to Patterson had enjoined caution. As soon as McDowell advanced, Patterson was upon an exterior line and in a false military position. Admitting that he might have done more to detain Johnston, bad strategy was probably more to blame for the result than any action or lack of action on Patterson’s part.— J. B. F.
(7) The presence of senators, congressmen, and other civilians upon the field on the 21st gave rise to extravagant and absurd stories, in which alleged forethought and valor among them are contrasted with a lack of these qualities in the troops. The plain truth is that the non-combatants and their vehicles merely increased the confusion and demoralization of the retreat.—J. B. F.
(8) Evans’s action was probably one of the best pieces of soldiership on either side during the campaign, but it seems to have received no special commendation from his superiors.—J. B. F.
(9) After the affair at Blackburn’s Ford on the 18th and Tyler’s action in the battle of the 21st, a bitterness between Tyler and McDowell grew up which lasted till they died. As late as 1884, McDowell, writing to me of Tyler’s criticism of him after the war, said, “How I have been punished for my leniency to that man! If there is anything clearer to me than anything else with reference to our operations in that campaign, it is that if we had had another commander for our right we should have had a complete and brilliant success.”—J. B. F.
(10) Griffin himself told rao so as we rode together after leaving Centreville. He and I were classmates and warm friends.— J. B. F.
(11) I left the field with General Franklin. His brigade had dissolved. We moved first northerly, crossed Bull Run below the Sudley Spring Ford, and then bore south and east. Learning by inquiries of the men I passed that McDowell was ahead of me, I leftFranklin and hurried on to Centreville, where I found McDowell, just after sunset, rearranging the positions of his reserves.—J. B. F.
(12) The revised losses are as follows: Federal, 16 officers and 444 enlisted men killed; 78 officers and 1046 enlisted men wounded; 50 officers and 1262 enlisted men missing; 25 pieces of artillery and a large quantity of small arms. Confederate, 25 officers and 362 enlisted men killed; 63 officers and 1519 enlisted men wounded; 1 officer and 12 enlisted men missing.—J. B. F.
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Tags: Battles and Leaders, James Fry, Memoirs, Resources
Categories : Reminiscences, Resources, The Battle
[Describing fight at Blackburn’s Ford]
Arose early this morning and broiled a piece of meat on the coals for breakfast. After eating, we were marched off about a half mile to a bridge across Bull Run where we were stationed along the banks of the creek and on the railroad. We had been here but a short time, when we heard the booming of artillery, in the direction from which we came yesterday. The firing was kept up all day, ceasing three times only for a few minutes. When we heard the connonading and occasional volleys of musketry, our company was placed in the bushes to watch for the approach of the enemy. We remained there all day. This afternoon Lieut Williams, who was left behind yesterday, came in and reported a great battle fought about three quarters of a mile from where we first went yesterday at a place called Mitchell’s Ford. The enemy eighteen thousand strong attacked our forces four thousand strong. The attack was made with both artillery and infantry. Our forces had the Washington Artillery from New Orleans. They first attacked the centre and endeavored to take our battery, but were repulsed with heavy loss. They then attacked the right wing, but were again repulsed. After this they collected themselves and made another attack on the left and were for the third time repulsed with even greater slaughter than before. They then retired from the field. When they attempted to storm the battery, they were allowed to march up to within a short distance of it when our infantry rose up and turned loose a volley into them which completely routed them. They ran in the utmost confusion. After going some distance they rallied, when Genl Bonham gave the order to charge them, but before our troops could get near them they broke and ran like sheep before wolves. Report says that we lost sixteen killed and forty or fifty wounded. Their loss is estimated at from five hundred to a thousand killed and wounded. The Yankees made a bold stand for awhile, but could not contend against southern bayonets and the Washington Artillery. Received two letters today, one from Brother, the other from Aunt Ann. (Mrs. Cheney) All well at home and the crop good. He says there is [not?] a danger of Lincoln starving us out. To night we have every indication of a heavy rain, as we can hear the distant rumbling of the thunder and the clouds are flying overhead. We have to sleep in the bushes and but few of the men have blankets. Father sent me a blanket, but I could not find the man he sent it by, so have to do the best I can and take the rain if it comes.
Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 20-21
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Tags: 5th Alabama, John Henry Cowin, Resources, Soldiers' Diaries
Categories : Diaries, Resources
Testimony of Gen. Daniel Tyler
Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 198-206
WASHINGTON, January 20, 1862.
General DANIEL TYLER sworn and examined.
By the chairman:
Question. Will you please state what is your rank and position in the army, or what it was?
Answer. I was a brigadier general, second in command under General McDowell.
Question. You were present at the battle of Bull Run?
Answer. I was there.
Question. Please give a brief and concise statement of what you saw there, and how the battle was conducted, &c.; do this without questioning at first; I want to get particularly what, in your judgment, caused the disaster of that day.
Answer. The first great trouble was the want of discipline and instruction in the troops. The troops needed that regimental and brigade instruction which would have enabled them to act together in masses with advantage.
Question. Were there any other more proximate causes than that?
Answer. There was a great want of instruction and professional knowledge among the officers—the company and regimental officers.
Question. Well, sir, give a concise history of that battle.
Answer. I will begin back to the occupation of Falls’ Church. The first advance made by our troops, after the occupation of Alexandria, Arlington Heights, Fort Corcoran, and Roach’s Mill, was to Falls’ Church. That was made by me with the Connecticut brigade, about the 5th of June. I remained in that division, commanding the advance of the army, until the advance upon Manassas. When we advanced upon Manassas I was assigned to the command of a division of four brigades. My line of march was by Vienna to Flint Hill, and from there I had authority from General McDowell to take either the route by Fairfax Court-House, or the route by Gormantown, as my judgment should indicate. I took the advance through Gormantown, and arrived there in advance of any other division of the army, on the turnpike to Centreville. We continued our march until about 4 o’clock in the evening, and then bivouacked for the night. I think that was the first misfortune of our .movement. I think, if we had gone on to Centreville that night we should have been in much better condition the next day. I was ordered by General McDowell to take my division forward at 7 o’clock on Thursday morning and attack Centreville, he assigning me two twenty-pounders to assist in that attack. On arriving at Centreville, I found that the enemy had evacuated their fortifications, and that Cox’s division, as I was told by the people there, had passed over Stone Bridge, and Bonham, with the South Carolina and Georgia troops, had passed down by Blackburn’s Ford.
I waited there an hour and a half, getting such information as I could collect, and then, not finding General McDowell, or hearing from him, I took a squadron of cavalry and four companies of light infantry and went forward with General Richardson towards Blackburn’s Ford. After passing through the woods there we came out immediately upon Bull Run. From that point we had a very good view of Manassas. We found they had not occupied the left bank of Bull Run at all. There is a distance, along the stream there, of about a thousand yards of perfectly open country. There is not a tree until you get to Bull Run, and then it is covered with trees. I got there in the morning, with merely my staff and this squadron of cavalry and the light infantry. I was perfectly astonished to find they had not occupied that position on the left bank. It had complete control of it, so complete control that, after we got our artillery in position, we had the whole control of that valley. Beauregard, in his official report, complains that we threw shot in his hospital. We did, but we did not know it was his hospital; we thought it was his headquarters. The whole ground there, clear over almost into Manassas, was commanded by that position. This was a chain of heights, extending along the whole of this ford, and completely controlling the bottom of Bull Run.
As soon as I found out the condition of things I sent back for Ayres’s battery—Sherman’s old battery—and had it brought and put into position. After firing two or three shots they replied to us; but having only smoothbore guns they could not reach us. After the two twenty-pounders came up we had eight pieces in position, commanding the whale of that run. They could not make a move in front of the woods there without our controlling them. They made no movement at all; we could see no show of force. All we could see was some few around their battery. I then took Richardson’s brigade and filed it down there to see what there was in the bottom. This was evidently on the direct road to Manassas. They marched down through in front of the whole of that wood, without bringing any fire upon them. I sent some skirmishers into the woods, and there were some thirty or fifty shots fired from a few men.
I saw an opening where we could have a chance to get in a couple of pieces of artillery, and I ordered Captain Ayres to take a couple of his howitzers and go into that opening and throw some canister shot into the woods. The very moment he came into battery it appeared to me that there were 5,000 muskets fired at once. It appears by Beauregard’s report that he had seventeen regiments in front there. They were evidently waiting for our infantry to get into the woods there. Ayres threw some ten or fifteen canister shot in among them, but was forced to come out, which he did very gallantly, with the loss of one man and two horses. We then came on the hill, and the whole eight pieces were placed in position, and we exchanged with them 415 shots in three-quarters of an hour, our shots plunging right in among them. They fired at an angle of elevation, and the consequence was that we lost but one man; whereas our artillery was plunging right into them, and every shot had its effect.
The Rev. Mr. Hinds, who was taken prisoner on Monday after the fight, was taken down to Bonham’s camp there. He has lately been exchanged and returned, and represents their loss there at some 300 or 400 men that day. My idea was that that position was stronger than the one above. But that is a mere matter of opinion. But after this affair of Thursday that point was never abandoned. We held that point until after the battle of Sunday. Richardson’s brigade was left there, and Davies’s brigade supported him. And when General Ewell tried to cut us off at Centreville on Sunday afternoon they repulsed him. We could have made a first-rate artillery fight there on Friday morning before Johnston’s force came up. We knew of the arrival of Johnston’s forces on Friday afternoon, because we could hear the arrival of the cars up the Winchester road.
My division was stationed on Cub Run from Thursday evening, except Keyes’s brigade, which was left back at Centreville. My orders were for my division to move forward on Sunday morning to Stone Bridge, and threaten that bridge. We left our camp at half-past two o’clock in the morning, and arrived there a little past six o’clock. The fire was opened immediately after getting the division posted, say at a quarter past six o’clock. Our first fire was the signal for Richardson to open fire at Blackburn’s Ford at the same time. Under the instruction to threaten Stone Bridge, it was contemplated that Hunter and Heintzelman, after passing over by Sedley’s Church, would drive the enemy away from the front of the bridge, and enable us to repair the Stone Bridge, which General McDowell assumed to be ruined, and would be destroyed. We had a bridge framed and prepared for that purpose.
Now, at that time, when that should have been done, my division was to pass over the bridge and take part in the action in front of the bridge. About 11 o’clock, seeing that Hunter’s column was arrested on the opposite side of Bull Run, and that they were requiring assistance, I ordered over Sherman’s brigade, containing the 69th and 79th New York, a Wisconsin, and another regiment, with orders to come into line on the right of the troops that we saw attacked, which we supposed, from the appearance of them, to be Hunter’s division. They did so, and Sherman’s brigade made a very gallant attack there, and relieved Burnside’s brigade from the embarrassment they were in. General Burnside, in his official report, acknowledged that he was taken out of a very tight place.
At that time we supposed the battle to have been won. I had had no opportunity of seeing what had been done on the other side until the moment that I came into line with Keyes’s brigade on the left of Sherman’s brigade, and at that moment I saw Captain Fry, of General McDowell’s staff, standing by the fence, crying out “Victory! victory! We have done it! we have done it!” He supposed, and I supposed, and General McDowell at that time supposed, that the victory was substantially won. That was about half- past 12 o’clock. To show that he had some reason to believe that, we passed from that point with my division clear down to the Canady House on the Warrenton turnpike, driving the enemy without any show of resistance. There was hardly a gun fired. There appeared to be a general flight before us.
It was not until we got to that house that we met the enemy in any force at all. They had occupied a plateau of ground immediately above it with their batteries. Ricketts had his fight further over on the other side, while we attacked them by way of the road. At that point my brigade, after carrying the house twice, were repulsed and fell back under the hill. And at that moment, through General Keyes’s aid, who was with me, I sent verbal information to General McDowell that we were going to try to turn the batteries on the plateau by a movement below the Stone Bridge. That movement was subsequently made. We continued under the hill, advancing with the Connecticut brigade, with General Keyes’s brigade, until we reached a point considerably below the position of the enemy’s batteries on the plateau. And as Keyes faced his brigade to the right, to advance up the hill to attack the batteries, we had the first intimation of the retreat of the army by seeing them pouring over towards Sedley’s Church.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. At what time was that?
Answer. That was, perhaps, nearly three o’clock. Keyes’s brigade then faced to the left and took the same route back under the hill by which they had made the advance, recrossed Bull Run at the original point of crossing, went on up the Warrenton turnpike, at or near the hospital, and on the Centreville side of Bull Run, and continued their retreat towards Centreville. I did not see General McDowell on the field, and I did not receive any orders from him during that day.
Question. Have you anything further to state?
Answer. Nothing. I suppose you ask opinions about the panic. It has been very much discussed before military circles.
Question. We have heard various speculations as to the reason why the battle was not commenced earlier on Sunday; will you state the reason why the battle was delayed to so late an hour on that day?
Answer. The impossibility of moving an army of 22,000 men, with their ammunition, ambulances, &c., over a single turnpike.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Did not the most of the column wait in the road until Keyes’s brigade, which was back at Centreville, came up and joined you?
Answer. No, sir. The reason why the battle was delayed was this: The advancing so large an army as I have stated over one common road; and for the further reason that the country between Cub Run and Bull Run was supposed to be occupied by the enemy, and it became indispensable for the leading division, being without cavalry, and with no knowledge of the country, to move slowly, in order to protect themselves against any surprise on the part of the enemy, and force a position we had not the least conception of.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. Was yours the leading division?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Were the rest of the divisions delayed by your movement?
Answer. They were not more than was absolutely necessary under the circumstances.
Question. What time did your movement commence?
Answer. At half-past two o’clock, as will appear by the official reports of Generals Schenck, Sherman, and Keyes.
Question. You were to advance how far?
Answer. To the Stone Bridge, about two and a half miles.
Question. And the other divisions turned off from the road on which you advanced before they reached Stone Bridge?
Answer. Yes, sir; some two miles from the bridge.
Question. At what time did the rear of your division reach Stone Bridge?
Answer. Keyes’s brigade, being delayed to guard the road going down to Manassas, did not reach Stone Bridge until about 11 o’clock. But that brigade was acting under the orders of General McDowell.
Question. At what time did the portion of the division under your command reach Stone Bridge?
Answer. It reached there by six o’clock, perhaps a quarter before six. We opened fire, as General Beauregard states, at six o’clock. Our time said half-past six, but I presume their time was nearer right than ours. I was there more than half an hour, posting my division, before we opened fire.
Question. Then do I understand you to say that none of the other divisions were held back by any portion of your division?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. The last part of your division had reached the point where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions were to turn off in time so as not to hold them back at all?
Answer. The two leading brigades of my division, Schenck’s and Sherman’s, arrived at the Stone Bridge in the neighborhood of and before six o’clock. Keyes’s brigade, having been detained by General McDowell’s order, arrived about eleven o’clock. Keyes’s brigade, therefore, is the only brigade that could have interfered with the movement of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions. That brigade of Keyes’s had no artillery. And so soon as General Schenck got his brigade on the line of the road, I saw the difficulty that there might be in consequence of Keyes’s brigade being left back at Centreville, having two miles of road to pass over, that they might interfere with Hunter’s column I then sent an aid back to tell General Keyes that as he had no artillery he should file immediately off the Warrenton turnpike into the fields, and immediately clear the turnpike for the use of the other columns. And I deemed it of so much importance, that after sending my aid, I rode back myself and saw the leading regiment of his brigade file into the fields, and gave him a positive order to put his brigade into the fields entirely out of the way of the other divisions. General Keyes reported to me that he did so, and I have no doubt of the fact, for I saw the leading regiment file off.
Question. Did any of the other divisions, or any portions of the other divisions, pass through a part of your division in order to get forward of them?
Answer. When Keyes’s brigade reached the road they occupied it, and Keyes’s brigade passed along parallel to the road and entirely out of their way. He was enabled to do that because he had no artillery. The others having artillery, there was no other place for them to pass, except up the road and over the bridge at Cub Run.
Question. At what time did the rear of your division—I do not mean to include Keyes’s brigade, but the rear of that which was with you that morning—pass the point where Hunter and Heintzelman turned off to the right?
Answer. We passed there before four o’clock.
Question. Or in two hours after you started?
Answer. Yes, air.
Question. Then do I understand you to say that the road was clear, so far as your division was concerned, up to the turning-off point after four o’clock, with the exception that Keyes’s portion of your division was then on that road?
Answer. Alongside the road, but off it.
Question. Why did you move first, as you were to move the shortest distance over the road?
Answer. That was the order of march by General McDowell. I did not see General McDowell or hear from him after the fight began, until we got back to Centreville.
By Mr. Odell :
Question. Did the fact of Keyes’s brigade not joining yours impede the progress of the other columns?
Answer. I do not think it did in the least.
Question. You did not receive an order from General McDowell to hasten your march?
Answer. No, sir ; I received no orders from General McDowell after I left him on Saturday night It was my suggestion to put Keyes’s brigade in the field. After seeing the head of his first regiment file into the fields, I did not wait there, but immediately pushed forward to post the other brigades at the Stone Bridge.
Question. Was there any portion of the march, with reference to Centreville Cross Roads or anything, retarded, so far as you know by your column?
Answer. No, sir; not that I know of.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. Was it understood that Keyes, with his brigade, should march up and join your division in advance of the movement forward of all the other troops?
Answer. I presume so. That was the understanding—to keep the division together.
Question. I understand you to say that it was expected that Keyes should move up in advance of any other portion of the army, and join your division?
Answer. Certainly; for General McDowell said, “The first division, (Tyler’s,) with the exception of Richardson’s brigade, will move first.”
Question. That was not done, was it?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Why did he not move forward so as to keep out of the way of the remainder of the army?
Answer. He states that he did not interfere with them.
Question. You say he turned off into the field. Why could he not, with the road clear before him, if he was in advance, move forward so as to keep clear of the others?
Answer. He might, if the movements were made with perfect regularity.
Question. He had no artillery, and was first on the road. Why did he not pass over the road so as to offer no obstruction?
Answer. Because, by passing into the field he would have given the rear columns the advantage of two miles and a half of clear track, which there was a possibility might be interfered with, but which was not interfered with.
Question. Were Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns in advance of the position where Keyes turned off the main road?
Answer. .No, sir; they moved from behind Centreville on the morning of the 21st.
Question. If he was first on the road, and they were behind him, and he had nothing but infantry, why could he not have moved forward with sufficient celerity to leave the road open to the rest as fast as they advanced?
Answer. He could if the column in advance of him had moved with perfect regularity.
Question. What column was in advance?
Answer. Sherman’s brigade and Schenck’s brigade.
Question. Then it was your division which obstructed his movement forward :
Answer. We did not obstruct him at all. When I ordered Keyes into the field he had not reached the rear of my division. But seeing the possibility of an interference, I ordered him into the field.
Question. If he had marched up and joined your division, as your division then was, would the rear of his brigade have extended back to the junction of the road where the others turned off?
Answer. At the time he joined us?
Question. Yes, sir.
Answer. I think it would at that moment; but still we were all advancing.
Question. Then did you make the movement into the field with Keyes’s brigade in order to prevent that difficulty?
Answer. It was to prevent a circumstance that might occur. It was to prevent difficulty, when I knew there were two brigades in advance of him, and to carry out the instruction to march through the field. It was not that any difficulty had occurred, but to take every precaution against any such occurrence. I had not seen the head of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns, and I did not know where they were. But foreseeing the difficulty of moving 20,000 men over* one turnpike, after getting the artillery and wagons and ammunition into line, I saw that there must be difficulty, and to obviate that as far as possible I rode back and ordered Keyes, who was without artillery, to file out into the field. At that time I did not know where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns were, and I did not know that they had moved a foot.
Question. Did you see the rear of General Keyes’s column?
Answer. I did not. I only saw the leading regiment filed into the field.
Question. You do not know whether Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns was directly in the rear of Keyes’s brigade or not?
Answer. No, sir; but I wanted to provide against a contingency.
Question. At that moment you did not know the condition of things in the rear of Keyes’s command?
Answer. I did not. I had no idea where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns were. I supposed they were on the road, however, but I did not know where; but I wanted to do all in my power to remedy any possible difficulty that might occur.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question. The first attack on Thursday, I understood you to say, was made by a single brigade?
Answer. It was made by four companies of a brigade. There were never more than 300 men, except artillery, engaged with the enemy at any time.
Question. Supported by a brigade?
Answer. Yes, sir; by Richardson’s brigade.
Question. Should that attack on Thursday have been made at all, unless it was followed up and made successful?
Answer. It was not an attack. It was merely a reconnoissance to ascertain what force they had there on Bull Run. It was not the intention to make an attack. And the very moment the force of the enemy was discovered, which it was important to know, ‘that moment the troops were withdrawn, and merely a cannonade kept up in order to see what effect it would have upon the men in the bottom of Bull Run. The whole affair was over before six o’clock. It was one of those advance engagements that spring np sometimes without any expectation of anything very important coming froin it.
Question. It was intended as a mere reconnoissance?
Answer. Yes, sir. After we had ascertained the force of the enemy there, I ordered Richardson to withdraw his brigade. He was very anxious to make an attack at the time, and was very confident that he could repulse them and force them out of the woods. I told him our object was not to bring on an engagement. But there was one thing very significant in that affair. Richardson’s brigade moved along the whole front of that wood, and skirted it along without being attacked, though Beauregard says he had seventeen regiments in the woods there. The reason was that Richardson was supported by the artillery on the hill, and the enemy would have suffered very severely if he had made any attack.
Question. Was it your understanding that Patterson was to hold Johnston in the valley of Winchester?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. You did not expect Johnston down there?
Answer. No, sir.
Question. Had Patterson held Johnston, what, in your judgment, would have been the result of that battle?
Answer. We should have whipped Beauregard beyond a question.
Question. Then you deem that the real cause of that defeat was the failure of Patterson to hold Johnston back?
Answer. Undoubtedly. From Blackburn’s Ford we could have a fair view of Manassas, and could see what they had there; and I have never had the least doubt that if Patterson had kept Johnston’s army out of the way we would have whipped Manassas itself.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. You think if you had driven Beauregard into and upon Manassas, you could have driven him out of it?
Answer. Yes, sir; if Johnston had been kept out of the way. There has been a great deal said about their fortifications there. It was the understanding that, from Flint Hill to Gormantown, we should find a succession of very severe abattis and batteries, which would render it a very difficult passage for our troops. We first fell in with, on advancing from Flint Hill, an abattis, which was so miserably constructed that the axe-men of one of our Maine regiments cut it out in the course of fifteen minutes, so that our brigade passed right on. We found a second one of the same character; and then we found an abandoned battery, which two rifled guns could have knocked to pieces in fifteen minutes. At Centreville all the fortifications were of exactly the same character. They were the meanest, most miserable works ever got up by military men. And I have no reason to believe that, even back as far as Manassas, they were much better constructed than they were on this side the run.
Question. Then you attribute the advantages of the enemy in that fight, and the advantages which they probably would have had at Manassas, so far as they would have had any, to the natural location of the country, rather than to any earthworks or artificial works that had been erected?
Answer. Yes, sir; at Manassas particularly. There they had an elevation in their favor, and we would have been obliged to attack them there to some disadvantage.
Question. I suppose you knew, when you moved forward to make the attack, you were moving forward with undisciplined troops; but you also knew you were to attack undisciplined troops?
Answer. We supposed our men were equal to theirs, and we found them to be so.
Question. You did not expect perfection in our movements any more than you did in theirs?
Answer. There was nothing in their troops that I saw that induced me to believe that their discipline and instruction was in any way superior to ours.
Question. Do you know the particulars of the loss of Griffin’s and Ricketts’s batteries that day?
Answer. They were on the opposite side of the hill from me, and I did not see them. But I think the loss of those two batteries created the panic.
Question. Do you think it very probable the issue of that battle would have been different if those batteries had not been lost?
Answer. I think if we could have had two good batteries there we could have done a great deal better than we did. I think the loss of those two batteries had a great effect upon us.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Did you receive from General McDowell, through his aid, Mr. Kingsbury, orders to make a more rapid advance?
Answer. No, sir; I did not.
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Tags: JCCW, Resources, Sherman's Battery
Categories : Joint Committee Testimony, Resources, The Battle
(All times are approximate and are based on those given in the after action reports by unit commanders, in testimony before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, or in postwar reminiscences.)
*From Ballard, T. First Bull Run Staff Ride Guide
27 May 1861
Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell is assigned command of the Department of Northeastern Virginia and the military forces camped in and around Washington.
9 July 1861
McDowell’s military force, called the Army of Northeastern Virginia, is scheduled to march to Manassas Junction on this day, but a lack of sufficient supplies delays the movement.
16 July 1861
McDowell’s army begins its march toward Manassas Junction. By evening Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler’s division has reached Vienna, Col. David Hunter’s and Col. Dixon S. Miles’ divisions have arrived at Annandale, and Col. Samuel P. Heintzelman’s division is at Pohick Creek.
17 July 1861
Commanding the Confederate Army of the Potomac at Manassas Junction, Brig. Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard informs the Confederate War Department of McDowell’s advance and asks for reinforcements.
Confederate authorities order the independent brigade of Brig. Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes at Fredericksburg to reinforce Beauregard.
In Richmond Col. Wade Hampton’s independent Hampton Legion is also ordered to Manassas Junction.
- At Leesburg the 8th Virginia Infantry of Col. Philip St. George Cocke’s brigade is ordered to Manassas Junction.
- The head of McDowell’s army, Tyler’s division, reaches Fairfax Courthouse.
18 July 1861
- At Winchester General Joseph E. Johnston receives a telegram from the Confederate War Department informing him of McDowell’s advance and directing him to go to Beauregard’s assistance “if practicable.”
- Tyler’s division arrives at Centreville. Tyler moves a portion of Col. Israel B. Richardson’s brigade south of Centreville and instigates a lively skirmish in what becomes known as the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford.
- Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah departs Winchester for Manassas Junction.
- Hunter’s and Miles’ divisions arrive near Fairfax Courthouse, and Heintzelman’s division near Sangster’s Station (near what is now Clifton).
- Unaware of Tyler’s skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford, McDowell personally reconnoiters the area around Sangster’s Station, searching for a location to turn the Confederate right flank.
- In the evening Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson’s brigade, leading Johnston’s army, camps near Paris, Virginia, seventeen miles from Winchester, while the remainder of the army halts along the Shenandoah River.
- Although the skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford provided McDowell with intelligence about Confederate positions and strength, he fears the skirmish has caused the Confederates to reinforce their right flank. McDowell orders his engineers to reconnoiter north of the Stone Bridge, on the Confederate left.
19 July 1861
- After arriving at Piedmont Station, Jackson’s brigade departs for Manassas Junction.
- Col. Francis S. Bartow’s brigade departs Piedmont Station for Manassas Junction.
- Johnston directs his cavalry and artillery to continue to Manassas Junction by road.
20 July 1861
- Johnston boards a train for Manassas Junction, along with Brig. Gen. Barnard E. Bee and portions of Bee’s brigade.
- Brig. Gen. E. Kirby Smith remains at Piedmont Station to expedite the transportation of the remainder of Johnston’s army.
- Johnston and Bee arrive at Manassas Junction. After Johnston suggests an attack against McDowell’s army, Beauregard proposes to attack the Union left flank at Centreville. Johnston requests that Beauregard put the plan in writing.
- Hunter’s, Heintzelman’s, and Miles’ divisions arrive at Centreville. Brig. Gen. Theodore Runyon’s division guards the railroad from Alexandria.
- McDowell’s engineers discover the undefended Sudley Ford and Poplar Ford, north of the Stone Bridge. McDowell plans an attack for the following day. Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions will march around the Confederate left, crossing at Sudley and Poplar fords, while other troops create diversions at the Stone Bridge and Blackburn’s Ford.
21 July 1861
- McDowell’s army begins its march against Beauregard. Tyler’s division (with the exception of Richardson’s brigade), followed by Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, march west on the Warrenton Turnpike. Richardson’s brigade, along with Col. Thomas A. Davies’ brigade of Miles’ division, moves toward Blackburn’s Ford. Col. Louis Blenker’s brigade of Miles’ division remains at Centreville in reserve.
- Beauregard submits his plan to attack the Union left flank at Centreville to Johnston, who approves it.
- Tyler’s division clears the Cub Run Bridge and Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions follow. After crossing Cub Run, Hunter and Heintzelman turn north from the turnpike toward Sudley and Poplar fords.
- Tyler arrives in front of Stone Bridge and opens fire with his 30- pounder rifle on Col. Nathan G. Evans’ brigade.
- Concerned about the artillery fire near the Stone Bridge, Johnston orders Bee, Bartow, and Jackson to move closer to the Confederate left to be able to provide support if needed. Beauregard also sends the newly arrived Hampton Legion to the left.
- Johnston and Beauregard place themselves on a hill to the rear of Brig. Gen. Milledge L. Bonham’s brigade in anticipation of Beauregard’s flank attack.
- Signal officer Capt. E. Porter Alexander discovers the Union column marching toward Sudley Ford to outflank the Confederate left and reports the movement to Evans and Johnston.
- Evans moves the bulk of his command from the Stone Bridge to Matthews’ Hill to block the Union flank march.
Although Johnston is apprehensive that the Union troops reported north of the Stone Bridge may be those of Patterson’s army arriving from the Shenandoah Valley, he continues with the plan to attack Centreville.
- Hunter’s division arrives at Sudley Ford. After a short delay the column crosses Bull Run and continues south. Instead of crossing at Poplar Ford, Heintzelman’s division follows Hunter’s division.
- The head of Hunter’s column, Col. Ambrose E. Burnside’s brigade, engages Evans’ command on Matthews’ Hill.
- As the firing increases on the Confederate left, Johnston and Beauregard ride toward Henry Hill.
- Col. Andrew Porter’s brigade of Hunter’s division arrives on Matthews’ Hill, moving onto nearby Dogan Ridge.
- Capt. Charles Griffin’s and Capt. James D. Ricketts’ batteries arrive on Dogan Ridge.
- The brigades of Bee and Bartow (with Bee in command of both units) arrive on Henry Hill and shortly thereafter both brigades move to Matthews’ Hill to support Evans.
- Col. William T. Sherman’s and Col. Erasmus Keyes’ brigades of Tyler’s division cross Bull Run, just north of the Stone Bridge. Sherman continues toward Matthews’ Hill, Keyes, accompanied by Tyler, moves to Young’s Branch, east of the Stone house.
- Col. William B. Franklin’s and Col. Orlando B. Willcox’s brigades of Heintzelman’s division arrive on Matthews’ Hill. Col. Oliver O. Howard’s brigade is close behind.
- Outflanked, Evans, Bee, and Bartow are forced to withdraw from Matthews’ Hill and fall back to Henry Hill.
- The Hampton Legion arrives near the Robinson house on Henry Hill.
- Hearing the increased firing coming from the left flank, Johnston scraps Beauregard’s attack plan and rides toward Henry Hill. Beauregard follows.
- Jackson’s brigade arrives on Henry Hill.
- Johnston and Beauregard arrive on Henry Hill.
- Jackson is slightly wounded.
- Keyes is ordered to attack Henry Hill near the Robinson house. He sends two of his four regiments forward, but they are driven back. Keyes’ entire brigade withdraws to the vicinity of the Stone Bridge.
- Griffin’s and Ricketts’ batteries move from Dogan Ridge to Henry Hill. Griffin unlimbers north of the Henry house and Ricketts south of the house.
- Griffin moves two guns of his battery to the right of Ricketts, where the 33d Virginia Infantry captures the guns. The remainder of Griffin’s battery withdraws from Henry Hill.
- The 14th Brooklyn recaptures Griffin’s two guns.
- The 4th and 27th Virginia Infantries, with assistance from the 49th Virginia Infantry, 6th North Carolina Infantry, and two companies of the 2d Mississippi Infantry, capture Ricketts’ battery and Griffin’s two guns.
- The 1st Michigan Infantry attempts and fails to recapture Ricketts’ guns.
- The 11th Massachusetts Infantry recaptures Ricketts’ battery, and the 4th and 27th Virginia Infantries fall back to their former positions.
- The 5th Virginia Infantry, Hampton Legion, 4th Alabama Infantry, and 7th Georgia Infantry recapture Ricketts’ guns.
- Bee is mortally wounded and Bartow is killed. Ricketts is wounded and captured. The 11th Massachusetts Infantry falls back to the Manassas-Sudley Road.
- Sherman’s brigade begins an attack against Henry Hill, and Howard’s brigade moves to Chinn Ridge.
- The 13th New York Infantry skirmishes with the Hampton Legion around the Henry house.
- The 2d Wisconsin Infantry unsuccessfully assaults Henry Hill.
- The 79th New York Infantry unsuccessfully assaults Henry Hill. The regiment commander, Col. James Cameron, brother of the Secretary of War, is killed.
- Sherman’s last regiment, the 69th New York Infantry, along with the 38th New York Infantry of Willcox’s brigade, assault Henry Hill and recapture Ricketts’ and Griffin’s guns. Col. Wade Hampton is severely wounded.
- The 18th Virginia Infantry of Cocke’s brigade, along with remnants of several other Confederate units on Henry Hill, recaptures the Union guns. Sherman’s and other Union units near Henry Hill withdraw to the Warrenton Turnpike.
- Two regiments of Howard’s brigade arrive on Chinn Ridge. Two other regiments remain in reserve near the Warrenton Turnpike.
- Col. Arnold Elzey’s and Col. Jubal A. Early’s brigades arrive on Chinn Ridge. General Smith briefly takes command of Elzey’s brigade but is wounded and Elzey resumes command.
- Howard brings forward his other two regiments to Chinn Ridge.
- With the assistance of 150 troopers of Col. J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry, the brigades of Elzey and Early outflank Howard’s brigade and drive it back to the Warrenton Turnpike.
- Retreat of the Union Army begins.
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Report of Col. Jubal A. Early, Twenty-fourth Virginia Infantry, of Action at Blackburn’s Ford
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 463-465
HDQRS. SIXTH BRIGADE, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
July 31, 1861
COLONEL: I submit the following report of the operations of my brigade on the 18th instant in the engagement at Blackburn’s Ford on Ball Run, in which our troops were commanded by Brigadier-General Longstreet:
In the morning of that day I marched with my brigade, composed of the Seventh Virginia Volunteers, Colonel Kemper’s regiment, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Williams; the Seventh Louisiana Volunteers, commanded by Col. Harry T. Hays; six companies of the Twenty-fourth Virginia Volunteers, my own, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hairston, and three pieces of artillery from the Washington Battalion of New Orleans, under the command of Lieutenant Squires, to Camp Walker, from whence it was moved by direction of General Beauregard into the road leading from Camp Walker to the gate in front of McLean’s farm, where it remained until about 12 o’clock, at which time a large cloud of dust was observed on the high ridge north of Blackburn’s Ford, at which General Longstreet’s brigade was stationed. This cloud of dust proved to be produced by the enemy’s columns moving in that direction, and in a few minutes the cannonading was commenced by the enemy, directed first upon General Bonham’s position at Mitchell’s Ford and subsequently upon the farm-house of McLean and the hospital in his barn, over which was floating the hospital flag.
As soon as the cannonading commenced my brigade was moved by order of the general to the cover of the pines to the left of the road leading from McLean’s house to Blackburn’s Ford, where it was joined by two more pieces of artillery from the Washington Battery, under Captain Eshleman. At this position it remained for the purpose of supporting either General Bonham at Mitchell’s Ford, General Longstreet at Blackburn’s Ford, or General Jones at McLean’s Ford, as occasion might require. After the first cannonading had ceased, and General Beauregard with his staff had passed towards Mitchell’s Ford, a fire of musketry began at Blackburn’s Ford, which became very animated, and was continued for some time, when one of General Longstreet’s aides came to inform me that he had repulsed the enemy’s charge, but desired re-enforcements. I immediately put my whole brigade in motion, including the five pieces of artillery, to which, by his own request, was joined Lieutenant Garnett, of the same battery, with two pieces that had been sent to the rear by General Longstreet before the action commenced.
After my column was put in motion I received an order from General Beauregard to support General Longstreet with two regiments and two pieces of artillery. I therefore proceeded with the Seventh Louisiana Regiment and Seventh Virginia Regiment and two pieces of artillery under charge of Captain Eshleman, to the support of General Longstreet. Upon arriving at Blackburn’s Ford I found the greater part of General Longstreet’s command under cover on the banks of the stream engaged with the enemy, who were under cover on the hill-sides on the opposite banks. Colonel Hays’ regiment, which was in advance, was then placed on the banks of the stream under cover to the right and left of the ford, relieving the Seventeenth Virginia Regiment, under Colonel Corse. This regiment proceeded to its position under quite a brisk fire of musketry.
The Seventh Virginia Regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, as it arrived, was formed to the right of the ford under a heavy fire of musketry from the enemy, evidently directed at the regiment. It was momentarily thrown into confusion by this fire, and discharged many of its own guns over a portion of our own troops in front; fortunately, however, doing them no damage, as I believe. The regiment was soon rallied, and proceeded to the banks of the stream, relieving the First Virginia Regiment. The two pieces of artillery under Captain Eshleman, which followed the Seventh Virginia Regiment, were moved down in the open field on the right of the road, so as to be concealed from view of the enemy’s artillery by the timber on the banks of the stream, where they opened a fire upon the enemy on the opposite side, directed only by the sound of their musketry. As soon as the Seventh Virginia Regiment advanced to the banks of the stream, as above stated, I sent back for the companies of the Twenty-fourth Regiment and the remainder of the pieces of artillery, and they were brought up; the companies of the Twenty-fourth were placed in position in good order to the left of the ford in a space not occupied by Colonel Hays’ regiment, and the remaining guns of the Washington Artillery (five in number) were unlimbered on a line with the first two pieces and to the right of the road. A scattering fire of musketry was kept up for some time, but the enemy finally ceased firing, and evidently retired to the hills, where their artillery guns were placed, having no doubt observed the position of our pieces of artillery, for a fire was soon commenced on them by the enemy’s artillery, which was responded to by ours, and the cannonading was continued for a considerable time with great briskness on both sides, the balls and shells from the enemy’s battery being directed with considerable accuracy upon ours, but the enemy finally ceased firing, and did not renew the attack with musketry. During all this firing, when the balls and shells were passing over the heads of the men on the banks of the stream, they remained at their posts, coolly awaiting the renewal of the attack with musketry.
The affair closed late in the afternoon, and about dusk General Longstreet, by direction of General Beauregard, retired with the two regiments of his brigade that had been engaged in the early part of the action to the pines from which I had gone to re-enforce him, leaving my brigade on the ground for the night.
When I first arrived on the ground I joined General Longstreet, being actively engaged in the thickest of the fire in directing and encouraging the men under his command, and I am satisfied he contributed very largely to the repulse of the enemy by his own personal exertions.
The officers and men belonging to the Washington Battery behaved very handsomely indeed under a well-directed and galling fire of the enemy, displaying great coolness and skill in the management of their pieces. The regiments of my brigade came for the first time under fire, and while one regiment was thrown for a few minutes into confusion, without retiring it rallied under fire on the same ground, and took the position assigned it and retained it. Some parties sent across the stream after the close of the fight reported about forty of the enemy found dead on the ground occupied by their infantry during the fight. We were not able to examine the ground occupied by their battery and the regiments of infantry supporting it, because it was evident that a large force was in the neighborhood, and the whole of next day the men were engaged in throwing up embankments to strengthen our position, which was on ground lower than that occupied by the enemy. About one hundred muskets were picked up on the hill-sides, with a large number of hats and other articles. From all indications the enemy’s loss must have been much larger than our own. The ranks of the Seventh and Twenty-fourth Virginia Regiments were much thinned by sickness, and the whole number of my brigade did not exceed fifteen hundred men. I have already furnished Brigadier-General Longstreet with a list of the killed and wounded. Capt. Fleming Gardner, my aide and acting assistant adjutant-general, and Capt. George E. Dennis, assistant commissary to the Twenty-fourth Virginia Regiment, who acted as aide during the engagement, discharged their duties to my entire satisfaction.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. A. EARLY,
Colonel, Comdg. Sixth Brigade, First Corps, Army of Potomac
Col. THOMAS JORDAN,
A. A. Gen., First Corps, Army of Potomac
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Tags: After Action Reports, Blackburn's Ford, Resources
Categories : Official Reports, Resources
Report of Col. R. E. Rodes, Fifth Alabama Infantry, of Skirmish at Fairfax Court-House
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 459-461
UNION MILLS STATION, Fairfax County, Va., July 24, 1861
CAPTAIN: In obedience to General Ewell’s instructions, I have the honor to present herein a statement in relation to the skirmish which occurred between a portion of my command and the enemy on the morning of the retreat of the advance guard of our Army to Bull Run and in relation to the retreat of this regiment.
On the night before the retreat referred to I sent Captain Shelley’s company (E) armed with rifled muskets, to sustain my advance guard.
This company had remained at the outpost on Braddock’s old road, some three and one-half miles from the regiment, until 7 a.m. on the morning of the 17th instant, when they returned towards camp to get provisions, having been sent off in such a hurry as to prevent their making preparations for breakfast, and had gotten within three-fourths of a mile of camp before the approach of the enemy was announced to them by one of my couriers coming in with a prisoner, who had been taken by a sentinel (Private Wethered, of Company H). The outpost and guard fell back fighting, not very severely, but killing several of the enemy. One of the guard (Kennedy, of Company H) killed two, having taken two deliberate musket-shots from the same spot at four of the Federalists, all of whom fired at him.
Shelley’s company, having advanced again to sustain the guard, had a sharp skirmish with them. This skirmish took place four hundred yards in advance of our breastworks, which are three-quarters of a mile east of our encampment, and which were by this time occupied by the main body of my command. Our skirmishers, being completely outflanked, retired in good order to their station in the barricades. The enemy did not follow them then, nor had they followed them twenty minutes after, when an officer of the regiment, Captain Fowler, returned to the breastworks.
They had outflanked my position to the right during the skirmish, for they could be seen crossing the clearing along the edge of which we were posted in large numbers. Up to and after the close of the skirmish I had received no definite orders to retreat, but had learned that General Bonham’s command was retreating, and that the troops at Fairfax Station were about to retreat. I had sent a courier to General Ewell for instructions, and an officer, Capt. J. D. Webb, to General Bonham, with orders to remain with him until his troops began to fall back. Captain Webb found the general’s command had already evacuated their positions at the Court-House, and were on the Centreville road, and, upon telling General Bonham his instructions from me, received from him the reply, “Tell Colonel Rodes to commence his retreat immediately, and inform General Ewell of it.” General Ewell had already advised me, but after Captain Webb left me, of General Bonham’s movements.
As soon after the message from General Bonham as I could assemble the companies on the center of our line of defenses our retreat began. We retreated without molestation and in good order to McLean’s Ford, where I reported to General Jones, marching the regiment, except one company, across Bull Run. Just before sunset I was ordered by General Beauregard, through Colonel Chisolm, to move down to Union Mills. In obedience to this order, the regiment at once recrossed the run, and joined the main body of General Ewell’s command at the mills.
The result of the skirmish may be summed up thus: On our side two men wounded slightly–one in the leg, the other in the ear; on the side of the enemy, one prisoner and at least twenty killed and wounded. This estimate I consider safe. Two prisoners taken in the battle of the 21st, who state that they were in the column which advanced along Braddock’s road, stated the loss as much heavier–one, fifty killed and wounded; the other, seventy. These reports come to me from men of this regiment who conversed with said prisoners. In our retreat we lost eight or ten tents and two barrels of crackers; but this, in the case of the tents, was because the tents were thrown out of one wagon in order to give room for the many sick men we had.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. RODES,
Colonel, Commanding Fifth Regiment Alabama Volunteers
Capt. FITZHUGH LEE,
Act. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Brigade, Army of the Potomac
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Tags: After Action Reports, Resources
Categories : Official Reports, Resources
Report of Capt. Del. Kemper, Alexandria/Light Artillery, of Retreat from Fairfax Court-House and Skirmish at Mitchell’s Ford
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 458-459
ARTILLERY QUARTERS ADVANCED FORCES:
FIRST BRIG., FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Vienna, July 25, 1861
GENERAL: On the morning of Wednesday, the 17th instant, while in camp at Fairfax Court-House, about 7 a.m. I received information from you of the approach of the enemy, and a reiteration of orders previously given in regard to the disposition of my guns. Two were at once placed in battery in front of Colonel Williams’ regiment, on the Alexandria turnpike, and two in front of Colonel Kershaw’s position, on the Falls Church road. At 8 o’clock the enemy came in sight on the Flint Hill road, and orders were received to fall back. In conjunction with Colonel Kershaw’s regiment and Captain Wickham’s troop I enjoyed the privilege of covering this retreat, the rear guard being under Colonel Kershaw’s command, to whose report [No. 67] I beg to refer for any additional details. The enemy seemed not disposed to press us closely, and we reached Centreville without incident worthy of note about 12 m., and rested until midnight, when the march was resumed to Bull Run.
We arrived at Mitchell’s Ford a little before daybreak on the morning of the 18th. Two of my guns were posted on the hill in front of the trenches at Mitchell’s Ford; the others in the trenches. At 12 m. (Thursday, 18th) the enemy opened fire from one or more rifled guns in front of our position at a distance of one and one-half miles. This firing was completely at random until 12.30 o’clock, when they obtained the range of my position and fired many rounds of case and solid shot at us, but without injury to us, while a light battery moved up toward us. I then opened fire upon the latter, firing six solid shot, and had the satisfaction of driving back the battery and its supports. I have since understood that this was Sherman’s battery, and that the amount of damage done them was considerable. We at once retired to the trenches in obedience to your orders.
Late in the evening, about 4 o’clock, I was ordered to accompany, with one gun, Colonel Kershaw’s regiment to the hill which we had before occupied, in front of Mitchell’s Ford, for the purpose of driving a body of infantry and cavalry from the cover of the hills beyond. Two solid shot and three spherical case having accomplished this object to Colonel Kershaw’s satisfaction, we returned to our respective positions in and behind the trenches. We were inactive listeners to the heavy firing on our right, and about dusk were ordered to move with Colonel Kershaw’s regiment to the left of the intrenchments.
I am glad to be able to add that no member of my command suffered any injury during these operations.
Respectfully, general, your obedient servant
Captain, Comdg. Battery of Light Artillery from Alexandria
Commanding. First Brigade, &c.
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Tags: After Action Reports, Blackburn's Ford, C. S. Artillery, Resources, Sherman's Battery
Categories : Official Reports, Resources