Tomorrow early AM I’m off for Antietam National Battlefield with my friend Mike. I have some work to do with NPS historian Ted Alexander at his office, then will spend some time at one of the farmhouses on the battlefield. We should have a little time to bum around before heading for home, but this trip is feels more like work than fun. Fun work, nonetheless, and it pretty much beats anything I do in my “real job”. This is for a future installment of In Harm’s Way for Civil War Times, which is going very well thanks for asking. I admit to preferring the subjects of the articles which allow me to visit the site and look through the files myself. The subject of the article which will appear in the next issue that hits the stands – I submitted it last week and reviewed the edited pdf file yesterday – is on a Western Theater battlefield, and I had to write it remotely, with the help of others (a friend on the NPS staff sent me copies of the file, and another friend took photos – they did right by me). I feel more connected to the house if I can crawl around it, measure it, and take photos – lots of photos – myself. But I’m not complaining; this is a good gig.
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Tags: Antietam, Articles, Civil War Magazines, Collateral Damage, In Harm's Way, NPS, Writing About The Civil War
Categories : Articles, Civil War Magazines, Field Trips, Writing About The Civil War
Due to the transient nature of online newspaper urls, I’m going to depart from my custom of simply linking to OPW (other people’s work) and reproduce in its entirety this article from Staunton’s News Leader. Kenton Harper was colonel of the 5th VA Infantry in Jackson’s Brigade (which means he was not “one of Bee’s officers”).
Kenton Harper Left Large Footprint in Staunton
By Charles Culbertson • email@example.com • March 6, 2010
The moment was not going well for Confederate forces in the first major land battle of the Civil War. A coordinated Union attack at 11:30 a.m., July 21, 1861, had driven forces under Gen. Barnard Bee to the Henry House Hill near Manassas and was on the verge of breaking the line.
Suddenly, one of Bee’s officers — 60-year-old Col. Kenton Harper of Staunton — approached him and pointed out the presence of five regiments of Virginia troops under Col. Thomas J. Jackson that had just arrived on the scene.
Bee quickly made his way to Jackson and said, “The enemy are driving us,” to which Jackson reportedly replied, “Then, sir, we will give them the bayonet.”
At that point Bee is said to have shouted to his men, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!”
Some have claimed that Bee’s statement was perjorative — that Jackson was “standing there like a damned stone wall.” Whatever he said or how he meant it — we will never know, for Bee was mortally wounded moments later — his command rallied with Jackson’s men, who routed Union forces and helped win the First Battle of Manassas for the South.
Jackson, of course, received the immortal sobriquet, “Stonewall.”
It is unlikely that Bee was being critical of Jackson. Harper, a renowned Staunton publisher, politician, soldier and farmer, had little reason to either like Jackson or to portray him in a favorable light. Just before his death at age 66 in 1867, Harper told the editor of the Staunton Spectator that Bee’s words had been:
“Rally here! Look how these Virginians stand like a stone wall!”
Harper’s experience with the quirky professor from Virginia Military Institute began in April 1861. A major general in the Virginia state militia, Harper was given command of the 5th Virginia Infantry Regiment and marched out of Staunton with 2,400 men to seize the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry.
The assault was a success, with Harper’s men salvaging thousands of muskets, as well as milling machines, lathes and other supplies. Later that month, Harper was replaced in favor of Jackson, a move that irritated Harper and angered many of the officers serving under him.
He was further alienated from Jackson when, in September 1861, Jackson denied him leave to be by his dying wife’s side.
But Harper was bigger than his grievances, having forged a long and fruitful career through diligence, honor and competency. He continued to serve the Confederate cause despite fragile health that was exacerbated by the rigors of war.
Born in Chambersburg, Pa., in 1801, Harper grew up in the printing business, learning the trade from his father, who published the Franklin County Repository. In 1823, he moved to Staunton where he purchased the Republican Farmer and changed its name to the Staunton Spectator.
In 1836 Harper began serving as a state legislator and, in 1840, filled a year’s term as Staunton’s mayor. When the U.S. went to war with Mexico in 1846, Harper was appointed a captain in the 1st Virginia Infantry, commanding the Augusta County volunteers in the northern frontier of Mexico.
Although he never saw action, his “soldierly demeanor was so marked” that he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and given a military governorship in Parras, Northern Mexico. He was officially commended for the manner in which he conducted himself in that post.
Mustered out of service in 1848, Harper returned to Staunton where he sold the Spectator to the Waddell family. Soon he was appointed under President Millard Fillmore as U.S. agent to the Chicasaws at Fort Washita in the Indian Territory, a post he administered with distinction. His service there led to an appointment as assistant to the Secretary of the Interior — a post held by another Staunton resident, Alexander H.H. Stuart.
At the end of his term, Harper returned to Staunton where he worked his Augusta County farm, “Glen Allen,” and served as the president of the Bank of the Valley. By 1860 he was a major general in the Virginia state militia, a post that led to his military involvement in the Civil War.
After Jackson refused him permission to visit his dying wife, Harper resigned his commission and returned to Staunton for her funeral. He was again elected into the state legislature and, in 1864, was re-appointed as a colonel. Forming a regiment from reservist companies, he led them in battle at Piedmont and again at Waynesboro.
Two years after the war, Harper contracted pneumonia. Some of his last words were reported as, “I would not live always; I ask not to stay.” He died on Christmas Day, 1867.
Upon his death, the newspaper he had founded wrote, “His memory we should not willingly let die, his example of a virtuous life and peaceful death should long remain to point to each of us the lesson of the fineness he so truly illustrated.”
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Tags: Articles, Biographies, Kenton Harper
Categories : Articles, Civil War On the Web, News, Soldiers, The Battle
A VOLUNTEER AT THE FIRST BULL RUN
BY COMPANION H. SEYMOUR HALL, Brevet Brigadier General U.S.V. May 4, 1892
On Wednesday, April 17, 1861, after attendance at morning prayers in the chapel of Genesee College, Lima, N. Y., Truman L. Bowman and myself, both student boys who expected to graduate at the June commencement, challenged each other to enlist as soldiers in a regiment which Prof. Quinby, of Rochester University, had begun to organize at Rochester, N. Y., twenty miles away. We discontinued attendance on our recitations and imparted the project to our fellow-students, a number of whom were eager to follow our example, thus threatening to demoralize classes and considerably diminish the somewhat slender attendance in the college, so that on Monday, April 22d, the college president, Rev. J. Morrison Reid, D.D., late missionary secretary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, called a public mass-meeting of students and citizens in college chapel to capture and control these prospective soldiers. The chapel was crowded with people, and amid the most intense excitement, Doctor Reid was chosen to preside, and my friend and classmate, Charles H. Hickmott, secretary. After a most fervent and patriotic prayer, President Reid made a speech, advocating the organisation of a company to remain at home, complete our college course, drill for exercise, so as to be ready when needed; which time of need had not, in his opinion, yet come, though President Lincoln had called for 75,000 men.
The next speech followed a similar line of argument, the speaker being one whom I most admired and respected, our professor in French and German, William Wells, Ph.D., now filling the chair of modern language at Union College, Schenectady, N. Y. Others followed in the same strain, but all failed to touch the hearts of the people. Hall and Bowman were then called for, and both briefly and emphatically announced their purpose to become soldiers at once, at which the wildest enthusiasm was manifested. This was embarrassing to Doctor Reid, who looked over the audience for someone to call to his relief; observing Mr. John Mosher, the only banker in the village, the doctor asked him to give his views. Mr. Mosher rose deliberately, the people eagerly listened as he said with marked emphasis, “I have $100 to help fit out a company for immediate service.” There was small solace in this for our president, so again he sought for reinforcements, this time calling on Colonel Alexander McCane, of the War of 1812. The colonel promptly stood up, towered majestically above his fellows, planted his cane on the floor as if obeying the command, “Order arms,” and said with military brevity and vim, “I have another $100 to put with Mr. Mosher’s.” Utterly routed by this combination of finance and military strategy, Dr. Reid sought to rally his forces behind that honest farmer, Squire Calvin E. Vary, who had given several thousand of his hard-earned dollars to endow the college, was then one of its trustees, and had driven in from his farm to witness the proceedings. Says the doctor, “What does Squire Vary think?” Up rose the stalwart squire, showing his tall and massive form, and enunciated as his proposition, “All I have to say is, that I have another $100 to help those boys along, and will put with that just as much more as is necessary to organize the company. I move that this meeting be now adjourned.” Those three gentlemen then came to me and said, “Come down town with us; to-night we will hold a meeting in Concert Hall, and organize a company for immediate service.”
A meeting was held, rousing speeches by men who staid safely at home, encouraged the boys to join the company which it was resolved to organize, and while the meeting was full of enthusiasm and patriotic ardor, it was lacking in information. No one knew how to proceed or what were the pay and allowances of a soldier; none of us had ever seen a muster-roll nor a volume of tactics. The next morning I wrote out a brief pledge of enlistment, took it to a teacher of penmanship, had it beautifully copied at the top of a half-sheet of foolscap paper, pasted other half-sheets to it, and we signed our names to this, the first muster-roll of the “Lima Volunteers.” My roll filled up rapidly, and those under twenty-one years of age were required to bring the written consent of their parents before signing the roll. I find on my memorandum-book used at that time thirty-one names of boys for whom I had written out these certificates of consent for their parents to sign, and remember many others to whom I also furnished them, one-half the company at least being minors. President Reid had sent me a summons to resume attendance on my classes, to which I paid no attention, so he repeated it, coupled with the notice that I would be expelled if I did not comply, to which my reply was more emphatic than courteous; but I was not expelled. My friend General Horace Boughton, lately buried at Arlington, came out from Rochester recruiting for General Quinby’s regiment, into which he was mustered as captain. T. L. Bowman enlisted with him, and I saw Bowman no more till 1866, when he came to St. Louis, Mo., with Stilson Hutchings, as one of the Times editors, when Hutchings and Hodnett established the St. Louis Daily Times. When our ranks were full, the local citizens’ committee proposed that we elect officers, and they said that Colonel James Perkins was an experienced military man, who, in addition to his exhaustive knowledge of military science, would with his sixty years be like a father to us, and as some of us were orphans and strangers in the town, except for our few months’ residence there as students, we gladly ratified their choice.
They then proposed as lieutenant, Philo D. Phillips, who had commanded a company of “Wide-Awakes,” armed with torches, in the presidential campaign of 1860—so of course he knew all about war. As none of us knew anything about it, we also confirmed this selection, and were proud of our acquisition. Now our college, through its president and others, showed its deep interest in our welfare; not deep enough, however, to confer the degrees upon those of us who would have graduated in June had we not enlisted, as all other colleges in the North did on their students under similar circumstances, but deep enough to recommend as third officer, commissioned by the State as ensign, Thomas D. Bancroft, a student who it was claimed had served in Jim Lane’s thirty-day company that General Lane organized at Washington in March; hence Bancroft could allege experience as well as knowledge. But the boys knew Bancroft and drew the line there. They came to me and said: “You were the first one to enlist and interest others to do so, you have done all the business; the men whom we have elected captain and lieutenant have not taken part with us, nor done anything to entitle them to the places to which we have elected them; you ought to have had first place, all we can do now is to give you the next position, and we propose to make you ensign.” Knowing my entire lack of experience, I was entirely willing to remain in the ranks as I had begun, and so stated to my comrades, but they unanimously elected me. The ladies made a beautiful United States flag and presented it to the company in the Methodist church, which, large as it is, was much too small to hold the audience that gathered to witness the scene and hear the service of religious and patriotic prayer, songs, and speeches. As the ensign was supposed to have something to do with the colors, and for other reasons, it devolved upon me to receive the beautiful emblem from the hands of the ladies and to respond to the presentation speech. We soon learned that our company color could not be carried, but I kept it with the boys in every campaign and adorned our company headquarters with it in every camp, as long as I served with the company.
The ladies also made havelocks out of fine white flannel and gave each of us one to wear to protect our heads from the hot sun, and they supplied each soldier boy with an elegant pocket needle-book of their own handiwork, so liberally furnished with pins, buttons, needles, and thread that if we could have caught the Rebels asleep, we could have sewed them up so tight that they could not have fired a gun. The committee gave each man a blanket, which was trimmed and bound by the same fair hands.
When our .company was filled up to the maximum, Esquire Vary took our foolscap roll to Albany to have our company accepted by the State. Governor Morgan had called some of the members of the military committee of the Senate to advise with him, among them Dean Richmond and Erastus Corning, and when our services were tendered, all were of the opinion that no more men were needed, and that those already accepted by the State of New York could alone put down the Rebellion.
The squire was about to telegraph to us to disband, when he met Captain Joseph J. Chambers, who had recruited a company in Westchester County, and was now at the capital tendering its services to the State. Captain Chambers, whom I afterwards knew well, went before the Governor and the committee, to urge the acceptance of his own and the few other companies whose tender of service had not been accepted. He had been private secretary to Governor Myron H. Clark and was well known to Governor Morgan and his advisers. Having failed to change their decision by argument, and he could make a strong one, and was a ready speaker when aroused, though he stammered very badly at other times, he picked up a heavy chair and backed against the door of the executive chamber, saying, “B-b-b-by G-G-od! you d-d-d-don’t get out of this room t-t-t-till you accept these co-co-co-companies.” Whether for this or for some other reason, our company was accepted, and about the 30th day of April, 1861, Major C. E. Babbitt, a State officer, mustered the company into the service of the State of New York, and on the 7th day of May we were ordered to rendezvous at Elmira. I had procured a copy of Hardee’s Infantry Tactics and studied and practiced drilling, so that when thousands of people came to see us off, we could march quite like soldiers. We rode in wagons and coaches seven miles to Avon Springs, where a crowd so large and enthusiastic awaited us that we could hardly make our way to the cars. At Corning orders were received to stop off and quarter in the State Arsenal there, as there was no room for us in barracks at Elmira. By order of Captain Perkins, I proceeded to Elmira, to arrange to unite our company with some regiment, where I found several already containing five to eight companies each, their full complement of field and staff officers chosen, which gave companies joining later no voice in the selection of the regimental officers. This was not satisfactory to me, and I soon found representatives of other companies who took the same view of it that I did; consequently we formed an organization of our own, called ours the ‘”Union Regiment,” agreeing that no one should be selected for any field or staff position till ten companies were admitted. We made up that number about May 18th, near which time occurred my first meeting with General H. W. Slocum. He was in Elmira at the request of some gentlemen of another organization, expecting to be their colonel, but the election was delayed by officers who had other views. Learning something about him, and that he was a graduate of West Point, had seen service, and afterwards successfully engaged in business, I sought an introduction to him, and, without his knowledge, heartily pressed the suggestion that the officers of our regiment meet to elect a colonel. We did so, elected Slocum colonel without a dissenting voice, and sent a committee to notify him; he came in with them on their return and at once accepted.
The ten companies composing the regiment were organized in different counties of the State, as specified, and commanded at that time by Captains Joseph Chambers, Westchester County; Joseph J. Bartlett, Broome; Peter Jay, Broome; A. D. Adams, Wayne; C. C. Gardner, Dutchess; James Perkins, Lima, Livingston; C. E. Martin, Mt. Morris, Livingston; G. G. Wanzer, Monroe; H. L. Achilles, Orleans; and S. M. Harman, Allegheny. The regimental organization was then completed by our election of Captain Chambers as lieutenant-colonel and Captain Bartlett as major. Our company was ordered to Elmira and mustered into the service of the United States with the regiment for two years from the 21st of May, 1861, and Colonel Slocum at once began regular instruction and drill. This was the 27th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, and we were Company G. We learned our camp duty and the drill quite easy, but were somewhat particular about our rations in those days, and on one occasion when the beef was a little too fresh and lively, the boys of Company E securely boxed their dinner allowance, formed a procession, to the tune of “The Rogues’ March,” to an improvised cemetery in the orchard, and after a moving funeral oration by Judge Albion W. Tourgee, then a private in the company, buried their beef with all the honors of war. General Slocum, who was absent from camp, heard of it on his return. Tourgee says: “Some very strong language was indulged in, and afterwards a very nice fellow—one of those genteel fellows with a gun—came to me. He was very polite to me, and stated that the colonel wanted to see me at his quarters. I didn’t want to be rude, so I went. The colonel was smoking, not very quietly, and was talking to himself quite emphatically. He asked me if I had anything to do with ‘that operation.’ I did not know exactly to what he referred, but finally admitted that I might have been there. Then he asked me if I did not know that my conduct was derogatory to good discipline and in defiance of authority, and that upon me rested the fate of the country. I had never looked upon it in that light, and remarked that I never knew that beef had any particular rank, and that I thought it ought to be confined. He gave me a kind lecture, for which I was very thankful, and afterwards I found him a kind commander.” Our drill, spiced with similar incidents, went on till about the 8th of July, when we started for the front. At Williamsport, Pa., we found a fine supper prepared, and the enthusiasm of the people and the eagerness of the ladies to serve us with every delicacy of the table are yet well remembered. We arrived in Washington on the 10th and were quartered on Franklin Square, where were just barracks enough for our regiment. Guard-mounting, drill, target practice, and dress parade kept us busy by day, while the study of tactics and Army Regulations was the chief occupation of some of us when off duty.
Our regimental quartermaster had been a village hotelkeeper at Lima, whose business experience in other directions was limited. When I called on him for company books and blanks, he said he had tried to get them, but they were not to be had. In looking around the city I had been to the War Department, and again I called on General George D. Ruggles, then a captain in the Adjutant-General’s office, and told him what Lieutenant Hamilton.said. He replied that car-loads of such supplies were on hand, suggesting that if I would send a man from each company, he would send the regiment a full supply. I reported the matter to Colonel Slocum, and we were soon supplied with books and blanks.
We left Franklin Square at 2 p. m., Monday, July 15th, crossed Long Bridge into Virginia, bivouacking at midnight, after what then seemed to us a tremendous march, six and one-half miles east of Fairfax Court House, momentarily expecting to meet the enemy. Under Colonel Andrew Porter, as brigade commander, we pushed on at 7 a. m., July 16th, toward Fairfax Court House, finding our road obstructed by fallen trees, which we had to remove, so that we did not reach the enemy’s works at the Court House till noon, when we found their works deserted, took possession, and remained for the night. On the morning of July 17th we advanced about half a mile beyond the village toward Centerville, where we came upon abundant evidences of the hasty flight of the enemy, blankets, tents, and arms being found plentifully strewn around in the vicinity of our camp. At this place one of our boys, a very young and slender freshman, a good soldier, found and brought to me an ancient and curious saber; the sharply curved blade is finely tempered, the ebony grip is clasped in the middle by a band of silver enlarged on one side into an oval plate bearing an eagle supporting a shield, in his talons arrows and olive branch, all beneath a constellation of thirteen stars, the silver guard terminating in a finely engraved eagle’s head of the same precious metal. I carefully preserve it, and have endeavored in vain to learn its history.
From this place we moved at 3 p. m. to within three miles of Centerville, where I made use of a tent which fell into my hands at Fairfax, upon which was marked, “Major Cabell, C. S. A.” Two hours after midnight the long roll called us out in the rain, but no enemy appeared. We remained in this place until we advanced to the attack. Our division commander, Colonel David Hunter, having his carriage and headquarters under a tree just across the road, where we saw squads of prisoners occasionally brought in. Saturday, July 20th, we received three days’ rations, with orders to cook and take them in our haversacks, and be ready to move at 2 a. m., Sunday, July 21st. Saturday night was a warm, beautiful moonlight night, and as the boys lay grouped around, they speculated whether the enemy would not retreat as he had done from Fairfax Court House, and some expressed doubts of our ever getting sight of him. I said to them that, having some acquaintance with Southern people, my opinion was that our desire to meet them would be fully satisfied.
Our discussion was closed by the first notes of the opening performance of the famous Marine Band of Washington, which accompanied our brigade, and just on the eve of battle their exquisite music was listened to in silence, and when the band finally closed with the familiar and touching strains of “Home, Sweet Home,” the eloquent silence remained unbroken till Sunday morning, July 21st, at half past 1, when we quietly aroused the men from their dreams of home and friends which many of them would never realize. Our division was the flanking column, which was to turn the enemy’s left by way of Sudley Springs and Ford, our brigade being second in line, the order of march being Griffin’s Battery; Battalion of Marines, Major John J. Reynolds; Twenty-Seventh Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, Colonel H. W. Slocum; Fourteenth New York State Militia, Colonel A. M. Wood; Eighth New York State Militia, Colonel George Lyons; Battalion Regular Infantry, Major George Sykes; one company Second Dragoons, two companies First Cavalry, four companies Second Cavalry, Major I. N. Palmer.
The road was obstructed by the troops en route to their position at the stone bridge, so that we did not cover the three miles to Centerville till 5, and it was nearly 7 when our brigade filed to the right at an old shop four miles beyond Centerville, and one-half mile beyond Cub Run Bridge on the Warrenton Turnpike, at which point the flanking movement really began. We followed an old abandoned road through the woods, which meandered somewhat near the general course of Bull Run, about two miles from it, till we came to Thornton’s, where our course changed to the southwest directly to Sudley’s Ford, which we reached about 10, having marched since 2 a. m., twelve and one-half miles only, though it seemed a great achievement at the time. Colonel A. E. Burnside’s brigade had crossed and were resting; we halted for rest and to fill our canteens before crossing Bull Run, and half an hour later, as the enemy was discovered, we crossed the ford while Burnside’s brigade was deploying. Our captain fell out exhausted as to the double quick we passed in rear of Burnside’s line, now hotly engaged, to take our place on his right. The shells of the Rebel artillery fell around us, damaging and demoralizing us slightly, the first casualty that I saw being the killing of two men of Major Sykes’ battalion by one shell. As we moved out across the open fields an incident occurred that I have a vivid recollection of, which was also witnessed by others, and which is so well recounted by Dr. W. H. Coe, now of Auburn, New York, that I will quote it from his letter to me:
“Auburn, N. Y., April 23, 1888
“General H. S. Hall:
“My dear Sir,—You will no doubt remember me as one of the original members of Company G, Twenty-seventh Regiment New York Volunteers, enlisted on Seminary Hill at Lima, April 23, 1861, nine days after the fall of Sumter. I was only a lad then, and was required to get the written consent of my parents allowing me to enlist. I attended a reunion of the Twenty-seventh at Mt. Morris last fall, at which only seven or eight of Company G were present. General Slocum was present, now slow in his motions, stocky in person, and getting white with age. I find on inquiry for this one or that one, that I am oftener answered ‘Dead’ than otherwise. I have been told that you went well up in the service after the Twenty-seventh boys came home, and that you left an arm down South. But I want to refer back to 1861, and our march from Centerville to Bull Run, and as we went on double quick across the fields in rear of the line of battle to take our place near the right of the line in such a position that we could see the hard fighting going on as we passed along, and knew that we were going into the same; then where was Captain Perkins? Poor man, he had tired out, and was not fit at his age to endure such marching; the company being led by First Lieutenant Phillips; then I well remember seeing lieutenant Phillips step back from the head of the company and say, ‘Lieutenant Hall, will you lead the company?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ said Lieutenant Hall, and immediately exchanged places with Lieutenant Phillips; and so Lieutenant Hall led the company through the first great battle of the war. I want your boys to understand this, and remember it as a bit of military history. You may have forgotten this item in the rush of changes of those days, but I distinctly remember it.”
The direction of our attack was nearly south along the Sudley and New Market Road, and as we advanced the enemy on the east of that road, under Bee, Bartow, and Evans, gallantly held their ground till our regiment was ordered to charge down the road upon their supports and turn their position by their left and rear.
Without halting, we rushed down the hill, driving infantry and artillery from their position near a stone house in the angle formed by the road we were on and the Warrenton Turnpike, and as they fell back to the heights across the turnpike we filed around the stone house facing to the rear of and advancing upon General Bee’s position, up the hill towards a grove of oak trees in which his.left was posted. At this moment the enemy, finding their left turned by us, retired by their right, and we saw them moving out of the grove parallel to our front, deliberately making signs, as if they were friends. Their colors were furled, and their gray uniforms did not sufficiently designate them, as many of our own troops wore the same color. We were yet lacking in discipline, so while some of us shouted, “Fire!” others yelled, “Don’t shoot; it is a Massachusetts regiment, or the Eighth New York.” Tall Bob Frazee at my elbow on the right of my company, with a voice like a fog-horn, shouted to them, “Show your colors,” when they shook out the Rebel flag and opened a terrific fire of musketry on us. That settled it, and gallantly and coolly directed by Colonel Slocum, Lieutenant-Colonel Chambers, and Major Bartlett, we gave them the best we had. Their batteries and reserves on our right rear across the Warrenton Pike joined in the fight, and when one company seemed somewhat nervous, Lieutenant-Colonel Chambers encouraged them by saying, “Ne-ne-ne-never mind a f-f-few shells, boys; G-G-G-God Almighty is m-m-merciful.” One lieutenant, with the large whites of his eyes showing like saucers, manfully stood his post and fired his revolver in the air. Riding up and down the rear of the regiment, the lieutenant-colonel continued his Scriptural injunctions, and noticing my company doing the most telling execution, said, “G-g-g-give it to ’em, b-b-boys; God l-l-loves a cheerful g-g-giver.” The troops that engaged us soon passed over Young’s Branch and across the Warrenton Turnpike out of sight near the Robinson house with their main line and batteries, and as our regiment was without support, Colonel Slocum withdrew it up the hill into the grove from which the troops we had encountered came, receiving a bullet through the leg while directing the movement. Major Bartlett then assumed command of the regiment, he says by order of Colonel Slocum, and gallantly commanded us during the remainder of the action. An ambulance was brought to the grove, the colonel was put in, and, accompanied by the lieutenant of the elevated revolver, started for Washington. We were next formed in line on the ridge from which we had charged down upon the enemy around the stone house, this time advancing to the assault of the enemy on the Henry House Hill, south of the Warrenton Pike. There had been very little concert of action in the earlier part of the battle, and there was still less now, seeming to be no simultaneous advance of lines, divisions, or brigades, regiments going in here and there singly and being repulsed one by one. We advanced to the turnpike for the second time, now to the west of Sudley Road, crossed it and Young’s Branch, and moved up to the assault just as Ellsworth’s Zouaves and other regiments gave way, when we were retired in good order under a heavy fire, in rear of the ridge from which we had set out. A large body of disorganized men had gathered there, and General McDowell, accompanied by Major Wadsworth of his staff, rode up to Major Bartlett, and the general said that our regiment was so steady and reliable that he desired us to move upon the crest of the ridge as the foundation of a new line, which should show a firm front until we were relieved, and I have always thought he added, “by General Patterson, who will soon be here.”
We obeyed the order, other troops forming on our right and left, and off to the west we could see columns of soldiers moving towards us, which I supposed to be the expected relief. Soon without any apparent cause the troops on our extreme right began to pass in our rear as if of a common impulse, neither did I hear any orders for the movement, and when it reached our regiment we went with the rest. There were no signs of fright or panic, but soon ambulances, wagons, aid artillery became intermingled with the infantry, and very little semblance of organization remained. I had urged the company to keep together, and succeeded in keeping about twenty with me. We followed a road that led to a ford near the stone bridge, and forded Bull Run in plain sight of that bridge, just as the enemy’s artillery opened on the throng of men and teams crossing it, breaking down a loaded wagon almost on the center of the bridge obstructing its passage. Many of the drivers and some of the troops were seized with panic, and some teams and men wildly took to the woods. The cry of “Black Horse Cavalry!” was raised, which added to the confusion. The artillery fire did very little damage, nor did any cavalry appear to me, though I looked carefully in all directions.
As our little party was making its way steadily along near the road, an ambulance dashed past us, at the rear of which we saw our captain hanging on for dear life with one hand, his long legs flying in the air as he ran in his desperate efforts to keep up, while with the other hand he held on his shoulder several officers’ sabers. We soon came up with him lying exhausted by the side of the road, when Bob Frazee and I took his sabers, and, supporting him on each side, helped him along till two mounted officers overtook us, when I appealed to them, saying, “Gentlemen, for God’s sake can’t you give our captain a lift; he is old and completely exhausted?” One of them said, “I will,” dismounted, and we lifted Captain Perkins into his saddle. I inquired his name, which I have forgotten, but think he was assistant surgeon of the 79th Regiment, New York State Militia. Some distance further on we again came up with the captain, when Captain Seymour Pierce, then our first sergeant, and Lieutenant J. E. Briggs, then sergeant, helped him along till they got him into a wagon which took him to Washington. Our quartermaster had gone out with his horse and buggy, and Captain Perkins was riding with him when the stampede began; before this some officers of the regiment had asked to have their swords carried in the buggy, so Captain Perkins had taken charge of them. When the shelling began and the cry of “Black Horse Cavalry!” was raised, the quartermaster took through the timber with his buggy, soon broke an axle, setting our captain afoot, his appearance clinging to the ambulance being the first we had seen of him since he dropped out near the Sudley Ford in the morning. We halted at Centerville soon after dark, and lying down on the ground, I soon fell asleep. When I awoke, the sun, shining full in my face, was over an hour high. Not a sound was to be heard, so stirring myself, rising and looking around where an army was bivouacked when I had lain down the night before, not a human being, friend or foe, was in sight, except Captain E. H. Brady, then one of my sergeants. Gathering up the swords that the captain had left with me, Brady and I did not stop to pay our bill, make our toilet, or order breakfast, but steadily advanced backwards in good order towards Fairfax Court House.
We were soon overtaken by two men of the Second Wisconsin Regiment, mounted double on a confiscated horse. Seeing my extra equipment of swords, one of the men kindly offered to carry one of them for me, and I gladly handed him the first one that came to hand without noticing which or whose it was. Unfortunately, I never could remember his name, and the sword never was restored to its owner, who proved to be Lieutenant Coan, to whom it had been presented by Albion, N. Y., friends, hence its loss by his voluntary abandonment of it to the care of another was quite mortifying to him. The others I brought into Washington and restored to their owners, who seemed to take it as a matter of course that some brother officer should load up with the side-arms that they had divested themselves of on the field of battle. I never constituted myself an armor-bearer to any of them thereafter.
At Fairfax Court House many teams and wagons were abandoned; public, regimental, and officers’ property strewed the ground on all sides, in the midst of which we saw a mounted officer, whom as we came nearer I recognized to be General James S. Wadsworth, of Geneseo, N. Y., then a major of militia, serving as volunteer, aide-de-camp to General McDowell. I approached him and said, “Sir, we belong to the Lima Volunteers, from your county; can we be of any service to you?” He replied that we could help him make a train of the abandoned wagons, by getting the soldiers that were occasionally coming in to hitch up and take charge of teams, which we did, and made up quite a train, which we took into Alexandria, sending the wagons to their proper regiments. When we left Fairfax Court House, it was fully 9 a. m. of July 22d, and there was as yet no sight or sound of pursuit by the enemy. General Wadsworth was still there without one single orderly, guard, or escort, engaged in his efforts to save property and to forward such soldiers as had been left behind. It was characteristic of the man, who with his great wealth, which he had used freely to send supplies into Washington at an earlier day, never availed himself of it to avoid service, but bore a gallant soldier’s part, did a soldier’s duty, and died a soldier’s death at the head of his division in the Wilderness. We went into Alexandria without further adventure, where several men of the 27th Regiment had made their way, whom I gathered together, drew rations for, and put them in temporary quarters, reporting to the regiment by telegraph, started for our camp on Franklin Square, Washington, at 4 p. m., and reached there with thirty-five men of the regiment at 7 p. m., July 23d.
The loss of our regiment at the battle of Bull Run, in killed, wounded, and missing was 130, 60 of whom were missing. Thirty-five returned to us from Libby Prison in January, 1862, among them seven belonging to my company. The fate of the other twenty-five missing men I never knew.
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Tags: 27th New York, H. Seymour Hall, Memoirs, MOLLUS, Resources
Categories : Reminiscences, Resources, The Battle
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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Colonel Nathan “Shanks” Evans commanded the Seventh Brigade in Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac at Bull Run. His command is often referred to as a demi-brigade due to its size: it consisted of one full regiment, the 4th SC, Wheat’s 1st Special Louisiana Battalion, Alexander’s and Terry’s troops of the 30th VA Cavalry, and one section of Latham’s battery. All told, he had about 1,100 infantrymen with him on the far left of the Confederate line on the morning of July 21, 1861. But what he managed to do with those men made him, for a time, a hero.
Using the advantages of terrain, Evans managed to hold back Burnside’s men until reinforced by Bee and Bartow, which in turn gave Johnston and Beauregard time to send much of their widespread and late arriving manpower to Henry Hill. He would follow up this success later in the year with a victory as the commander of the Confederate forces engaged at Ball’s Bluff, also known as the Battle of Leesburg. That action would earn him the thanks of the Confederate Congress.
But today Evans is probably best known not for his military achievments early in the war, but rather for his “barellita”, a one gallon jug of whiskey carried by an aide that accompanied him in camp and field. His reputation as a hard drinker dogged him throughout his Confederate career, and perhaps played a role in his slow promotion and a series of transfers that earned his men the sobriquet of “The Tramp Brigade”. He would end the war without a command and in relative obscurity.
Evans’s penchant for drink was a widely held impression from early on. In a letter to his mother written 10/18/1861, Longstreet staffer T. J. Goree wrote:
[Evans] is very much censured for not attacking [an isolated Federal force a few days after Ball’s Bluff], but the truth of the matter is he was so elated by his victory at Leesburg that he got a little drunker than usual, and was consequently not in a condition to do anything. Some of the officers under him speak of preferring charges against him. Genl Evans is one of the bravest men I ever saw, and is no doubt a good officer when sober, but he is unfortunately almost always under the influence of liquor. Cutrer, ed., Longstreet’s Aide: The Civil War Letters of Major Thomas Goree, p 51
As for the photo below, I have no idea what’s going on there, but the two men are holding hands. As I said here, things were different back then. I think. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
This article was originally published on 9/13/2007, as part of the Nathan George Evans biographical sketch.
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Colonel William. T. Sherman (while his commission as BGUSV was dated 5/17/61, he was not nominated until 8/2/61 and was confirmed three days later) commanded a brigade in Daniel Tyler’s division of McDowell’s army during the First Bull Run campaign. He’s been in the news lately thanks to a couple of programs on The History Channel (see here and here). The battle marked an inauspicious beginning to his storied Civil War career, and he would end up as the commanding general of the U. S. Army after his friend U. S. Grant became president. But at Bull Run, Sherman committed his brigade in the same piecemeal fashion favored by his fellow commanders on both sides. I’m not too hard on those fellows, because McDowell’s army of about 35,000 was the largest ever assembled on the North American continent up to that point, and the only man in the country experienced in commanding a force of even 40% its size was Winfield Scott.
As with all Union generals from Ohio, I’m finding the interrelationships surrounding Sherman and shaping his rise to brigade command somewhat labyrinthine. Sherman briefly partnered in a law firm with members of the Ohio McCooks and his influential in-laws the Ewings. And the colonel of the 1st OHVI in Schenck’s brigade of Tyler’s Division, Alexander McCook? His middle name was McDowell. Powerful Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, during this time sometimes referred to as General Chase, was from Ohio, and Sherman’s brother Thomas was elected to fill Chase’s vacated senate seat when the latter was appointed to Lincoln’s cabinet. It doesn’t take long to realize that a non-political general was a rare bird indeed.
Brian Downey recently wrote of a post-war scandal involving Sherman and the widow of Joseph Audenried, who as a young Lt. served on the staff of Sherman’s direct superior Tyler during the campaign. John Tidball, who was also with McDowell’s army in the summer of ‘61, would wind up on Sherman’s staff years later, when “Uncle Billy” held the highest military office in the land. Tidball’s biography (discussed here) includes his sketch of his boss at that time which touches on Sherman’s affection for the ladies (page 415):
He was exceedingly fond of the society of ladies, and took as much delight in dancing and such pleasures as a youth just entering manhood, and with them he was as much of a lion as he was a hero with his old soldiers.
With those of the romantic age he was often sprightly upon their all absorbing topic of love and matrimony, a condition of mind that he regarded as a mere working out of the inflexible laws of nature; but while regarding it in this light he did not condemn or ridicule the romantic side of it as mere nonsensical sentimentality. From young ladies with whom he was intimately acquainted he was fond of extracting the kiss conceded by his age and position, and which they were not loath to grant, nor upon which neither parents or beaux were disposed to frown. By the envious it was said that in these osculatory performances he sometimes held in so long that he was compelled to breathe through his ears.
Cump, you dog!
This article was originally posted on 5/26/2007, as part of the William T. Sherman biographical sketch.
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Testimony of Gen. John G. Barnard
Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 160-162
WASHINGTON, January 11, 1862.
General JOHN G. BARNARD sworn and examined.
By the chairman:
Question. Were you at the battle of Bull Run?
Answer Yes, sir.
Question. In what capacity?
Answer I was the chief of the engineer corps of General McDowell’s army.
Question. Without going minutely into the matter, will you state concisely to what you attribute the disaster to our army in that battle?
Answer. One of the influential causes was, I think, the loss of time in getting under way the morning of the fight. The fact that the repulse turned into a disastrous defeat I attribute to the fact that our troops were all raw. General McDowell had not even time to see all his troops They were brigaded only for the march, and put under officers whom the troops had not time to know, and who had no time to know the troops; and they had not been under military training long enough to be thoroughly educated as to what they had to do. With every disposition to fight well, they had not acquired the knowledge and experience they should have had, and when they were driven back on the narrow roads, in small bodies, they became so mixed up that it was almost impossible to recognize them.
Question. You attribute the first bad phase of that battle to the fact that our troops did not get on the ground in time?
Answer. Yes, sir. I think an hour’s difference would have gained the battle. We had almost gained it as it was.
Question. What caused that delay?
Answer. There were two cause distinct from each other. One was that in the plan of attack General Tyler’s division was to move first on the Warrenton turnpike to Stone Bridge, while the really attacking column which was to turn the enemy’s left flank, and which consisted of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, had to follow Tyler until they reached the road where they were to turn off to make this detour. The road into which they were to turn was not a beaten, travelled road, but a mere country path. And Tyler’s division was not out of the way so that they could get up to that turn-off for an hour and a half later than was expected. So that, instead of getting at that point at four o’clock, the head of Hunter’s column was not able to get there until, say about half-past five. That was the first cause.
Question. What delayed Tyler’s division; did you ever know?
Answer. When General McDowell and his staff rode along after waiting for the columns to get in motion—this was at four or half past four o’clock— we found the columns standing in the road waiting for one of Tyler’s brigades to get out of camp and under motion. Perhaps there was some fault in planning it, in overlooking the fact that Tyler’s division was so large, including three brigades, and the want of experience that we all had in moving large bodies of men. But whether it was General Tyler’s fault in not getting his troops under way in time, I am not competent enough to decide. I think that after we had waited for some time General McDowell had to stop the last brigade of Tyler’s division until Hunter’s division filed past.
I said there were two causes for that delay. The second was the much longer time it took for the column of Hunter’s to get around to Sudley’s Ford than we calculated for. In going over the ground as far as we could the day before, we fell upon the enemy’s patrol, and, not liking to attract their attention that way, we did not explore the ground up to the ford. We found that the ground was perfectly free; that there was nothing to obstruct cavalry or artillery; and the guide took them by a detour, saying that we would be exposed to the enemy’s batteries if we took the shorter road. So that we were three or four hours making that march through the woods. We did not get to the ford until half past nine or ten o’clock, and we ought to have been there at six o’clock. We succeeded in our operations. We deceived the enemy as to the point we were going to attack. We turned his left flank. He actually did not know the point of attack until twelve o’clock, when he commenced accumulating his forces at that point. If we had been earlier, we should have got on the Warrenton turnpike, in the rear of Stone Bridge, before he could have got there We should have concentrated three divisions there.
Question. There was a strong brigade on Centreville Heights after the retreat began?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. What would have been the effect of ordering up that force to support the retreating columns?
Answer. When I saw that there was danger of losing the battle—when I saw the first charge, the first repulse of the Zouave regiment, the first capture of Ricketts’s battery—I began to fear that we would be beaten. I had felt confident of a victory up to that time, but then I began to see the possibility of a repulse. We supposed that the Stone Bridge was unguarded, and if we were beaten, and the enemy should cross there, we would be cut off. I had got separated from General McDowell, and I hunted up the adjutant, who was behind attending to some duty, and requested him to order up the brigade at Centreville to the Stone Bridge, in order to support us there, as we supposed the division of Tyler had entirely got across the bridge. General McDowell left that brigade at Centreville as a reserve at a central point, as he was afraid that while we were operating on the enemy’s left, making this long detour to do so, the enemy would pass Blackburn’s Ford and manoeuvre up by Centreville on our left flank. I had rather overlooked that until I saw it in General McDowell’s report. And General Beauregard says that if we had not anticipated him, he would have attacked us. He actually did send an order to General Ewell to move up and attack our communication that way; and the reason it was not done was because the order miscarried in some way, so that that part of his plan failed. If they had attacked and carried that position at the same time that we were repulsed on our left, we would have been worse off than we were.
Question. But would not have been defeated, would you, if that strong division at Centreville had been at the fight? They would have gone right through them, would they not?
Answer. If our line had held out for a half an hour longer, we would have beaten the enemy as it was, because Schenck’s brigade at the Stone Bridge was at that moment just ready to act. The enemy had made an abattis on the other side; cut down the woods for some two hundred yards back from the bridge. Two of Tyler’s brigades had crossed over to join our left. Schenck’s brigade had remained at the bridge, and Captain Alexander had cut through the abattis and was ready to move on the enemy’s right just at the moment that they received news that our men were retreating. I believe if we had held out a half an hour, or even but a quarter of an hour, longer, we should have beaten them.
Question. If Patterson had held Johnston back, what would have been the effect?
Answer. We should have beaten them. That was the only thing that saved them.
Question. At what time before the battle commenced was it understood that Patterson was not holding Johnston back?
Answer. All that I knew about it, and all, I believe, that was distinctly known in the army about it, was that we heard the railroad cars running all night long. We were near enough at Centreville to hear the locomotives at Manassas.
Question. Suppose that when Patterson turned off from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, the moment that he knew he was no longer able to hold Johnston back, he had given notice to General Scott, and that notice had come to you, what would have been the effect of it upon your councils, had you heard it the day before the battle?
Answer. I think we should have fought any way. We could not have delayed any longer; that would have done us no good. The time of the three months’ volunteers was expiring. We had made that march to fight, and I think we would have fought.
Question. Suppose you had held your own there until Patterson had followed Johnston down?
Answer. If we had received something definite—a communication of that kind—I think it is likely the determination would have been altered.
Question. I mean if that communication had been given directly from Patterson to General Scott, and from General Scott had been sent immediately to you, I suppose the effect upon your council would have been at least to wait until Patterson had followed Johnston down?
Answer. If we had received the information in a distinct form, we might have acted differently. I know that, with what information we had, it was uncertain. The question was discussed, “Shall we defer the attack?” and it was concluded that we better fight as soon as we could. We heard the railroad cars running all night, and presumed that Johnston’s forces were coming in. But the moral effect of a delay would have been bad, and that action at Blackburn’s Ford had a bad effect on the army.
Answer. Could you not have brought up 10,000 or 15,000 more troops from Washington by a little delay?
Answer. By stripping Washington entirely of all its troops we might have done so, I suppose. I do not recollect what the whole force was here then.
Question. General Tyler was sent around to make a reconnoissance merely, as we have been told, not to make an attack, on the 18th?
Answer. He was not expected to go further than Centreville, I think. I think he was not expected to make any attack at all.
Question. Seeing that he did make an attack, he should have carried those batteries, should he not, if he could have done so? And if he had, would it not have cleared the way for the next battle, so that you could have turned their left?
Answer. He ought not to have made the attack at all without knowing that he could do something. He ought to have made the attack with the intention of carrying the position, or not have made it at all. I was on the spot, and warned him twice that it was not intended to fight a battle there; that it was on the straight road to Manassas, at one of the strongest crossings on Bull Run, and that it was evident the enemy was moving up his force to meet us there. And as he had no orders to fight, and as there was no plan to fight there, I did all I could to get him to desist. I had no objection to his opening his artillery fire, for that was a sort of reconnoissance, to make them show just what they were. But I had no idea that they were going to march down to the Run and fight as they did.
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I received this email the other day:
Thanks so much for doing a blog entry on my father’s great great grandfather, Romeyn Beck Ayres. Today, Father’s Day, he had just shown me a photo from a magazine of Lincoln at Antietam where he inquired to the editors and they read the caption claiming Romeyn was 5th over to the left from Lincoln, the only one not wearing a hat. But I found a caption online that says it was Col. Alexander S. Webb. The photos on your site seem to confirm it was not him.
I am printing out the information you posted to show my father tomorrow. This may be what wins him over re the internet.
p.s. I have my own wordpress blog, where I produce and rotate host a long running poetry show on our local college station. Small world.
Here’s a cropped version of the photo to which I think Tim is referring – click the thumbnail for a larger image:
The bareheaded fellow bears more of a resemblance to Webb than to Ayres. That’s George Custer on the far right, by the way.
I’m not done with Ayres, commander of Sherman’s Battery (E, 3rd US) at Bull Run. There’s a pretty cool story regarding his plot in Arlington National Cemetery and another of Tim’s ancestors.
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