McDowell’s Advance to Bull Run – James B. Fry

6 02 2010



BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 167-193

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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Diary 7/22/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

21 11 2009

Arose this morning very tired and sore, scarcely able to walk at first but after breakfast felt better and walked around to see what was to be seen after yesterdays fight.  I was witness to some awful scenes.  Saw the wounded, shot in every portion of their body, head, neck,, body, arms, hands, legs & feet.  Some with their limbs taken completely off.  Some have died since being brought here, others dying.  Wherever I walked the same spectacle presented itself.  Among them all I heard not a word of complaint and scarcely a groan.  From what can be ascertained we lost in killed and wounded between fifteen hundred and two thousand.  Went around to a large pen of prisoners.  There were four or five hundred in the pen I saw, and nearly all of them the lowest class of foreigners.  This afternoon, a portion of the cavalry brought in seventy five more of the wretches.  They were all marched off to the cars and sent to Richmond.  As one squad of thirty passed our tent to the cars one fellow spoke to us, saying “Good bye boys I left home to go to Richmond and by ——- I am going.[“]  We learn to day that the 4th Ala Regt was not so badly cut up as was supposed.  There have not been more than forty or fifty killed.  Col Jones was not killed, but shot through both legs.  Genl Bee died this morning.  The Cavalry captured a large amount of baggage, ammunition &c.  We got one very large gun from them which they familiarly called “Long Tom”.  We got also a very fine ambulance, in which the medical staff were conveyed about.  They had every thing complete.  I suppose it was the best equipped army that ever started on a campaign.  Old Scott is a great fellow for having everything ready before he makes a move.  The small arms captured were the finest minnie muskets, which will be of great service to the army, as we are in need of more arms.  It has rained all day without ceasing, making it very disagreeable here, especially for those who have no tents, and a great many here have none.  The tents of the 4th Ala were left at Winchester.  Capts Porter King and Balls sleep with us tonight, making ten or twelve in a tent, but we can sleep very well, as we are not very particular how we sleep.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 23-24

Diary 7/21/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

20 11 2009

Slept cold last night as I had only a single blanket whi[ch] was too small to sleep upon and cover with at the same time, besides the night was colder than usual.  Arose quite early this morning and found we had orders to prepare to take up our line of march.  We got breakfast as soon as possible, which occupied but little time as we had only to stick a little piece of meat on a stick, hold it over the fire a minute or two and breakfast was ready.  Soon after eating we began to hear the booming of cannon, apparently about two or three miles off, which still continues it now being about 12 o’clock.  There seems to be fighting at two points, on the extreme left and centre.  We soon got ready and the regiment crossed the creek.  We crossed and recrossed several times before we got upon the regular march.  We however got straight after a while and had a forced march of eleven miles to the battle field.  It was indeed a battle and a bloody one.  We passed on in sight of one place where they were fighting but did not stop, as we were going to  the assistance of the 4th Ala Regt. which we heard was being terribly cut up.  On the march we met many wounded returning from the field.  We marched on to avenge the blood of those who had fought so gallantly.  We witnessed sights we had never seen before.  The horrors of a battle field.  As we marched in sight the cowardly villains were retreating, we could see their guns glittering among the bushes as they moved off.  We heard that the 4th Ala was surrounded at one time by the overwhelming forces of the enemy, and cut up terribly.  General Bee was badly wounded.  Heard that Col Jones was killed, Lieut Col Law and Major Scott badly wounded.  Syd May was in the fight but came off unhurt.  It is said that the enemy came up with a Confederate flag, and our men thinking they were friends did not fire upon them, but as soon as they got within an hundred and fifty yards of our troops, turned loose both artillery and musketry, mowing them down like grass before a scythe.  It was the bloodiest battle ever fought on the continent.  We lost a great many in killed and wounded.  Their loss was tremendous.  The enemy were completely routed, losing fifty pieces of artillery, ten thousand stands of arms and a great many prisoners.  The Virginians did excellent fighting.  They charged their famous Shermans battery.  The Cavalry pursued the enemy under the command of President Davis in person.  The number of killed cannot yet be accurately ascertained.  Both sides lost heavily.  It is said that the enemy lost at the lowest calculation between four and five thousand in killed and wounded.  To night we have orders to march back to our bivouack.  Squire Griggs[,] Joe Grigg, and myself came to Manassas Junction to see Father, who is here with the baggage.  We found him well, but very uneasy as he was confident that we were in the fight.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 22-23

Diaries – CSA

14 11 2009

5th Alabama

4th Sgt. Harrison B. Jones, Co. H., 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the March to Manassas


Miss Emma Holmes, On the Battle, Aftermath, and Return of Dead to Charleston

Three Years Blogging

3 11 2009

I started this thing on Nov. 2, 2006.  Now it’s three years later, and I’ve made 759 posts, including 256 entries in the resources section.  The blog has received 172,496 WordPress hits, basically doubling the previous year each year – this year so far I’ve received 89,500 hits, and will probably get about 107,000 or so by the end of the calendar year.  In contrast, I received about 52, 200 hits in 2008.  Last month I topped 10,000 hits in a month for the first time, and in October 2008 I set a then record of 4,825.  My busiest day was this past August 31, when I had 728 visitors thanks to the late Rolling Stone Brian Jones being in the news and lots of folks looking for an image of his tombstone, one of which (from graces this post.  So the growth has been slow but steady.  Huffington and Malkin have nothing to fear, but I’m happy with the way things are going.

This past year I also jumped into social networking with Facebook.  I registered the blog there with the Networked Blogs application on Facebook and have 93 followers that way.  I’ve also added links to the bottom of selected posts to make it easier for readers to share my posts via different sites if they’re so inclined.

As for posts, …but I know what I like is still in the all-time lead with 4,171 views (none of these numbers include feed readers).  1862 Photos of Bull Run is a distant second with 3,212.  The most viewed post written this year has been Civil War Art – Howard Pyle with 711, followed closely by Civil War Art – N. C. Wyeth with 686.  Seems like a theme.

Over the past few weeks I’ve strayed from the central theme of this blog, but I’ll get back to posting primary Bull Run material soon.

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America’s Civil War – November 2009

1 09 2009

ACW-Nov-2009Inside the November 2009 issue of America’s Civil War magazine:Ron Soodalter’s Fury in Vermont, the cover story on the 1864 Confederate raid on St. Albans;  Gordon Berg takes a look at Ambrose Bierce’s series of stories on Chickamauga, and tries to separate fact from fiction; Tamela Baker’s article is on Sweet Subversive Scribes, three female journalists in Virginia who published the pro-Union Waterford News; John Stauffer contributes an adaptation of their new and controversial book , The State of Jones (see here for some spirited discussion ofthe book); and Jonathan A. Noyalas writes of the return of  “Sheridan’s Veterans’ Association” to the Shenandoah Valley in 1883.

My Six-Pack column this time technically featured five new books and one old, though one of the new books is really a new paperback release of an eleven-year-old work.  No Holier Spot of Ground: Confederate Monuments & Cemeteries of South Carolina is paired with Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C.The Maps of First Bull Run with Gettysburg Day Two: A Study in Maps; and in a departure from the usual format, two new releases are reviewed together, General George H. Thomas: A Biography of the Union’s “Rock of Chickamauga” and Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas.

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Henry W. Kingsbury

1 08 2009

Perhaps best known for his death at 26 while leading his 11th CT at the lower bridge at Antietam, in July 1861 Henry Walter Kingsbury was an aide to Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell.  Keep in mind that there were two West Point classes of 1861, the first of which graduated after five years, the second after four.

Thanks to Brian Downey for sending me a link to an article on Kingsbury in Military Images magazine.  Go here to read it.  Various cool tidbits in there.  After Kingsbury’s father’s death in 1856, Simon Buckner and Ambrose Burnside became young Henry’s legal guardians.  Henry’s command was part of Burnside’s 9th Corps at Antietam, and the General visited him at his deathbed.  Also Confederate general David R. “Neighbor” Jones was Henry’s brother-in-law (I need to check out these in-law connections a little more).  After Antietam Jones developed a serious heart condition from which he never recovered, and he died on January 15, 1863.  Some have said his illness was brought on by distress caused by the knowledge that it was against his own division Kingsbury was fighting when he received his wounds.  Jones commanded a brigade in Beauregard’s army at Bull Run.

This article was originally published on 3/21/2007, as part of the Henry Walter Kingsbury biographical sketch.

SHSP – Harper’s Ferry and First Manassas

3 06 2009

Southern Historical Society Papers

Vol. XXVIII. Richmond, Va., January-December 1900, pp. 58-71

Harper’s Ferry And First Manassas

Extracts from the Diary of Captain JAMES M. GARNETT, in charge of General Reserve Ordnance Train, Army of Northern Virginia, from January, 1863, to February, 1864; and Ordnance Officer of Rodes’s (later Grimes’s) Division, 2d Corps, A. N. Va., from February, 1864, to April 9, 1865.



Wednesday, September 9th, 1863

Monday, April 15th, 1861, may be considered the commencement of this war for Virginia, for on that day appeared Lincoln’s proclamation for 75,000 men to “crush the rebellion,” which hurried up our old fogy Convention, and compelled their secession on Wednesday, April 17th. I was at that time at the University of Virginia, that session being my third, as I went there from the Episcopal High School of Virginia in ’57, spent sessions ’57-‘8 and ’58-‘9 at the University, taught ’59-’60 at Greenwood, Mr. Dinwiddie’s boarding-school in this (Albemarle) county, and returned to the University the session of ’60-’61.

This proclamation created quite a sensation at the University, raising the military enthusiasm to the highest pitch, and especially filling our two companies, the “Southern Guard,” Captain E. S. Hutter, and the “Sons of Liberty,” Captain J. Tosh, with an earnest desire to lend a hand in the defence of our State.

The taking of Harper’s Ferry was the first object that presented itself to our minds, and when, on Wednesday, Captain Duke returned from Richmond with authority to take 300 men to Harper’s Ferry, our two companies, with the “Albemarle Rifles,” Captain Duke, and the “Monticello Guards,” Captain Mallory, from Charlottesville, offered our services. We immediately got ready, and that night, when the train from Staunton, with the “West Augusta Guards,” the “Mountain Guards,” and Imboden’s Battery, from Augusta county, came along, we joined them and went on to Harper’s Ferry, taking up different volunteer companies all along the railroad, until, when we reached Strasburg about 12 o’clock Thursday, where we had to “take it afoot,” our force was quite formidable, numbering some eight or ten companies, of seventy to eighty men each, and a battery of four pieces. We marched from Strasburg to Winchester, eighteen miles, between 1 o’clock and 8, pretty good marching, considering it was our first effort; wagons were along to carry the little baggage we had, and to relieve us, but most of the men marched the whole way. We stopped in Winchester only long enough to take supper, supping at different private houses, the citizens welcoming us with lavish hospitality, tho’ some, not knowing that the movement was authorized by Governor Letcher–as it had not then been publicly made known that Virginia had seceded–thought it was a move of the self-constituted Secession Convention, which had met in Richmond on Tuesday, April 16th, and the fact of which meeting, I think, helped to hurry up our laggard Convention to do what it ought to have done two months before. I, and many others, supped that night with my friend, David Barton, Jr., who had volunteered from the University for this special service, not being a regular member of our company, the “Southern Guard.” He has since gone to his God, where wars will never trouble him more, having been killed in the first battle of Fredericksburg, December 13th, ’62.

About 9 o’clock we all started on the train for Harper’s Ferry, only thirty-two miles distant, but such was the slowness of the train and the uncertainty of the commanding officers as to what force we should find at the Ferry, that we did not reach there until 4 o’clock the next morning, about six hours after Lieutenant Jones, of the United States Army, with his handful of men, had burnt the Armory buildings and retreated towards Carlisle, Pa. We learnt that some of the Clarke and Jefferson companies had gotten in the neighborhood the evening before, in time to have taken the place and saved the buildings, arms, &c., but they also were ignorant of the force at the Ferry and delayed to attack.

It is quite amusing now to think of the way in which military affairs were conducted at Harper’s Ferry when we first went there. General William H. Harman, Brigadier-General Virginia Militia, was in command until General Kenton Harper, Major-General Virginia Militia, arrived there; these two officers were afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel and Colonel respectively of the 5th Virginia regiment. On Friday, the day we reached the Ferry, the Baltimore outbreak took place, and when we received the news we were greatly elated, but unfortunately it was merely a puff of wind, which soon died out. Then was the time, if ever, for the Marylanders to have armed and organized, and Maryland would not now be trodden down by Lincoln’s serfs, with no prospect of ever obtaining her independence.

* * * * *

We continually had alarms at the Ferry. On Saturday morning our company was turned out to attack the train, which was said to be coming down loaded with Federal troops, and about 11 o’clock that night we were roused to go up on the Loudoun heights and support Imboden’s Battery, which the enemy couldn’t have gotten at in any conceivable way except by approaching through Loudoun on Virginia soil, and the other University company, the “Sons of Liberty,” were sent across the bridge and down the railroad, just opposite this battery and ourselves, and just where we were directed to fire if the enemy came, and if our smooth-bore muskets could carry that far, which was more than doubtful.

The next morning (Sunday), we scrambled down the mountain and returned to our barracks, very much wearied, after first reporting ourselves at the “General’s Headquarters,” where an amusing little scene took place between the Acting Inspector-General, who found fault with the way in which one of the men ordered arms, and one of our lieutenants, who informed him that the company had had a drill-master. The next day we learnt that the Governor had ordered the “Charlottesville Battalion,” as our four companies under Captain George Carr (formerly of the U. S. Army) were called, to return home, and that evening we left for Winchester, where we remained all night, and went to Strasburg the next morning in wagons provided for our accommodation. I think we were rather glad on the whole that we were leaving the Ferry, though our military ardor was not quite cooled down by our “short, but arduous” campaign. We saw a little service, at all events, having been ordered out twice, in the morning and at night (and the night march was pretty severe for us), and having stood guard several times; my post was at the old burnt Armory buildings. We also saw some fun in searching the houses of Harper’s Ferry for secreted arms, a great many of which we found.

On the whole we were very much pleased with our expedition, and considered war fine fun in those days; how we have changed our opinions since!

On our return by Manassas Junction on Wednesday, April 24th (my birthday, by the way, and the day on which I attained my majority), I received permission from our Captain to go on to Alexandria, in order to pay a visit to the Episcopal High School, where my relations, Mr. McGuire’s family, resided. I created quite a sensation, with my blue flannel shirt, red collar and cuffs, black pants, white cross-belts, musket and accoutrements, and from the fact that I had been to Harper’s Ferry. After remaining there two or three days, the last time I have had an opportunity of seeing the dear old place, on Saturday I returned to the University.

Sunday, September 20th, [1863]

I have neglected this narrative for nearly a fortnight, but as today is Sunday and I have nothing to do, there being no service near, I will endeavor to continue it now.

Soon after reaching the University, our company requested the Governor, through our Captain, Ned Hutter, to accept our services, but he and General Lee, then commanding the Virginia forces, refused, saying that it was “too much good material to put in one company.” We were required to give up our Minié muskets, which we had gotten at Harper’s Ferry; so, after continuing our drills a few times more, our company disbanded, and the different members scattered themselves throughout the State and the South, entering the service in different capacities. Some received appointments in the Virginia Provisional Army, which appointments were vacated by general order about September 1st following. I applied for one of these, but before receiving it the Virginia forces were turned over to the Confederacy, and no more appointments were made; I consider it fortunate now that I didn’t get it. I determined to remain at the University till the end of the session, but in May, just before the election of Thursday, May 24th, I went home to Hanover county, desiring to vote in my own county for the Ordinance of Secession, which was at that time ratified almost unanimously by the people of the State.

The Yankees about that time raised their “hue and cry” about Union feeling in the South, and especially in Virginia, but the unanimity with which the Ordinance of Secession was ratified well shows–what we knew all along–that there was no Union feeling in the State, except in some of the Western counties, which have now still further earned our contempt by forming the Yankee “bogus” State of “West Virginia.” The Yankees have found out by this time that the farce of Union feeling in the South is played out, and have left off making a fuss about it.

After voting for secession (and for the taxation amendment too, tho’ it was against the interest of Eastern Virginia), I returned to the University, but very little studying of text-books did I do during the remainder of the session. My attention was chiefly occupied in studying Mahan’s “Field Fortification” and other works on engineering, especially the articles of the encyclopædias in the University library, as I had some idea at that time of applying for an appointment in the Confederate Engineer Corps, but I gave that out before the close of the session, and on Tuesday, July 2d (the session ended on the 4th), I left the University with the intention of joining Captain (now Brigadier-General) W. N. Pendleton’s battery, the “Rockbridge Artillery,” which some of my friends and college-mates had already joined. After remaining at home long enough to get ready, and declining to apply for an appointment in the Marine Corps, which I believe I could have gotten at that time, I left Hanover Junction with my friend Channing Page, now Captain of a battery, July 13th, for Winchester, both of us intending to join Pendleton’s battery, which we found encamped near that place.

I remained at Mrs. Barton’s a few days, and on Wednesday, July 17th, enlisted in Pendleton’s battery, in which I then had several friends, amongst others, Dave Barton (2), Holmes Boyd (3), Bob McKim (4), Liv. Massie (5), Clem. Fishburne (6), and Channing Page (7), with all of whom I had been at college the previous session, and Joe Packard (8), an old school-mate at the Episcopal High School.

I was not destined to remain quiet long after entering the service, for about midday of the day following we started on our march to Manassas to take part in the great battle which was expected to come off. Our destination was revealed to us when we had gotten a few miles from Winchester, and the announcement was received with loud cheering. After crossing the Opequan I attempted to go forward to Millwood, but was stopped by Colonel Preston, commanding the advance regiment (4th Virginia), although I had permission from my immediate commander, Captain Pendleton. How angry I was at this infringement of what I considered my rights after obtaining my Captain’s permission! but being helpless of myself, I appealed to my friend Sandy Pendleton (9), Aid to General Jackson, our Brigadier, to obtain the General’s permission for me, in which he succeeded, and I went forward, sending a message on the way to my cousins, who were staying at Mr. John E. Page’s in the neighborhood, to meet me at Millwood. They reached there soon after I did, and I remained until our battery came through, tho’ my walk–and my passion too–had given me a severe headache, and I was forced to ride in the ammunition-wagon attached to our battery, in which I crossed the Shenandoah, fortunately being thus prevented from wading, which nearly all of the men had to do. After crossing the river I rode on to Paris on the horse of Bowyer Brockenbrough (10), First Lieutenant of our battery, and a former college-mate of mine, and we slept on a porch [in Paris], sheltered from the rain which fell. Oversleeping ourselves we found that the battery had the start of us about two hours. Bowyer went on ahead, and I followed on foot until a little boy with some ladies offered me part of his horse, and in this way I reached Piedmont station, where the infantry were taking the cars. Our battery went on a mile beyond and waited there nearly all that day (Friday) for the rest of the artillery to come up, when we started about 7 o’clock P. M., and travelled until 4 A. M., rested two hours at The Plains, and reached Manassas about half-past two P. M., Saturday, July 20th.

General Johnston’s force was thought to be about 18,000 men, with five batteries, tho’ I doubt whether the infantry force was quite so large. Most of this force reached Manassas in time for the battle, General Kirby Smith’s brigade coming up while the action was going on. We slept quietly that night, tho’ our only rations were some provisions that had been sent to one of my friends, which fortunately lasted us for supper and breakfast. The next morning Joe Packard and I went to Bull Run to bathe; while there an old darkey passed, remarking that, if we knew as much as he did, we wouldn’t be there; we didn’t think much of it at the time, but his remark occurred to us afterwards.

On returning to camp we found that one of our guns was ordered to the front. I obtained permission to be assigned to this gun, and as I had the horse of a surgeon, which I had ridden down from Piedmont station, I galloped on with it, but after going a mile or two we were ordered back without having our anticipations of a fight realized. We found the whole battery hitched up and ready to go forward. The cannonading had commenced on the extreme left about 6 A. M., and was then going on. Presently we were astonished by a shot striking within twenty steps of some of us who were lying down, and ricocheting over our heads; it was fired at a party on a hill beyond us, but fell short. What an excitement this, to many of us, first shot, created. We were soon ordered to a more secure position on the roadside, the wagons being sent back towards Manassas, and with them I sent the horse that I had been riding, which was stolen at Manassas. The owner afterwards came to me about the horse and I gave him what information I had, but am ignorant whether he ever got his horse. Our position at this time was not far from Mitchell’s Ford on Bull Run, which was about the centre of our line, where there was very little fighting during the day.

We had not been long in our position near the road before General Johnston came along, riding at full speed towards the field, and spoke to Captain Pendleton, and we were immediately ordered forward at a trot, cannoneers on the caissons. We went at this speed for about three miles, till we came to the Lewis House within reach of the enemy’s shells, where we were halted for a while. Here I first saw men wounded, some severely and covered with blood, others slightly, limping to the rear. We were then but poorly supplied with ambulances, and our surgeons but poorly acquainted with their duties, so I suppose the men suffered extremely. Besides the wounded coming to the rear, some, as usual, saying we were “cut all to pieces,” here were officers rallying stragglers, staff-officers and couriers riding to and fro, reserve troops and artillery awaiting orders, and other incidents to the immediate rear of a line of battle. We did not wait long, but were soon ordered to the front. We went up through a low pine thicket, the shells hissing and screaming all around us, so that it was a miracle that some of us were not knocked off the caissons.

On reaching the top of the hill, we turned to the right and took position amongst the other artillery wherever each piece could find room enough for itself, so that our battery was scattered along the line. We were immediately in front of a piece of woods in the edge of which the brigade to which we belonged, and which that day gained for itself the sobriquet “Stonewall,” was lying, and which unfortunately received most of the shells aimed at us. On taking position we immediately unlimbered and commenced firing, and kept it up for about two hours and a half, from 12 to 2:30 P. M. How well I remember that day! Liv. Massie (11),” No. 1, sponging and ramming, Dave Moore (12), No. 4, inserting the friction primer and pulling the lanyard, Lyt. Macon (13), No. 5, not performing the duties of No. 5, as I was acting in that capacity that day, but receiving the shot from me and giving them to No. 2, assisting also to roll up the gun after each recoil, and talking all the time, Bill Brown (14),” Corporal, coolly and deliberately aiming the piece, and making almost every shot tell, and Joe Packard (15), No. 7, receiving the shot from No. 6 at the limber, advancing a short distance, and giving them to me as I went to and fro between the piece and the limber. Our little 6-pounder, which we thought more of than we would now of a 30-pounder Parrott, did good work that day. Our captain occasionally passed us, going from one piece to another to see that we were doing our duty, and shrugging his shoulders as a shell would come rather close for comfort. I saw him once or twice near our piece, conversing with him a short while, and I thought he was occupied most of the time in going up and down the line. During the action a limber chest was blown up, belonging to a piece of Stanard’s battery, on our immediate left. The wheel-horses fell as if they had been struck by lightning, and it quite astonished us for a while, tho’ it didn’t interfere with our work. The musketry fire on our left gradually grew hotter and hotter, and presently what was our surprise to receive orders for all the artillery to leave the field! We went off as rapidly as possible, feeling very doubtful as to which party would gain the day, and thinking that the withdrawal of the artillery looked badly for us–but we didn’t know.


Tuesday, December 22, 1863

I have put off writing here for some time, owing to movements of the army and absence from camp, but I will endeavor to continue now and keep up this record more regularly.

After the artillery was withdrawn to the Lewis House, the infantry became very heavily engaged, and the roll of musketry continued for more than an hour, when the enemy, much to our gratification, commenced to retreat, and the retreat became an utter rout. We had unlimbered our pieces and taken position near the Lewis House, and on the retreat of the enemy we fired a few shots at them, but the distance was almost too great for our short-range pieces, our battery then consisting only of one regulation six-pounder, two small Virginia Military Institute six-pounders, and one twelve-pounder howitzer. About this time, our President, Jefferson Davis, who had that day come up from Richmond, came on the field, and many of the battery shook hands with him, but I did not seek that honor, though standing quite near him.

I cannot describe our joy when we discovered that the enemy were actually retreating and our men were in pursuit, but our joy was not unmingled with sorrow, for we soon heard of the death of many dear friends. Soon after the retreat commenced, I heard of the death of a most intimate friend, H. Tucker Conrad, of Martinsburg, belonging to company D, 2d Virginia regiment. He was my school-mate at the Episcopal High School for two years, and my college-mate at the University of Virginia for two more, and a very dear friend. At the breaking out of the war he was a student of Divinity at the Episcopal Theological Seminary, near Alexandria, and after returning home he enlisted in the “Berkeley Border Guards,” the company from Martinsburg, belonging to the 2d Virginia regiment. He came out of Martinsburg to enlist in his country’s service while Patterson’s army was around the place, and not long after he died, as he would have wished to die, fighting for his country’s independence. His brother, Holmes A. Conrad, of the same company, was also killed that day, and almost at the same time with Tucker. I was not so well acquainted with Holmes, but Tucker I knew long and intimately, and can testify to his character and worth; a most devoted friend, a most faithful man, and a most pious Christian, he endeared himself to all who knew him, and his loss was most deeply felt.

Often have I thought of the pleasant times we have had together at school and at college. I trust that we may meet again in the world to come.

After the retreat several of our battery were sent on the field to collect and bring off captured guns and harness. This was my first view of a battle-field; men dead and wounded, scattered all around, horses dead and mangled, and others alive and wounded, arms and accoutrements strewed everywhere, and guns and caissons, some in good condition, others knocked to pieces–met our view on all sides; such scenes were new then, but they have become quite familiar since. We brought off several guns, with much harness and many blankets and overcoats, to the Lewis House, where we were camped for the night, I taking it on a caisson cover. I was awaked about daylight the next morning by the rain, but crept between the two folds of the caisson cover and slept a while longer. On awaking I saw passing several pieces of artillery, and among them a thirty-pounder Parrott piece, all of which had been captured on the retreat.



March 10th, 1864

Notwithstanding my determination to continue this record regularly, I have neglected it for some time, but will continue now, writing off and on as I find leisure, for, having been lately transferred from the Reserve Ordnance Train to Major-General Rodes’s Division, I expect to be more occupied than I have heretofore been.

We spent Monday following the first battle of Manassas near the Lewis House, it raining incessantly the whole day, and none of us being able to procure any rations but hard crackers, and those only what had been captured. Fortunately one of my messmates, Joe Packard, had a jug of honey, and we lived off of honey and hard tack that day. That night, after imagining that I had found a comfortable place in a barn-loft to spend the night, I was summoned to go “on guard” for the first time in my military experience in the battery, and as Captain Pendleton wouldn’t hear to letting us off guard duty that night, I had to turn out notwithstanding the rain.

We had two posts, and Bev. Jones (16) was my companion in the relief. How it did rain! but we took it the best way we could, and, after the first relief was over, endeavored to find something to eat, but were not very successful. I frequently recall this first night “on guard,” barring my Harper’s Ferry experience, and must confess that it was almost as disagreeable as any other night I ever spent in that occupation. The next day we had some rations issued to us, and then moved back and camped near the house where General Jackson had his headquarters on the road to Manassas Station. We camped in the open field near a muddy stream, exposed to the heat of the sun and the attacks of innumerable insects, with the muddiest water to drink, and when it rained our camp was a perfect slush. Our stay at this camp produced such a vivid impression on us that we ever afterwards referred to it as “Camp Mudhole.” While at this camp, about August 3d, I obtained permission from Captain Pendleton to go up to Clarke county for three days to visit my cousins at Mr. Page’s, which furlough I spent there very pleasantly, and on returning found that the battery had moved down about one mile below Centreville on the turnpike to Fairfax Courthouse, and was camped there with the brigade (“Stonewall”) to which it was attached.

This camp was named by General Jackson “Camp Harman.” It was very pleasantly situated about one-fourth of a mile off the road, on the edge of a piece of woods, and convenient to two excellent springs. We enjoyed our stay there very much, tho’ the daily routine of camp life became very monotonous. We drilled both morning and evening, and part of the time before breakfast also, but that was soon dispensed with. We had three posts of guard duty, one at the guns and two at the horses, and each one’s turn came once in every five or six days. While here we exchanged some pieces of our battery and obtained two additional pieces, so that it was now constituted two (2) ten-pounder Parrott rifled guns, three (3) six-pounder smooth-bore guns, and one (1) twelve-pounder Howitzer; the six-pounder we retained was the one at which I served at the first battle of Manassas, which was then the third piece, but now the sixth, at which I was No. 2; this was the only piece used at the battle of Hainesville (or Falling Waters), the first skirmish that occurred in the Valley of Virginia, and this was the first piece fired in the Valley after the war commenced; it was also used in the war with Mexico and should have been preserved, but it has now, alas! been melted up to make twelve-pounder Napoleons, and so “gone the way of all flesh.”

Some more of my University friends joined the battery at this camp, among whom were Randolph Fairfax (a noble boy, afterwards killed at the first battle of Fredericksburg, December 13th, ’62), Lanty Blackford and Berkeley Minor (17). Our mess at that time consisted of about twenty-five or thirty, nearly all of the best fellows in the company, and we employed two Irishmen to cook for us, but the number being entirely too large, some of us employed a servant and organized another mess, consisting of ten of us, and ever afterwards knowne as “Mess No. 10;” it consisted of David Barton (18),” Holmes Boyd (18), Johnny Williams (19), Lyt. Macon (18), Lanty Blackford (20), Randolph Fairfax (21), Kinloch (22) and Philip Nelson(23), Bev. Jones (18), Ned Alexander (24), and myself (25). This was one more than the number, but Kinloch Nelson was sick for some time and we took Lanty Blackford in his place.


1. Rev. William N. Pendleton, D. D., a West-Pointer, Rector of the Episcopal church in Lexington, Va.; soon appointed Colonel and Chief of Artillery of General Johnston’s army, and later Brigadier-General and Chief of Artillery of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

2. David R. Barton, Jr., of Winchester, Va., later appointed Lieutenant in Cutshaw’s Battery, and killed, as above stated, at Fredericksburg, December 13th, 1862.

3. E. Holmes Boyd, of Winchester, Va., later, September, 1863, appointed Lieutenant and Ordnance Officer of Brigadier-General J. M. Jones’s Brigade; now (1900) attorney-at-law in Winchester, Va.

4. Robert B. McKim, of Baltimore, Md., killed in the battle of Winchester, May 25th, 1862.

5. J. Livingston Massie, of Augusta county, Va., later Captain of Massie’s Battery, and killed September 24th, 1864, on General Early’s retreat, near the junction of the Valley turnpike and the Keezeltown road.

6. Clement D. Fishburne, of Augusta county, Va., later appointed Lieutenant and Ordnance Officer of Cabell’s Battalion of Artillery; now (1900) Cashier of the Bank of Albemarle, Charlottesville Va.; author of a “Sketch of the Rockbridge Artillery,” in Vol. XXIII, of Southern Historical Society Papers.

7. R. Channing M. Page, of Albemarle county, Va., later Captain of Page’s Battery and Major of a Battalion of Artillery; physician in New York city; died a few years ago.

8. Joseph Packard, Jr., of Fairfax county, Va., later Lieutenant and assistant in charge of General Reserve Ordnance Train, A. N. Va.; now (1900) attorney-at-law and President of the School Board of Baltimore, Md.

9. Alexander S. Pendleton, of Lexington, Va., son of General W. N. Pendleton, Aid-de-Camp to General T. J. Jackson, and later Lieutenant-Colonel and Adjutant-General of 2d corps, A. N. Va.; killed near Fisher’s Hill, September 22d, 1864, on General Early’s retreat.

10. J. Bowyer Brockenbrough, of Lexington, Va., later Captain of the Baltimore Light Artillery, promoted Major; still living (1900).

11. See note 5.

12. David E. Moore, Jr., of Lexington, Va., later Sergeant in the Rockbridge Artillery; now (1900) attorney-at-law in Lexington, Va.

13. Lyttleton S. Macon, of Albemarle county, Va., later Sergeant in the Rockbridge Artillery; sheriff of Albemarle county, Va.; now (1900) farming in Albemarle county, Va.

14. William M. Brown, of Rockbridge county, Va., later Lieutenant of the Rockbridge Artillery; now deceased.

15. See note 8.

16.Beverley R. Jones, of Frederick county, Va., now (1900) farming in Frederick county, Va.,

17. C. N. Berkeley Minor, of Hanover county, Va., later Lieutenant in the 1st Regiment of Engineers, and now (1900) Professor in the Virginia Female Institute at Staunton, Va.

18. See notes 2, 3, 13 and 16.
19. John J. Williams, of Winchester, Va., later Sergeant in Chew’s Battery of horse artillery; attorney-at-law and Mayor of Winchester, Va.; Commander of the Grand Camp, C. V., of Virginia; died in Baltimore, Md., October, 1899.

20. Launcelot M. Blackford, of Lynchburg, Va., later Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 24th Virginia Regiment; now (1900),and for thirty years past, Principal of the Episcopal High School of Virginia.

21. Randolph Fairfax, of Alexandria, Va., killed, as stated above, at Fredericksburg, Va., December 13th, 1862.

22. Kinloch Nelson, of Clarke county, Va., later Lieutenant and Ordnance Officer of Kemper’s Brigade, Pickett’s Division; Professor in the Episcopal Theological Seminary of Virginia; died a few years ago.

23. Philip Nelson, of Clarke county, Va., later Lieutenant in the 2d Virginia Regiment of infantry, “Stonewall Brigade;” now (1900) Superintendent of Schools of Albemarle county, Va.

24. “Edgar S. Alexander, of Moorefield, Hardy county, Va. I have not been able to trace the career of Ned Alexander.

25. James M. Garnett, of Hanover county, Va., later Second Lieutenant, C. S. A., and Chief of Ordnance of the Valley District; first Lieutenant, P. A. C. S., and Ordnance Officer of the “Stonewall Brigade,” and Acting Ordnance Officer of Jackson’s Division; Captain in charge of General Reserve Ordnance Train, A. N. Va., and lastly Ordnance Officer of Rodes’s (later Grimes’s) Division, 2d Corps, A. N. Va.; now (1900) teaching in Baltimore, Md.

SHSP – First Battle of Manassas and the Stonewall Brigade

21 04 2009

Southern Historical Society Papers

Vol. XIX. Richmond, Va. 1891, pp.82-92

History of the First Battle of Manassas and the Organization of the Stonewall Brigade

[From the Winchester, Va., Times, January 14, 1891]



He was as exact in the performance of his duties as a mathematical proposition; his only pleasure, walking daily at the same hour for his health; strict, grim and reticent, he imagined that the halves of his body did not work and act in accord. He followed hydropathy for dyspepsia, and after a pack in wet sheets every Sunday morning he then attended the Presbyterian church, leading the choir, and the prayer-meetings every night during the week. He ate the queerest food, and he sucked lemons constantly; but where he got them during the war, for we were many miles from a lemon, no one could find out–but he always had one. In fact, no one knew or understood him. No man ever saw him smile–but one woman, his wife. But he stood very high in the estimation of all for his rigid moral conduct and the absolute faith reposed in his word and deeds. Soon it was observed that every night there was singing and praying under “that tree,” and every Sunday morning and evening he held prayer-meetings, which, I regret to say, were attended by only a few–always strictly, however, by his staff, who seemed to have been chosen or elected because they were of his way of life. When thrown with him on duty he was uniformly courteous to all. He always kept his eyes half closed as if thinking, which he invariably did before answering; but his replies were short and to the point. Not many days elapsed before the officers found out that when he gave or wrote one of his short orders, it was always to be obeyed, or suspension at once followed neglect. In May many regiments arrived from Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, and there was some semblance of discipline–as an immense log guard-house, always filled, gave evidence.

One Sunday evening in early June the long roll was beaten, and we soon were in line, marching out between the high hills towards Shepherdstown bridge on the upper Potomac, accompanied by a long procession of carriages filled with our mothers and sisters, escorted by our middle-aged, portly fathers on horseback; for as we could not go to them, they daily visited us in our camp; and that evening, for the first time in our lives, it looked and felt like war. For were we not on our way to keep the Yankees out of Virginia? Were they not in force somewhere in Maryland, intending to cross over the bridge which we were marching to, to defend and burn? This was the feeling and belief of all of us; and as in the narrow country road winding around the many high hills our long line of bright bayonets glinted in the setting sun, our five full regiments, numbering nearly four thousand five hundred of the brightest, healthiest, and the most joyous of Virginia youth, stepping out quickly to the shrill music of the drum and fife, with its accompanying procession of vehicles carrying weeping mothers and sisters, it was my first and most vivid sight of what war might be. As darkness fell apace, all were left behind but the soldiers. It was our first night-march, and by two o’clock we were “dead beat!” Many fell asleep by the roadside, and were only aroused by the rattling of muskets, as the foremost regiment fired a volley without orders, and swept across the bridge, only to be sternly ordered back by “Old Jack, the sleepless,” who reprimanded its colonel and then personally superintended the firing of the wooden structure. During the next week we marched over several counties, and by the time we reached Winchester, where General J. E. Johnston had established his headquarters, we were in perfect trim, and knew each other well and felt like soldiers.

In Winchester we were regaled day and night with the speeches of ‘Fire-eaters,” “Original Secessionists,” Et id genus omne! I only recall the following: I saw a crowd listening eagerly with arrested attention to an orator. He was both corpulent and crapulent, who had just come from Washington, which was his present glory and distinction. He announced that he would redden the Potomac with the blood of every Yankee who crossed to invade the sacred soil of the South. One Southern man with a bowie knife was equal to any two Yankees, and that the war would be over after the first fight, when they would be driven out and away forever. Another orator drew a large audience; his chief distinction and glory seemed to be that he was and had been a “Nullifier” (whatever that was). An original “Secessionist;” had a brother fighting in Italy with Garibaldi, whom he announced was expected daily — the looked-for “Military Messiah;” and finally that he was a South Carolinian and came here to assist in fighting Virginia’s battles. Then there were groans and derision from the assembled Virginians.

For a week ending July 2d, we were encamped near Martinsburg, some four miles from the ford of the Potomac leading to Hagerstown, called Falling Waters, watching the Federal army under General Patterson. At sunrise the alarm was given: “the enemy are crossing!” and we were under arms on our way to the ford. Emerging on the turnpike, we were halted to support a battery; skirmishers were thrown out, and soon we were all engaged. We tried hard to hold Patterson until General Johnston could come up from Winchester, but were forced back, and here we saw Colonel Jackson under fire for the first time; stolid, imperturbable, undisturbed, as he was watched by every eye; and his example was quieting and of decided moral effect. There, for the first time, we saw the long line of blue, with the United States flag in the center, and both sides exchanged shots; the first of the many fights in the old Valley of Virginia. We fell back through Martinsburg; it was occupied by General Patterson; and at a small hamlet called” Bunker Hill,” some seven miles away, we, during the whole of July 4th, were in line of battle, expecting Patterson hourly. The next evening we fell back upon Winchester, and after our arrival there happened an episode which I will relate briefly, as it was the first and only attempt at a mutiny ever heard of in the Confederate army.

About 3 o’clock on the afternoon of July 17th the long roll was beaten and we were marched to an adjoining field, crushing under our feet as we moved along the stone fences bounding it. There we found our five regiments surrounding a number of tents, and when the hollow square was perfect we became aware that we enclosed a battalion of troops who had refused positively to further obey their commander. General Joe Johnston’s adjutant, Colonel Whiting, with Colonel Jackson and the colonel of the refractory troops, rode up into the square. The drums were ordered to beat the assembly, and, to our infinite relief, the battalion, under the command of its several captains, fell into line at once. Then there was a dead silence. This was a mutiny! What came next? How was it to be punished? Was every tenth man to be shot, or only the officers? As I rode along I heard these questions asked by both rank and file. Colonel Whiting then rode to the front with a paper in his hand, and when he arrived at the head of the troops he read aloud, with marked emphasis, in substance as follows: That General Johnston had heard with regret and surprise that, on the eve of an action, both men and officers had refused to obey the orders of their commander. He could only say that it was the imperative duty of all soldiers to obey orders; that their grievances would be redressed in time, but such an example would and should not go unpunished. He therefore expected of them instant obedience of their colonel’s orders; that Colonel Jackson, with five regiments, was there to enforce, if needed, his commands. Their own colonel then put them through their evolutions for so many minutes, and they were ordered back to their tents, and all was quiet. It seems hardly necessary to state that those were the last orders ever given by that colonel, as he was removed from command.

All of General Johnston’s army were then encamped around Winchester, when, on the 18th of July, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, again the long roll was sounded. From the number of mounted officers and men galloping furiously off to every encampment, it was evident that there was important news. General Patterson was known to be at Charlestown, twenty miles to the east, but nearer to the passes of the Blue Ridge than we were. General Beauregard was known to be at Manassas station, far to the east, eighty miles by direct line, with the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah river running between him and us. Soon the news came–it was not an order, but simply a message from General Johnston to each brigade, regiment and individual soldier, that General Beauregard had just notified him from Manassas, on that morning at daybreak, he had been attacked by an overwhelming force of the enemy from Centerville. He was holding his own, but needed help. General Johnston had started, and would go day and night to his relief; and he expected every man who wanted to fight the enemy would up and follow. There is no man living of all that army to-day who can ever forget the thrill of “Berserker rage” which took possession of us all when the news was understood, and General Johnston’s inspiring message was repeated along the line. We were to help General Beauregard drive the enemy back; then, returning to the Valley, would hurl General Patterson across the Potomac and end the war.  For had not Secretary Seward proclaimed that in sixty days it would be over?  Every man sprang to his place, and in an incredibly short time we were rapidly moving through the dusty streets of old Winchester, there only to be the more inspired and encouraged, for there was not a mother or sister there who had not in the ranks a son or a brother, and who through tears and wails at being left undefended and alone, yet told us it was our duty to go. Our Virginia brigade took the lead and to the eastward, making for Ashby’s Gap. We footed it fast and furious; it was at first like a run, but soon slackened to the “route step,” and now we wondered at the old soldier’s puzzle: “Why, when the leading files of a mile of soldiers were only in a walk, that the rear files are always on a run?” As we passed through the rich and fertile Clarke County, the road was lined with ladies holding all manner of food and drink, for General Johnston’s staff had passed in a sweeping gallop and given tidings of our coming. At sundown we came to the cold, swift Shenandoah, and with two and three to every horse, the rest stripped off trousers, crossed, holding aloft on muskets and head, clothing and ammunition. This was the severest test, for it was a long struggle against a cold, breast-high current, and the whole night and the next day witnessed this fording of men, guns and horses. I did not see my mare for two days; nearly a dozen cousins and brothers or other relatives had to use her in the crossing. Luckily the road beyond was hard, dry and plain in the dark night as we slowly climbed the Blue Ridge, which rises precipitously from the river, and in a straggling line passed by the “Big Poplar Tree” that crowns the summit and is the corner of four counties, Clarke, Warren, Fauquier and Loudoun. Coming down the mountain by the hamlet of Paris, and there leaving the pike, we took the country road, soft and damp, to the railroad station of Piedmont, where, sleeping on the ground, we awaited the arrival of the train to carry us to Manassas Junction. At sunrise it came; a long train of freight and cattle cars, in which we packed ourselves like so many pins and needles; and, as safety for engine and cars was more essential than speed, for we had one engine only on that part of the old Manassas Gap railroad, we slowly jolted the entire day, passed the many country stations, warmly welcomed by the gathered crowds of women and girls with food and drink.

And when at sunset we arrived at Manassas Junction, sprung at once into line, and swept out into a broken country of pine forest. Four miles brought us to the banks of “Bull Run,” where we slept. That was Friday night, the 19th, and it had taken twenty-four hours to bring four thousand men to the expected field of action. Bright and early on Saturday, the 20th, we were up and examined with a soldier’s interest the scene of the conflict of the 18th. A line of fresh graves was rather depressing; the trees were lopped and mangled by shot and perforated by minnie balls. The short, dry grass showing in very many spots a dark chocolate hue, spreading irregularly like a map, which the next day became a too familiar sight. We could not make anything out of the fight, beyond that here was the ford, and here they came down to cross in force. They were simply repulsed from the ford; there was no pursuit, the artillery remaining on the hills beyond; and it was agreed that here, any day now, we were to fight against a direct assault. The enemy’s object, we supposed, was to get to Manassas Junction, murder every one there, and destroy buildings and stores.

The art of war was so simple and so well understood by all in those early days, that the opinions of high-up college graduates and successful lawyers were even sought for, and in all cases, I must do them justice to say, were given with the utmost freedom and liberality. Every man who had been in the Mexican war, or had been fighting abroad, was a colonel or a brigadier at once, and they swelled and swaggered around, dispensing willing information of tactics and grand strategy in the most profuse and generous way to an absorbent and listening crowd. The whole of Saturday, the 20th, did we lie in the pines, resting and surmising, greeting each new regiment as it arrived at all hours of the day and night, panting for the fight. Questions asked were: “Had the fighting begun yet?” Are we too late?” “When was it to be? Let us get a good place where we can kill every d—d Yankee, and then go home.” Not a sound or shot disturbed the quiet of long Saturday, and we slept peacefully in the pines that night. As the next day (Sunday, the 21st) broke we were jumped out of our lairs by the loudest gun I ever heard, apparently fired right at our heads, as we supposed, and from just over the bank of Bull Run, only a hundred yards distant; but it proved to be the signal gun from Centerville, four miles away, in the encampment of General McDowell. At a double quick we were in line along the bank of the stream, momentarily expecting the enemy to appear and open on us, and thus we awaited until the sun got over the tops of the trees, when a mounted officer rode up, and after a hurried interview with Colonel Jackson, we were, to our surprise, wheeled to the rear, and at double-quick, over fields and through the woods, we went to the extreme left of our army.

It then turned out that at that day and hour General McDowell had decided to attack us on our left; and as General Beauregard had decided to attack the Federals on their left, so, had it not been discovered in time by the Confederates, each army would have followed thereto in concentric circles. For two long, hot hours did we move towards the rattling of musketry, which at first was very faint, then became more and more audible. At last we halted under a long ridge covered with small pines. Here were the wounded of that corps who had been first engaged–men limping on gun or stick; men carried off in blankets, bleeding their life away; men supported on each side by soldiers–and they gave us no very encouraging news to troops as we were. They had been at it ever since sun-up. The enemy were as thick as wheat in the field, and the long lines of blue could not be counted. Up the narrow lane our brigade started, directly to where the musketry seemed the loudest, our regiment, the Second, bringing up the rear. Reaching the top, a wide clearing was discovered; a broad table land spread out, the pine thicket ceased, and far away over the hill in front was the smoke of musketry; at the bottom of the long declivity was the famous turnpike, and on the hills beyond could be seen clearly Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries. In their front, to their rear, and supported on each side, were long lines of blue. To our right, about one hundred yards off, was a small building, the celebrated “Henry House.” As ours was the last regiment to come up, and as the brigade, as it surmounted the hill, wheeled into line sharply to the left into the thickets, we were thus thrown to the extreme right of the line and of the entire army. Halting there and mounted on a gate-post, I could see the panoramas spread out before me. The brass pieces of Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were seen wheeling into line, caissons to the rear, the horses detached and disappearing behind the hill. The glinting of the morning sun on the burnished metal made them very conspicuous. No cavalry were seen. I do not think that McDowell had any in action that day. Both batteries soon opened on us with shell, but no casualties resulted, for the reason that in their haste and want of time the fuses were not cut. I picked up many which fell to the ground with a dull sound, and found that the reason they did not explode. The infantry were engaged on the side of the long, gradual slope of the hill on which we stood, and in the bottom below, out of our sight, we could hear the sound and see the white smoke.

At this time there rode up fast towards us from the front a horse and rider, gradually rising to our view from the bottom of the hill. He was an officer all alone, and as he came closer, erect and full of fire, his jet-black eyes and long hair, and his blue uniform of a general officer made him the cynosure of all. In a strong, decided tone he inquired of the nearest aide, what troops we were and who commanded. He was told that Colonel Jackson, with five Virginia regiments had just arrived, and pointed to where the colonel stood at the same time. The strange officer then advanced, and we of the regimental staff crowded to where he was to hear the news from the front. He announced himself as General B. E. Bee, commanding South Carolina troops; he said that he had been heavily engaged all the morning, and being overpowered, are now slowly being pushed back; we will fall back on you as a support: the enemy will make their appearance in a short time over the crest of that hill. “Then sir, we will give them the bayonet,” was the only reply of Colonel Jackson. With a salute, General Bee wheeled his horse and disappeared down the hill, where he immortalized himself, Colonel Jackson and his troops, by his memorable words to his own command: “Close up, men, and stand your ground. Colonel Jackson with five regiments of Virginia troops is standing behind us like a stone wall, and will support you.” Thus was the name of “Stonewall” given to General Jackson and his famous brigade. General Bee was killed the next moment. Our entire line lay in the pine thickets for one long hour, and no man, unless he was there, can tell how very long it was to us. Under fire from two batteries throwing time-shells only, they did not do a great amount of killing, but it was terribly demoralizing. Then there was a welcome cessation; and we were wondering why, and when the fighting would begin for us. After nearly half an hour the roar of the field pieces sounded louder than I had yet heard, and evidently very near us; this was the much criticised movement of Ricketts, who had ordered his battery down the opposite hill, across the pike and up the hill we were on, where, wheeling into battery on the level top, opened with grape and canister right into the thicket and into our exposed line. This was more than Colonel Jackson could stand, and the general order was–” Charge and take that battery!” Now the fight of Manassas, or Bull Run, began in earnest–for the position we held was the key of the field. Three times did our regiment charge up to and take this battery, but never held it; for though we drove the regiment supporting it, yet another was always close behind to take its place. A gray-headed man, sitting sideways on horseback, whom I understood to be General Heintzleman, was ever in one spot directing the movements of each regiment as it came up the hill; and his coolness and gallantry won our admiration. Many fragments of these regiments charged on us in turn as we retreated into the pines, only to be killed, for I do not think any of them went back alive. The green pines were filled with the Seventy-ninth Highlanders and the red-breeched Brooklyn Zouaves, but the only men who were killed twenty or thirty yards behind, and in the rear of our line, were the United States Marines. Many of these I had sailed with, and they called on me by name to help them as they lay wounded in the undergrowth. “Water, water!” “Turn me over!” “Raise my head, and remove me out of this fire!” were their cries. I then saw what was afterwards too often the case–men with wounded legs, unable to move out of the fire, mortally wounded while lying helpless Our entire brigade thus fought unaided and alone for at least an hour–charging, capturing, retreating, and retaking this battery, resisting the charges of each fresh regiment as it came forward at quick-step up the slope of the hill, across the table-land, on its top and into the pine thickets where we were, until we were as completely broken up into fragments and as hard pressed as men ever were. It had gotten down to mere hand-to-hand fighting of small squads, out in the open and in the pines. There was no relief, no reinforcements, no fresh troops to come, or to fall back on. Luckily the enemy were in the same disorganized condition as we were. General Johnston seized the colors of a regiment, and on horseback, led a charge, excusing it afterwards as necessary at that moment to make a personal example. Our Colonel Jackson, with only two aids, Colonels Jones and Marshall, both subsequently killed, rode slowly, and without the slightest hurrah, frequently along our front, encouraging us by his quiet presence. He held aloft his left or bridle hand, looking as if he was invoking a blessing, as many supposed, but in fact to ease the intense pain, for a bullet had badly shattered two of his fingers, to which he never alluded, and it has been forgotten, for it was the only time he was ever wounded, until his fall in action in 1863. Thus the fate of the field hung in a balance at 2:30 P. M. At this moment President Davis and his staff made their appearance on the field, but not being known, attracted no attention. Both sides were exhausted and willing to say “enough!” The critical moment, which comes in all actions, had arrived, when we saw to our left a cloud of dust, and out of it emerged a straggling line of men with guns held at a trail. Slowly they came on to the field, not from want of spirit, but tired out from double-quicking in the heat and dust.  As they passed by and through our squads there were hurried inquiries; the enemy was pointed out to them, and when seen, from out of their dusty and parched throats, came the first “Rebel yell.” It was a fierce, wild cry, perfectly involuntary, caused by the emotion of catching first sight of the enemy. These new troops were Kirby Smith’s delayed men; the train had that morning broken down, but on arriving at the station near and hearing the sound of fighting, he had ordered the train stopped, and forming into line and rapidly marching, guided only by the roar of the guns, had arrived on the field at the supreme moment. The yell attracted the attention of the enemy, surprised and startled them. Inspired by the sight of the Federals the new Confederate troops, in one long line, with a volley and another yell, swept down the slope of our hill and drove before them the broken, tired enemy, who had been at it since sunrise. Kirby Smith was shot from his horse, but onward they went, irresistible, for there was no opposition. The enemy stood for a few moments, firing, then turned their backs for the first time. As if by magic the whole appearance of the scene was changed. One side was cheering and pursuing in broken, irregular lines; the other a slow-moving mass of blue backs and legs, guns, caissons and ammunition wagons, started down the hard, white pike. Our batteries, with renewed vigor and dash, had again come to the front, and from their high positions were opening with shot and grape. One solitary bridge was the point to which the fleeing Federals converged, and on that point was our fire concentrated. The result was at one seen–a wheel or two knocked off their caissons or wagons blocked the passage, and the bridge became impassable. The men cut loose their horses, mounted and rode away; others plunged into the mud and water, and the retreat became from that moment a panic, for the god Pan had struck them hard for the first and last time. There was never again the like to be seen in the subsequent four years. Our pursuit, singularly, was by artillery, our infantry having become incapable of further motion from sheer exhaustion; and Stewart had only a few companies out of the one regiment on the field; but they did good work in keeping up the rout until late in the night, when they were brought to a standstill at Centerville, where there was a reserve brigade that had not been in action; and so ended the part taken by the Stonewall Brigade in this their first fight. I may add here that our regiment was not gathered together for four days, and the brigade not for a week. With us, as with the rest of our victorious army, we were as much disorganized and scattered by our victory as the Federals by their defeat, and pursuit, unless by an organized force beyond Centerville, would have been simply a physical impossibility.

SHSP – The Soubriquet “Stonewall”

8 04 2009

Southern Historical Society Papers

Vol. XIX. Richmond, Va. 1891, pp. 164-167

The Soubriquet “Stonewall”

[From the Richmond Dispatch, July 29, 1891]


A few more years will forever seal the lips of all who can speak from personal knowledge of the incidents of the “War Between the States.” Any of them, therefore, who can now contribute to the perfect accuracy of history may be pardoned for doing so, even at the risk of incurring the charge of egotism. This is my only motive for troubling you with this brief article. I am one of those who heard General Barnard E. Bee utter the words which gave Jackson the name of “Stonewall.”


The speech of General Early (as I have seen it reported) at Lexington on the 21st instant is slightly inaccurate in its account of this matter in two particulars. As this inaccuracy does injustice to other Confederate soldiers no less gallant than the “Stonewall” brigade, I am sure the chivalric old General and all others like him, with hearts in the right place, will be glad to have it corrected and the exact facts stated.


It was to the FourthAlabama regiment that the words were spoken by General Bee, about 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon of July 21, 1861. This regiment, with the Sixth North Carolina and Second and Eleventh Mississippi, constituted Bee’s brigade; and as the brigade arrived at Manassas from the Valley in detachments, so it went into and fought through the battle, not as a whole, but by separate regiments. The Fourth Alabama having arrived at Manassas on Saturday, the 20th, was in movement very early on Sunday morning, the 21st, from near the junction towards the upper fords of Bull Run. The dust raised by the march of the Federal army to Sudley’s ford having attracted attention, the Fourth Alabama was hurried by General Bee in that direction, and we reached before 11 A. M. the plateau of the Henry House, whereon the main conflict occurred afterwards.


Bee seeing that this was a good position for defence, but that the Federals would capture it unless delayed before the Confederate forces could reach there in sufficient numbers, ordered the Fourth Alabama to hasten a half mile further north beyond Young’s branch and the wood over there to aid Evans, Wheat, and others in detaining the Federal army.

This duty we performed at great sacrifice, standing fast for an hour or more against overwhelming numbers, losing our Colonel, Egbert Jones, mortally wounded; Lieutenant-Colonel Law and Major Scott, disabled, and a great number of other officers and men killed and wounded.

Then in obedience to orders we withdrew from our advanced position and took position on the Confederate battle-line and in rear of the Robinson House.


Here, without field-officers and under command of a captain, the Fourth Alabama maintained its ground and did its part in resisting the enemy. General Johnston at one time came to us there and led us forward on a charge against the enemy, bearing our flag in his own hand. That glorious old warrior never appeared more magnificent than he did at that moment on his prancing horse and flaunting our colors in the face of the foe, who fell back before us.


Soon after this, the leading design of the Federals all day being to turn the Confederate left, the heaviest fighting veered in that direction, and in consequence the enemy disappeared from the immediate front of our regiment, leaving us unengaged; but the fearful crash after crash of the Federal musketry, as fresh troops poured in against the Confederate centre and left, can never be forgotten by those who heard it. Farther and farther round its awful thunders rolled as if nothing could stay it. Our brigade comrades of the Sixth North Carolina separated, from us in the manœuvres of the day, had rushed in single handed and been smitten as with fire, and their gallant Colonel Fisher and many of his men were no more. Jackson and his glorious brigade were struggling like giants to withstand the fierce onslaught.


It was just at this moment our Brigadier-General Bee came galloping to the Fourth Alabama and said: “My brigade is scattered over the field, and you are all of it now at hand. Men, can you make a charge of bayonets?” Those poor, battered, and bloody-nosed Alabamians, inspired by the lion like bearing of that heroic officer, responded promptly, “Yes, General, we will go wherever you lead, and do whatever you say.” Bee then said, pointing towards where Jackson and his men were so valiantly battling about a quarter of a mile to the west and left of us,” Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall. Let us go to his assistance.” Saying this, he dismounted, placed himself at the left of the Fourth Alabama, and led the regiment (what remained of them) to Jackson’s position and joined them on to his right.


Some other reinforcements coming up, a vigorous charge was made, pressing the Federals back. In this charge Bee fell mortally wounded, leading the Fourth Alabama. Barrow fell, not far from the same time and within a stone’s throw of the same spot, leading his Georgians. All the world knows how the Federals shortly thereafter were seized with a panic and fled incontinently from the field.


It is not true that General Bee said “rally behind the Virginians,” or behind anybody else. It is not true that he was rallying his men at all, for they were not retiring. The glory of the Stonewall Brigade does not need to be enhanced by any depreciation of the equal firmness and heroism of other men on that historic field. Let it never be forgotten that the Fourth Alabama lost more men on that day than any other regiment but one in the Confederate army, and every field from there to Appomattox was moistened with the blood of her heroes. But several of them still survive to corroborate, to the letter, the statement I have given you above.

Very respectfully,


Former Major Fourth Alabama

Statesville, N. C., July 14, 1891


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