Samuel Heintzelman Reports Enemy Strength Around Manassas

12 10 2020

CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN MARYLAND, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA, AND WEST VIRGINIA FROM APRIL 16 TO JULY 31, 1861

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, p. 666

ARLINGTON, June 5,1861.

Lieutenant-Colonel Townsend : The following information is respectfully forwarded.

General McDowell is temporarily absent. JAMES B. FRY, A. A. G.

Alexandria, June 5,1861.

Capt. J. B. Fry, Arlington :

I have it from a most reliable source that there are 20,000 men at Manassas Junction, Lee’s Station, Fairfax Court-House, and Centreville. Persons from there are instructed to say that there is a much smaller force there. General Beauregard arrived at Manassas junction on Friday last.

General Lee has returned to Richmond.

S. P. HEINTZELMAN.





J. B. L., Co. F, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle

14 05 2020

Correspondence of the Journal
From The Second VT. Regiment

Wednesday, July 24, 1861.

Last Sunday morning at 2 o’clock we received orders to march immediately towards Manassas Junction. The Vermont Second is in the third Brigade and under Brig. General Howard of Me., occupying the left flank of the brigade. The number of brigades were divided into three divisions, ours under General Heintzelman, the whole force being commanded by Gen. McDowell and amounting to about forty thousand men, who were encamped at Centreville, Va., about fourteen miles from Manassas Junction and about twenty-five from Washington. The whole column extended some two miles and it was near 5 A. M. before our regiment moved. We were provided with one days’ rations and supposed that when we advanced they would fall back; also expecting victory as a matter of course. Through carelessness on my part I got separated from the Second and went with Ellsworth’s Zouaves, advancing on the right while the Second went to the left, making Manassas as our concentrating point. But our scouts composed of the Rhode Island 1st and 2d, and New York 71st, encountered two rebel regiments advancing from Winchester, Va., towards a point a little below what is called Bull’s Run, an after a little severe fighting the rebel’s retreated, and as Governor Sprague appeared before his regiments he was enthusiastically cheered with cries – “The day is ours!” Sprague is said to have had two horses shot from under him, and the 2d R. I. lost their Colonel (Slocum). Soon after, as we advanced in column, the repeated discharges of cannon and the showers of grape that we found thrown among us, told that the enemy was not ours, but that we had one of their noted masked batteries to capture.. Soon again, we heard the rapid firing of musketry on the other side and we drew up by brigades and advanced towards the summit, where we could see the smoke from their battery, under the protection of our artillery. We found the attention of their guns to be drawn toward the R. I. Artillery, which the were endeavoring to silence. Our brigade advanced within ten rods of their infantry and each fired nearly at the same moment. The Zouaves suffered terribly; also the Minnesota regiment, wounding or killing a quarter of each. From a wounded Georgian I learned that the force stationed at this point amount to 65,000 men, under command of Gen. Barlow, and that Beauregard had 75,000 more at Manassas ready at any moment to reinforce him. He said that both Generals know that our force amounted to only forty or fifty thousand, and that it was insufficient, and intended to cut us all up, and cut off our retreat, to make our total defeat certain. After desperately fighting against such fearful odds we were ordered to retreat. – As soon as the enemy found we were leaving, they fired it seemed, three times where they did once in the hottest of the action, and our soldiers scattered in every direction to avoid the grape and cannister, as well as the long ranged rifled cannon. After harassing us thus and during the time, they cut us off when we least expected it, by about a thousand cavalry, who were upon us, charging fearfully. It created such a havoc and panic that the whole army fled in all directions; some however taking the main road to Centreville, whereupon they were again cut off, and dropped everything, even their coats, so panic stricken were they. I got over a fence and laid very quiet until the black horsemen had passed on. Our cavalry or artillery did us no good, the former rushing passed us and going ahead.

I never saw a sett of men so afraid before. They all run, no one dared to stop three minutes even to rest, they expected the whole force after them as they saw the infantry about to follow, but nothing could have caught us in our flight. They had no regard at all to the orders of their officers but all seemed to the eager in looking out for this individual self.

Gen. McDowell was insane in marching 35 or 40,000 men, right up to a masked battery defended by some 65,000, reinforced by some 30 or 40,000 more, making in all about 100,000, almost three to one. This was fearful odds, and one could expect nothing but sure defeat. If we had not been allowed to arrive safely and garrison the fort on Arlington Hights, what would have been the consequence to Washington? It would certainly have been captured. Fairfax Court House and Centreville are at present occupied by rebels. They thought we had a larger army near them than we really had and left some of the best fortified entrenchments, that we have yet seen. All our artillery with the exception of two pieces fell into the hands of the rebels. Our incampment now is some four miles from Alexandria near their pickets, and the forts opposite here expected an attack yesterday and prepared against it.

I should judge that about 2,000 of our men were killed or wounded all falling into the hands of the rebels. Our baggage wagons; muskets; equipments, knapsacks and tents, besides all our provisions, horses, and no doubt many men were taken charge of by the rebels. Company F. lost Victor Goodrich who was shot at the first volley, as I have not seen my regiment yet I do not know of others that were shot.

J. B. L.

Walton’s Daily Journal (Montpelier, VT), 7/39/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

2nd Vermont Infantry Co. F Roster