Lt. Col. Francis Effingham Pinto, 32nd New York Infantry, On the Campaign

9 03 2023

We commenced drilling and instructing the regiment in all that was necessary to make them soldiers. Mr. Lincoln, the President, came out to our camp to witness a parade of the regiment. Soon after we had been settled in this camp, I went to New York to close up some of our Regimental business, and while at home in Amsterdam, I received a telegram that the regiment had been ordered to cross the Potomac to Alexandria, Va., and to join the regiment, as there was a movement to the front, and a battle in prospect. I left Amsterdam on the evening of July 16th. I got together some 20 recruits during the next day in New York, and took the train for Washington the same evening, arriving in Washington next morning (the 18th) crossed to Alexandria, paying the boat charges for the men, amounting to Six dollars, rather than wait to get transportation, which would have kept me half of the day in going through the red tape business that was necessary. I found the Camp of this regiment near Fort Runyon, but deserted excepting a few men left to look after the property in Camp. The regiment left Alexandria on the 16th of July and was Brigaded with the 16th, 18th, 31st and 32nd New York. Colonel Thomas A. Davies of the 16th N. Y., by virtue of his commission, being the oldest, had command. I soon made a bargain with a colored man to take me to the Regiment as far as he ventured to go. He took us to Fairfax Court House and I could not persuade him to go further, he was terribly frightened at going the distance he had, so we took to the road on foot. We overtook a train of ammunition, and got in the wagon, and had not gone fare when we heard artillery firing. Soon after a cavalry man came dashing down the road, swinging an envelope in his hand, to show he was on important business with despatches, who reported our army to be in retreat. The teamsters became panic and were about to turn back. I protested so rigorously that they continued on to our camp. We arrived at the Camp at Centreville late in the afternoon. Some men of the regiment recognized me coming up, and I received a round of cheers. Colonel Dixon S. Miles, who commanded the division that our Brigaded had been assigned to, came out of his tent, and wanted to know what all the noise was about. Colonel Matheson being very near, told him the cause, and he went back to his tent. The artillery firing we heard was at Blackburn’s ford, merely a few exchanges of shot with the enemy across the stream.

On the 20th, an order was issued by General McDowell, commanding the Army, to Colonel Dixon S. Miles to have a reconnoissance made on the left of his camp. I was called upon to take command. Engineer Lieutenant Fred. E. Primes, on the staff of Colonel Miles, was ordered to accompany us. I had about 500 men. Our camp was about one mile from Bull Run Creek, the stream making quite a bend towards our camp at this point. On leaving camp we soon struck a piece of woods, and, not seeing a sign of any picket or out-posts, I thought it prudent to send out some skirmishers in front of our flanks. Passing through the woods we came to a small clearing, quite near the banks of Bull Run Stream. Placing the main force in the edge of the woods, I sent about 50 men down the banks to the stream, which was hidden from our view by woods. Lieut. Prime went with the advance force. Here they discovered the rebels picketing the opposite side of the stream, which was fordable at almost any part. Lieutenant Prime and the small force returned, having gained the knowledge of the fact that the rebels could cross here at their pleasure, and that there were no troops of ours in that direction to interfere with them.

I thought it very strange that an officer intrusted with a command should have so little thought or care for the safety of his camp when in the presence of the enemy, but I had seen and heard enough about Colonel Miles, in the short time that I had been in camp, to condemn him as an unfit man to be trusted with the lives of men in warfare. Colonel Miles was a regular officer, trained at West Point, so should have been alive to the necessity of protecting his camp from a midnight or day attack, which could have been done, and been a complete surprise, if the enemy had so desired. They probably had no suspicion of the unprotected condition of our camp. The next morning, July 21st, all was bustle and activity, preparing to meet the enemy on the opposite side of Bull Run stream. Our division, under Colonel Miles, was what was called the resereve, but more properly, the left wing of the Army, composed of three brigades, commanded by Colonel Israel B. Richardson. Colonel Lewis Blenker and Colonel Thomas A. Davies. the whole force numbered twelve regiments and several Batteries. We took up our position on and near Centreville Hill and Blackburn’s Ford – no doubt we were judiciously located – as it prevented the enemy from crossing the Bull Run stream and attacking our army in the rear, and the Confederate forces at Blackburn’s Ford, in like manner protected their right wing. In a small clearing to the left of the main road leading to the Ford, about half way between Centreville and the Ford, a Battery was placed in position. The 31st New York Regiment, Colonel Calvin E. Pratt, was placed there to support the Battery. In the early part of the day some trees were felled near this Battery, forming a barricade. I did not think it amounted to much of a position. there was a narrow wood road leading from the main road to this clearing. Our regiment was posted on the main road near Centreville Ridge. During the day I visited all the points of interest and was well acquainted with the position of our troops. The main army crossed at the Fort at Sudley Springs, several miles to the right of us. it was something new to them to see a body of the enemy. They were within range of our muskets: Cadet John R. Weigs, whom nobody seemed to know, waving a white handkerchief, rode down to their front, asking the commanding officer if they were Federal or Confederate troops. The answer being the latter, he then asked permission to retire. Before he had got out of range of our fire the enemy had disappeared in the woods, as our force on the ridge presented quite a formidable appearance. Cadet Weigs was the son of Quartermaster General Weigs*. He had volunteered his services, and was acting on the staff of Colonel Richardson. He went forward to the front of the enemy without orders, apparently, and when he returned he was asked who he was. It was a gallant act, and showed the material that was in him.

It was now getting to be dark, and nobody seemed to know what to do. No person of authority to give orders, that I could see. I did not see Colonel Miles during the day, and the Colonels commanding Brigades were disputing with each other the question of rank, which seemed to concern them more than fighting the enemy. There was no determined attempt to cross the Bull Run by the enemy further than I have mentioned. The cavalry force that appeared in our front was only one Company as reported by the officer who commanded, I find reported in the Congressional reports. The road that our army returned on from Bull Run was just over the hill out of our sight, not more than an eighth of a mile distant. We saw nothing of the panic, and knew nothing of it at that time. When we realized what had taken place, we barricaded the road to Blackburn’s Ford with such material as we could collect, which was not much. Soon after dark a young officer rode up to me and announced himself as Adjutant of the DeKalb Regiment**, just from Fairfax Cour House, and asked for a position for his regiment. I directed him to take a position on our right. The regiment did as I directed. During the evening they left us, and all the other troops that were on the hill disappeared. We soon found out we were left quite alone, and without orders. Finally, about ten o’clock, or later, we came to the conclusion that we had better leave and find out what was up. We went over the hill in the direction of the camp we had left in the morning, expecting to find the rest of the army there, but what a melancholy disappointment. There was not a human being in sight, A dew smoking embers showing that there had been someone there and that they had cooked their coffee before leaving. I also impressed us with the fact that we had been neglected; but how could it be otherwise, as it was well known that our Division Commander was drunk, and the other would-be soldiers, excepting Colonel I. B. Richardson, commanding one of the Brigades, had no knowledge of the duties of a soldier. Colonel Richardson preferred charges of drunkenness against Colonel miles and he was found guilty by a Court Martial.

General Wm. B. Franklin, General John Sedgwick and Captain Thomas Seymour, 1st U. S. Artillery, composed the court. Colonel Miles was killed at Harper’s Ferry, Sept. 15th, 1862, while in command of that post.

I take exception to a part of Colonel Richardson’s report of the encounter with the enemy on the 21st of July. He states that he ordered Lieutenant Benjamin of the Artillery to open fire upon the Cavalry when they made their appearance just below us, and that after a few shots they disappeared. I say, there was not a shot fired either by the Artillery or Infantry. I also beg to differ with him in other important points in his report relating to the retreat. Finding the Camp at Centreville abandoned, we then struck the main road leading back to Alexandria, and we soon comprehended what had taken place. The stamped was made plain to us at this point. It is not in my power to properly describe the sight we saw here. Wagons upset on both sides of the road, tongues broken, traces cut, all kinds of army materials scattered along the sides of the road, and muskets without number. There was a four horse ambulance, the tongue broken. Procuring some rope from the abandoned wagons, we hitched on to the ambulance and commenced gathering up the muskets and placed them in the ambulance. there were so many of them we gave up the task. We put some of our disabled men in, and hauled the ambulance to Fairfax Court House. We halted there for the rest of the night. There was not a man of our army there, excepting our Regiment, the 32nd New York. The next morning, at broad daylight, we continued our march to Alexandria, hauling the ambulance into our Camp near Fort Runyon, arriving there about noon on the 22nd of July, with every man of the Regiment accounted for.

It is unpleasant to me to hear of troops claiming to have brought up the rear of our retreating army from Bull Run, some claiming through their reports to headquarters, which I find published in the Congressional Reports, of their bringing up the rear of the retreating army. Colonel I. B. Richardson, who commanded one of Miles’ Brigades, composed, as he states in his report, of the 12th New York, 1st Massachusetts, 2nd and 3rd Michigan regiments, claiming that he covered the retreat from Centreville, arriving at his camp at Arlington at 4 o’clock in the morning of the 22nd. He evidently did not know that the 32nd New York was still in rear of him, and not having received orders to retire from their position at Centreville Ridge, but late that night finding themselves apparently deserted, moved without orders to find the balance of the army, and did not find any portion of the army until they arrived at Alexandria. General Wm. B. Franklin, who was in command there, learning of our coming into Camp at noon of the 22nd, hauling the big ambulance from Centreville, said the ambulance should belong to the regiment. But it was soon required, and taken from us.

Francis E. Pinto, History of the 32nd Regiment, New York Volunteers, in the Civil War, 1861 to 1863, And Personal
Recollections During that Period.
Brooklyn, New York: n.p., 1895
, pp. 12-20 via New York Public Library

Contributed by Dan Weinfeld and John Hennessy

*Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs and his son, USMA Cadet John Rodgers Meigs

**41st New York Infantry

Francis E. Pinto at Ancestry

Francis E. Pinto at Fold3

Francis E. Pinto at FindAGrave

Col. Dixon Miles, 5th Division, Defends His Actions

14 09 2020


Col. Richardson, of the Federal Army, in his report of the late battles, reiterates the charge of drunkenness against Col. Dixson S. Miles, of the same army. The latter replies as follows, through the Washington Star:

Will you please give place in your columns to a short replay from an old soldier in correction of Col. Richardson’s report as published in this morning’s Sun. Perhaps no one has ever before been hunted with more assiduous, malicious vituperation and falsehood, since the battle of Bull Run, than myself. My name, I have been told, has been a bye-word in the streets of Washington and its bar-rooms for everything derogatory to my character. It was stated I had deserted to the enemy; I was a traitor, being from Maryland; a sympathizer; gave the order to retreat; was in arrest; and now, by Col Richardson’s report, drunk.

I will not copy Richardson’s report, but correct the errors he has committed, leaving to his future days a remorse he may feel t the irreparable injury he has inflicted on an old brother officer.

The order for retreat from Blackburn’s Ford, as communicated by my staff officer, emanated from Gen. McDowell, who directed two of my brigades to march on the Warrenton road as far as the bridge on Cub creek. I sent my Adjutant General, Captain Vincent, to bring up Davies’ and Richardson’s brigades, while I gave the order for Blenker’s brigade at Centreville to proceed down the Warrenton road. I accompanied these troops a part of the way, endeavoring to collect and halt the routed soldiers. I returned to Centreville heights as Col. Richardson, with his brigade, was coming into line of battle facing Blackburn’s Ford. His position was well chosen, and I turned my attention to the pacing of Davies’ brigade and the batteries. A part of Davies’ command was placed in echellon of regiments behind fences, in support of Richardson; another portion in reserve, in support of Hunt’s and Titball’s batteries.

After completing these arrangements, I returned to Blenker’s brigade, now near a mile from Centreville heights, took a regiment to cover Green’s battery, and returned to the heights. When I arrived there, just before dusk, I found all my previous arrangements of defence had been changed, not could I ascertain who had ordered it, for General McDowell was not on the field. Col. Richardson was the first person I spoke to after passing Captain Fry; he was leading his regiment into line of battle on the crest of the hill, and directly in the way of the batteries in rear. = It was here the conversation between the Colonel and myself took place which he alludes to in his report. Gen. McDowell just afterwards came on the field, and I appealed earnestly to him to permit me to command my division, and protested against the faulty disposition of the troops to resist an attack. – He replied by taking command himself and relieving me.

Col. Richardson states a conversation with Lt. Col. Stevens, of his command. I never say Col. Stevens, to my knowledge. I never gave him, or any one, the order to deploy his column; the order must have emanated from some one else, and hence my misfortune; for on his impression that I was drunk, those not immediately connected with me rung it over the field, without inquiry or investigation. – This is all that is proper for me to say at this time, as I have called for a court to investigate the whole transaction. Those who have read Richardson’s report will confer a favor to compare this statement with it; the discrepancies are glaring – the errors by deductions apparent.

D. S. Miles,
Colonel Second Infantry.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/6/1861

Clipping image

JCCW – Col. Thomas A. Davies

18 07 2009

Testimony of Col. Thomas A. Davies

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 177-184

WASHINGTON, January 14, 1862.

Colonel THOMAS A. DAVIES sworn and examined.

By the chairman :

Question. What is your position in the army?

Answer. My present position is colonel of the 16th New York volunteers.

Question. Were you present at the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. I was not present at what is called the battle of Bull Run, but I was six miles from that, upon the left wing.

Question. What position did you occupy there?

Answer. I left Alexandria in command of the 2d brigade, 5th division of the army of the Potomac.

Question. Acting as brigadier general?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Will you, in your own way, go on and tell us what you know about the causes of the disaster of that day, what was done, and what you think might have been done ? .

Answer. Shall I tell what I did?

Question. Give us a general idea, without any great minuteness.

Answer. The fifth division, together with Runyon’s division, was marked upon our programme when we started as the reserve—I mean in the card that was issued by General McDowell. Colonel Miles, of the infantry, was in command of the fifth division, and Brigadier General Runyon was in command of his part of the reserve. There were two commanders to the reserve. We went by the way of the old Braddock road to Fairfax Court- House the second night, driving the enemy before us, and capturing some few things; skirmishing all the way through the woods about six miles. On the third day we arrived at Centreville, and camped about a mile from Centreville. The part we took in the battle of Sunday was decided upon in a military conference held the night before the battle, at which the division and brigade commanders were present. General McDowell read off the programme, and as soon as we found that our position was to be in the reserve and remain at Centreville, we left the council very early, and I heard nothing more said in respect to the plan of campaign than what was read there. Early the next morning we got our troops up—very early, for they were awake pretty much all night, or half asleep and half awake all night. We started in the morning, I with instructions to go down to the position that was occupied as a battle-field on the afternoon of the 18th, what was then called the battle of Blackburn’s Ford.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. You were not in the affair at Blackburn’s Ford?

Answer. No, sir; I lay at Centreville that day. Instead of stopping where he ought to have stopped, as I understood it, General Tyler went on there. The bringing on of that battle, as I understand it, was an accidental affair altogether. This division of Miles, on Sunday, was to occupy a position at Centreville Heights, and also at Blackburn’s Ford, which was two miles further towards Bull Run. The road from Centreville to Blackburn’s Ford runs directly to Manassas Junction. The Warrenton turnpike that led up to where the battle of Bull Run was fought made an angle with the Blackburn’s Ford road of about thirty degrees, and bore off to the right, went on to the Stone Bridge, and so on across where the balance of the army went. All the army, excepting Miles’s division, moved up the Warrenton road, while that division moved off to the left to Blackburn’s Ford with my brigade, leaving Blenker’s brigade on Centreville Heights, with instructions to intrench the heights that day. Lieutenant Prime was to furnish the tools for that purpose. We went off to the left and were to make a feint at Blackburn’s Ford to attract the attention of the enemy and draw their troops there.

Richardson’s brigade, I found, was up there. But Colonel Miles told me to go down and compare notes with him, and find out which ranked, the one ranking to take command of the two brigades. I met Colonel Richardson, compared notes with him, and found that I ranked him. I then took command of the troops, and stationed him on the road directly to Blackburn’s Ford, and exactly on the battle-ground of the 18th. I took a road that led off further south from this road, and went into an open wheatfield and took possession of the brow of a hill, where I could annoy the enemy by shell during the day, and make a demonstration. My position was about eighty rods, I should think, from Colonel Richardson’s. I had brought into the field two regiments of infantry and Hunt’s battery. Green’s battery was behind, but by mistake Green’s battery, belonging to my brigade, got into Richardson’s brigade, and Hunt’s battery belonging to Richardson’s brigade, got into my brigade. We went on making a demonstration, and at 10 o’clock I found that our ammunition was running short. I sent back word to Colonel Miles, at Centreville Heights, that our ammunition was running short, and I wanted to slacken my fire. He sent me back word to fire on. I did fire on very slowly, and kept up the fire till about 11 o’clock, when Colonel Miles came himself. He made some new disposition of the troops. I suppose, however, that is not important.

Question. Unless it led to important results.

Answer. It did. I had stationed two of my regiments on a road that led around from Centreville Heights off in the rear of my position entirely. I happened to find it out from the guide who went along with me down there to show me the way. He mentioned casually, saying, “There is a road that leads around to the enemy’s camp direct.” Said I, “Can they get through that road?” “Oh, yes,” said he, “they can.” I gave the word of command to halt immediately, and put two of my regiments on this road, and two pieces of artillery, and went on with my other two regiments into the open field with the battery. When Colonel Miles came down in the morning he was in a terrible passion because I had put these two regiments there. He gave me a very severe dressing down in no very measured language, and ordered the two regiments and the artillery forward, without knowing what they had been put there for. I complied with the order, and said nothing. But when he left me, about an hour afterwards, I immediately sent back pioneers who cut down about a quarter of a mile of trees and filled the road up. As I expected, the enemy made an attempt to go up that road, but finding it obstructed by trees, and protected by a few pickets, they went back. We did not see them coming up, but when they were going back we shelled them pretty severely.

We continued the firing by degrees all day, until I got a line from some one in the advance. I could not read the whole of it. It said something about being beaten, but I did not understand which side was beaten; but I knew one or the other was. The firing about six miles to the right had ceased when this line came to me. I afterwards learned it was from Colonel Richardson, and I could see that the enemy or we were beaten, but I could not tell which. And there was something else about it, but I do not remember now, for I have lost the note. I saw unmistakable evidence that we were going to be attacked on our left wing. I got all ready for the attack, but did not change my front. About 5 o’clock, I think, the enemy made their appearance back upon this very road up which they had gone before; but instead of keeping up the road, they turned past a farm-house, went through the farm-yard, and came down and formed right in front of me in a hollow out of my sight. Well, I let them all come down there, keeping a watch upon their movements. I told the artillery not to fire any shots at them until they saw the rear column go down, so as to get them all down in the little hollow or basin there. There was a little basin there, probably a quarter of a mile every way. I should think that, may-be, 3,000 men filed down before I changed front. We lay there with two regiments back, and the artillery in front, facing Bull Run. As soon as about 3,000 of the enemy got down in this basin I changed the front of the artillery around to the left in face of the enemy, and put a company of infantry between each of the pieces of artillery, and then deployed the balance of the regiments right and left, and made my line of battle. I gave directions to the infantry not to fire a shot under any circumstances until they got the word of command from me. I furthermore said I would shoot the first man that fired a shot before I gave the command to do so. I gave them orders all to lie down on their faces. They were just over the brow of the hill, so that if they came up in front of us they could not hit a man. As soon as I saw the rear column, I told whom I thought to be Lieutenant Edwards to fire. It proved to be Lieutenant Benjamin, because in placing the companies between the artillery they had got displaced. Lieutenant Benjamin fired the first shot at them when the rear column presented itself. It just went over the tops of their heads, and hit a horse and rider in the rear. As soon as the first shot was fired, I gave the order for the whole six pieces of artillery to open with grape and canister. The effect was terrible. They were all there right before us, about 450 yards off, and had not suspected that we were going to fire at all, though they did not know what the reason was. Hunt’s battery performed so well that in 30 minutes we dispersed every one of them. I do not know how many were killed, but we so crippled their entire force that they never came, after us an inch. A man who saw the effect of the firing in the valley said that it was just like firing into a wheatfield: the column gave way at once before the grape and canister; they were just within available distance. I knew very well that if they but got into that basin the first fire would cut them all in pieces; and it did. We continued the fire for 30 minutes, when there was nothing more to fire at, and no more shots were returned.

About the time this firing commenced, or a little before that, I received this note from Colonel Richardson. It seems that Colonel Miles, instead of sending the order through me, as the ranking colonel in command, to Richardson to retire on Centreville Heights, sent it, or his aid gave it, directly to Colonel Richardson himself, and also gave orders directly to my two regiments, which lay back as a reserve for me, to move back on Centreville Heights, leaving me in this open field with two regiments and six pieces of artillery, and no reserve to support me. As luck would have it, however, I was successful in the manner of making the fight there, and I did not require any support.

When I got through, and the order came to me to retire on Centreville Heights, I retired my own brigade first, because I was the ranking brigade. I went over to give the order for Colonel Richardson to retire, but I found he had been gone about an hour. I then went to find my other two regiments, which I had had in reserve, and found that they had already been ordered back to Centreville Heights. And when I retired my force, which I did in perfect order, I found my two regiments there on Centreville Heights, and Richardson’s brigade all formed on the heights; rather, they were all there, but running about in a great deal of confusion, for Colonel Miles was not in a condition to be very accurate that afternoon. But for the defence which Hunt’s battery made there, and the little arrangement to keep the men from firing, I think we should have been broken through by the enemy.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. You have referred to Colonel Miles. Did you see him frequently during the day?

Answer. I saw him two or three times during the day.

Question. What time in the afternoon did you last see him on the field?

Answer. He left me about three o’clock in the afternoon, with instructions to encamp on the ground.

Question. Did you see him after that?

Answer. I did, at Centreville Heights, when I first got back with these two regiments. He had thrown forward the balance of the division and Richardson’s brigade on Centreville Heights.

Question. Did you consider him in a fit condition to give orders at three o’clock in the afternoon.

Answer. Well, sir, I do not want to be the accuser of Colonel Miles here; I will give my testimony at the proper time; but I would prefer not to answer the question now, unless it be deemed essential as eliciting information in regard to the conduct of the war.

Mr. Chandler: We want to know what causes might have led to the disasters of that day. We want to find out, if we can, all the causes.

The chairman: We have some testimony to that effect already, and perhaps, in justice to those who have testified about it, we should have all of it.

The witness: Well, sir, I do not think the colonel was exactly fitted for duty much of the day. I did not see him drink, but I pretty well understood what his condition was.

By the chairman:

Question. You consider that the portion of the army you led were victorious throughout?

Answer. Entirely so. I claim that 13,000 of our men were victorious in that battle, and I never want it written down in any other way.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. That is, our left wing.

Answer. Yes, sir. We are entitled to that, and we should have a report made so; and the 18,000 on the right were victorious, too, until a very late hour; but the left wing were entirely victorious, and have a right to claim such to be the case.

By the chairman:

Question. What led to the final defeat, as near as you could ascertain on the ground?

Answer. I can tell you what I think is the cause of the whole defeat of that day. The troops were raw; the men had been accustomed to look to their colonels as the only men to give them commands. They had never been taught the succession of officers, which is necessary to understand upon the battle-field. They did not understand the command devolving in succession upon the colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, and the captains, in their order of rank. The officers did not themselves know what to do; they were themselves raw and green. Every man went in to do his duty, and knew nothing about anybody else. When the colonels were killed or wounded, the subordinate officers did not know what to do, or the men did not know whether to obey them or not. When they lost their commanding officers, or those to whom they had alone been instructed to look for commands, they supposed they had a right to leave the field. That, I think, was the cause of many of the regiments retiring from the field; not from any cowardice, or fear of fighting, but because, having lost their colonels, they supposed they were out of the battle. I consider that the great cause of our army being put in rout on the right wing.

Question. Were you in a position to observe about the arrival of Johnston’s re-enforcements at that time?

Answer. No, sir; I know nothing about that; I was too far to the left. I was going on to give my reasons for what I suppose caused our defeat that day. There were two, probably three things, which, though they may not have controlled the matter, are, in my judgment, to be considered as some of the reasons why we were not as successful as we might have been. But every general has his own plan of campaign, and my ideas may run counter to those of our general, as he may have had, doubtless did have, reasons and considerations for his plan which I am ignorant of. But judging from what I knew, if I had been in command there I should have harassed the enemy for the three nights before the battle that we were there. I would not have allowed them to lay there quiet all that time, when, with a half a regiment or a regiment, we could have kept them awake all night and worried them exceedingly. We had the power to do it. If we had done that we should have fought them to great advantage.

Question. You spoke of a council of war the night before the battle?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What was understood there as to Patterson’s holding Johnston from that battle? Was that an element taken into consideration in that council?

Answer. I did not hear it mentioned; that I am aware of. It might have been mentioned there, but I did not hear it. I was on the outside, and did not enter much into the inside of the discussion. There were two tents there, and most of the officers were a great way inside, while I was on the outside.

Question. Was not that a fact of so much importance that it should have been known and acted upon in planning the battle?

Answer. I think it should have been considered, and it may have been. I know it was understood by all the officers there that Johnston was to be held by Patterson. That matter was talked over among the officers, and it was so understood.

Question. If it had been known the day before the battle that the next morning Johnston would be down there with re-enforcements, would it have been prudent to hazard a battle until you had also obtained re-enforcements, or until Patterson’s army had followed Johnston down?

Answer. I should not have risked it, though my reasons for not risking it may be different from those of the one in command. He may have supposed that he had good grounds for fighting the battle.

Question. Would it be according to military prudence to fight a battle that must be uncertain, when you can make it all but certain by waiting a day or two?

Answer. That is very clear, according to my view of things.

Question. What would have been the effect had you waited there on Centreville Heights and rested your men a day or two—seeing Johnston was down there—until Patterson’s army had followed him there, and been ordered to turn their left ?

Answer. We should undoubtedly have won the battle.

Question. Was there anything to prevent that?

Answer. I know of nothing that could. I was going to mention three things which seems to me ought to have been done. One was to harass the enemy all we could. Another was to have intrenched Centreville Heights during the three days we lay there. The men would have fought better after working all day and sleeping well all night, than to have gone into the field as they did. And another thing was this: Now, I do not know the facts, I am only telling you my opinion of what should have been done, if the circumstances of the case had all been as I suppose they were. Not that I find the least fault with General McDowell, for I believe he is a splendid soldier; but if I had been in command of the right wing I should have intrenched after I got to the first run, and allowed them to attack me ; we had the sure thing ; we had the game there, and they might have got it back the best way they could. After the first run, after their first line broke and retired, then we should have intrenched and let them attack, and we would have had the victory. We had a sure thing, and there was no use in throwing it away.

Question. How was it about the men coming on the ground fatigued with marching? Had they marched any considerable distance, many of them?

Answer. No, sir, I do not think they had marched a great deal. But they had been loafing around a great deal; had been out a great deal of nights, and had been broken of their rest, and had not had full rations. They were not altogether in a prime condition for fighting.

Question. There was a brigade or a division in reserve on Centreville Heights most of the day, was there not?

Answer. Yes, sir; Blenker’s brigade lay there the whole day.

Question. Could not they have strengthened our centre if they had taken their position on the field of battle

Answer. The object of leaving that force there was to intrench Centreville Heights so that in case any accident occurred we could have retired there. But instead of that being done as was designed, there was some difficulty about getting intrenching tools forward, and on that account they never broke ground there. There were 3,000 men there, and in one day they could have thrown up a pretty fair intrenchment. If those intrenchments had been prepared there when we got back we need not have gone back any further.

Question. After the repulse of our army, the enemy did not follow up their victory?

Answer. No, sir; not at all. There were only a few who came running after the right wing, firing random shots.

Question. They did not pursue?

Answer. No, sir; they did not pursue at all. Some cavalry came down, I believe, and made one or two charges which amounted to nothing.

Question. What necessity was there for bringing our army back to Washington? Why not have taken position on the heights and intrenched there at Centreville?

Answer. I did take position there. General McDowell, after the suspension of Colonel Miles, wrote an order on a visiting card, putting me in command of the left wing of the army as it stood; and I was going to stay there, and should have stayed there, except that I got an order between 11 and 12 o’clock, first to retire to Fairfax Court-House, and then to Washington. My brigade was the last to leave the heights at Centreville, which we did between 12 and 1 o’clock. There was no enemy there then.

Question. Would there have been any difficulty in rallying your whole forces and holding your position on Centreville Heights, while you sent for Patterson, or for re-enforcements from here and Fortress Monroe? Would you not have worsted the enemy in that way?

Answer. We never should have been compelled to leave the place with what troops I had under my command. I could have held my position there with the troops I had, which were my brigade, Richardson’s brigade, Blenker’s brigade, and some batteries that came down from the point above.

Question. Was it not a terrible military blunder to come back to Washington in disorder?

Answer. That is putting it rather strong. I should not like to say it was a military blunder.

Question. Well, it was a mistake, then?

Answer. I think this: that we could have held our position there; there is no doubt about that.

Question. Then you ought to have held it, ought you not?

Answer. That is a matter I am not responsible for. That is a matter which rests with the other powers, for I do not know all that combined to make up their judgment.

Question. Would it not have been easier to have defended Washington on Centreville Heights than to have come pell-mell here to do it?

Answer. I can answer that very readily: I think it would; there is no doubt about that.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. I understand you to say that our left wing was victorious that day?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Have you stated precisely what the left wing did?

Answer. Not in every respect, for Runyon’s division lay behind us as part of the left wing.

Question. Was that engagement you have referred to the only one of the left wing that day?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Did our left wing make any attack that day?

Answer. No, sir; not at all; we only defended ourselves. We were the reserve; we were to maintain our position.

Question. When you say you were victorious, you mean to say that you maintained the position assigned you?

Answer. Yes, sir; that is always a victory. When one is attacked in a position, and is successful in repelling that, attack, that is as complete a victory as can be; and I think that all those troops which have been, in the accounts, submerged with a defeated body of troops, ought to have the credit of being victorious. It ought to have read that we were victorious with the 13,000 troops of the left wing, and defeated in the 18,000 of the right wing. That is all that Bull Run amounts to. The attack upon the left wing was repulsed, and the enemy never attacked there again. I have understood from the secession accounts of that battle that we killed there about one-third of all that we killed at the battle of Bull Run. And neither of my two regiments there fired a shot; if they had, we probably should have been defeated.

Question. What was the number of the enemy that came around the first time upon the road you speak of?

Answer. As near as we could judge, there were about 3,000—that is, judging from the time it took them to pass a given point; we could see the dust, but we could not see the troops; there was a light growth of bushes that separated them from us; we fired shell into the bushes.

Question. The force left at Centreville and the force under your command were both necessary, in your opinion, to prevent the enemy coming around and attacking the main body of our army in the rear?

Answer. Certainly: entirely so.

Question. Then you cannot strictly call that a reserve?

Answer. No, sir; not strictly so. We were put down upon the programme, as I stated in the forepart of my testimony, as a reserve. But we, in truth, expected to make an attack upon the enemy, as well as the right wing. We, however, made an attack simply upon a body of troops that lay in the woods waiting for us. There were about 10,000 of the enemy’s troops concentrated upon our position all day long, hoping to take our army in the rear.

Question. So that it would not have been safe at any hour of the day to have taken our troops from Centreville and moved them forward to the main body of the army?

Answer. I think, as it turned out, that Blenker’s brigade, which was expected to have intrenched Centreville Heights, might have been spared. Yet, after all, we might not have been able to have maintained our position. We might have been broken, and then Blenker’s brigade would have been necessary for us to have fallen back upon. If the failure had taken place on our left wing, nothing in the world could have saved our army or Washington. When I got here to the city I could have taken the place with a thousand men, or even a less number. I never saw such an excited condition of things as there was here.

By the chairman:

Question. At what time did you get back and form on Centreville Heights?

Answer. The last two regiments got on Centreville Heights about 7 o’clock in the evening.

Davies Court of Inquiry

6 11 2008


I mentioned here the request of Col. Thomas Davies for a court of inquiry regarding McDowell’s report and the description of Davies’s brigade therein.  I contacted my friend David at NARA and asked if he could find any info.  Today I received this from David:

One of our reference archivists checked the Court-Martial Name Index that covers RG 153, Entry 15, Court-Martial Case Files, which includes military commissions and courts of inquiry. He was unable to identify a file for Colonel Thomas Davies.

So it looks like Davies’s request for a court of inquiry was a dead end (unless it’s in some unlabled or mis-filed, red-taped stack of papers somewhere).

Davies’ Reports

22 10 2008

A couple of interesting things in Davies’ reports (or is that Davies’s reports?  I can’t decide): as you can see at the end of the first report, Davies was led by some captured Confederates to believe that the troops he faced at Blackburn’s Ford were under the command of Robert E. Lee.  In case you didn’t know, they weren’t.  Davies squared off against Longstreet, mostly, though Bonham and D. R. Jones were also in the area.

In the second report, Davies requested a court of inquiry over the perceived slight to his command by McDowell in his report.  I wasn’t aware of this, and have to look into this more.

I have thus far refrained from posting reports pertaining to the fight at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18th.  I’ll post them once I get all the Bull Run reports up.

Photo from