Part 3 out of 3
most surely to be ours.
Away down at his headquarters at the Lewis House, the Rebel General
Johnston stands watching the progress of the battle, as it goes against
him. Nervously he glances, every now and then, over his left shoulder,
as if expecting something. An officer is galloping toward him, from
Manassas. He comes from the office of Beauregard's Adjutant-General, at
that point. He rides up and salutes. "General," says he, breathlessly,
"a United States Army has reached the line of the Manassas Gap railroad,
and is now but three or four miles from our left flank!"
Johnston clenches his teeth nervously. Thick beads of perspiration
start from his forehead. He believes it is Patterson's Army that has
followed "upon his heels" from before Winchester, faster than has been
anticipated; and, as he thinks of Kirby Smith, who should long since
have arrived with Elzey's Brigade--all, of his own "Army of the
Shenandoah," that has not yet followed him to Manassas,--the exclamation
involuntarily bursts from his lips: "Oh, for four regiments!"
[Says a correspondent and eye-witness of the battle, writing to the
Richmond Dispatch, from the battle-field, July 23d: "Between two
and three o'clock large numbers of men were leaving the field, some
of them wounded, others exhausted by the long struggle, who gave us
gloomy reports; but, as the firing on both sides continued
steadily, we felt sure that our brave Southerners had not been
conquered by the overwhelming hordes of the North. It is, however,
due to truth to say that the result at this hour hung trembling in
the balance. We had lost numbers of our most distinguished
officers. Gens. Barlow and Bee had been stricken down; Lieut; Col.
Johnson of the Hampton Legion had been killed; Col. Hampton had
been wounded. But there was at hand a fearless general whose
reputation was staked on this battle: Gen. Beauregard promptly
offered to lead the Hampton Legion into action, which he executed
in a style unsurpassed and unsurpassable. Gen. Beauregard rode up
and down our lines, between the Enemy and his own men, regardless
of the heavy fire, cheering and encouraging our troops. About this
time, a shell struck his horse, taking its head off, and killing
the horses of his aides, Messrs. Ferguson and Hayward. * * * Gen.
Johnston also threw himself into the thickest of the fight, seizing
the colors of a Georgia (Alabama) regiment, and rallying then to
the charge. * * * Your correspondent heard Gen. Johnston exclaim
to Gen. Cocke, just at the critical moment, 'Oh, for four
regiments!' His wish was answered; for in the distance our
re-enforcements appeared. The tide of battle was turned in our favor
by the arrival of Gen. Kirby Smith, from Winchester, with 4,000 men
of Gen. Johnston's Division. Gen. Smith heard, while on the
Manassas Railroad cars, the roar of battle. He stopped the train,
and hurried his troops across the fields to the point just where he
was most needed. They were at first supposed to be the Enemy,
their arrival at that point of the field being entirely unexpected.
The Enemy fell back, and a panic seized them. Cheer after cheer
from our men went up, and we knew the battle had been won."
Another Rebel correspondent who, as an officer of the Kentucky
battalion of General Johnston's Division of the Rebel Army,
participated in the battle, wrote to the Louisville Courier from
Manassas, July 22, an account of it, in which, after mentioning
that the Rebel Army had been forced back for two miles, he
continues; "The fortunes of the day were evidently against us.
Some of our best officers had been slain, and the flower of our
Army lay strewn upon the field, ghastly in death or gaping with
wounds. At noon, the cannonading is described as terrific. It was
an incessant roar for more than two hours, the havoc and
devastation at this time being fear ful. McDowell * * * had nearly
outflanked us, and they were just in the act of possessing
themselves of the Railway to Richmond. Then all would have been
lost. But most opportunely--I may say Providentially--at this
juncture, Gen. Johnston, [Kirby Smith it should be] with the
remnant of Johnston's Division--our Army, as we fondly call it, for
we have been friends and brothers in camp and field for three
months--reappeared, and made one other desperate struggle to obtain
the vantage-ground. Elzey's Brigade of Marylanders and Virginians
led the charge; and right manfully did they execute the work,"]
"The prayer of the wicked availeth not," 'tis said; yet never was the
prayer of the righteous more quickly answered than is that of the Rebel
General-in-chief! Johnston himself, alluding to this exigent moment,
afterward remarks, in his report: "The expected reenforcements appeared
soon after." Instead of Patterson's Union Army, it is Kirby Smith,
coming up, with Elzey's Brigade, from Winchester!
Satisfied of the safe arrival of Kirby Smith, and ordering him up, with
Elzey's Brigade, Johnston directs Kershaw's 2nd and Cash's 8th South
Carolina Regiments, which have just come up, with Kemper's Battery, from
Bonham's Brigade, to strengthen the Rebel left, against the attempt
which we are still making to reach around it, about the Sudley road, to
take it in reverse. Fisher's 6th North Carolina Regiment arriving about
the same time, is also hurried along to help Beauregard.
But during the victorious lull, heretofore alluded to, something is
happening on our side, that is of very serious moment. Let us see what
The batteries of Griffin and Ricketts, at the Dogan House, having
nothing to fire at, as we have seen, are resting, pleased with the
consciousness of their brilliant and victorious service against the
Rebel batteries and Infantry columns, when they are ordered by McDowell
--who, with his staff, is upon elevated ground to the rear of our
right,--to advance 1,000 yards further to the front, "upon a hill near
the Henry House."
Ricketts considers this a perilous job--but proceeds to execute the
order as to his own battery. A small ravine is in his front. With
Ricketts gallantly leading, the battery dashes across the ravine at full
gallop, breaking one wheel as it goes, which is at once replaced. A
fence lies across the way. The cannoniers demolish it. The battery
ascends the hill near the Henry House, which is full of the Enemy's
[For this, and what immediately follows, see the testimony of
Ricketts and others, before the Committee on the Conduct of the
Soon as Ricketts gets his guns in battery, his men and horses begin to
fall, under the fire of these sharpshooters. He turns his guns upon the
Henry House,--and "literally riddles it." Amid the moans of the
wounded, the death scream of a woman is heard! The Enemy had permitted
her to remain in her doomed house!
But the execution is not all on one side, by any means. Ricketts is in
a very hot place--the hottest, he afterward declares, that he has ever
seen in his life--and he has seen fighting before this.
The Enemy is behind the woods, at the front and right of Ricketts's
Battery. This, with the added advantage of the natural slope of the
ground, enables him to deliver upon the brave Union artillerists a
concentrated fire, which is terribly destructive, and disables so many
of Rickett's horses that he cannot move, if he would. Rickett's own
guns, however, are so admirably served, that a smooth-bore battery of
the Enemy, which has been stubbornly opposing him, is driven back,
despite its heavy supports.
And Griffin's Battery now comes rapidly up into position on the left of,
and in line with, Ricketts. For Griffin also has been ordered from the
Dogan House hill, to this new, and dangerously exposed, position.
But when Major Barry, General McDowell's Chief of Artillery, brings him
the order, Griffin hesitates--for he has no Infantry support.
"The Fire Zouaves--[The 11th New York]--will support you," says Barry,"
They are just ready to follow you at the double-quick!"
"Then why not let them go and get in position on the hill," says
Griffin; "then, let Ricketts's and my batteries come into battery
behind; and then, let them (the Zouaves) fall back?"
Griffin advises, also, as a better position for his own battery, a hill
500 yards in the rear of the Henry House hill. But advice is thrown
away. His artillery-chief is inflexible.
"I tell you," says Griffin again, "the Fire Zouaves won't support us."
"They will," replies Barry. "At any rate it is General McDowell's order
to go there!"
That settles the business. "I will go," responds Griffin; "but mark my
words, they will not support us!"
Griffin's Battery, indeed, starts first, but, owing to the mistake of
one of his officers, it has to be countermarched, so that Ricketts's is
thrown to the front, and, as we have seen, first reaches the crest of
the Henry House hill.
Griffin, as he comes up with his guns, goes into battery on the left of
Ricketts, and at once opens briskly on the Enemy. One of Griffin's guns
has a ball lodged in the bore, which cannot be got in or out. His other
five guns, with the six guns of Ricketts, make eleven pieces, which are
now side by side-all of them driving away at the Enemy's (Stonewall
Jackson's) strong batteries, not more than 300 yards away.
They have been at it half an hour perhaps, when Griffin moves two of his
pieces to the right of Ricketts, and commences firing with them. He has
hardly been there five minutes, when a Rebel regiment coming out of the
woods at Griffin's right front, gets over a rail fence, its Colonel
steps out between his regiment (now standing up to the knees in rank
grass) and the battery, and commences a speech to his men!
Griffin orders one of his officers to load with canister, and let
drive at them. The guns are loaded, and ready to fire, when up gallops
Barry, exclaiming: "Captain, don't fire there; those are your
At this supreme moment, Reynolds's gorgeous looking Marines are sitting
down in close column, on the ground, to the left of the Union batteries.
The showy 11th New York "Fire Zouaves" are a little to the rear of the
right of the guns. The gallant 14th New York Chasseurs, in their
dust-covered red uniforms, who had followed Griffin's Battery, at some
distance, have, only a little while since, pushed finely up, from the
ravine at the rear of our batteries, into the woods, to the right of
Griffin and Ricketts, at a double-quick. To the left of the batteries,
close to the battalion of Marines, Heintzelman bestrides his horse, near
some of his own Division.
To Major Barry's startling declaration, Captain Griffin excitedly
shouts: "They are Confederates! Sure as the world, they are
But Barry thinks he knows better, and hastily responds: "I know they are
Griffin spurs toward his pieces, countermands his previous order,
and firing is resumed in the old direction.
Andrew Porter, has just ridden up to Heintzelman's side, and now catches
sight of the Rebel regiment. "What troops are those?" he asks of
General Hientzelman, pointing in their direction.
While Heintzelman is replying, and just as Averell drops his reins and
levels his field-glass at them, "down come their pieces-rifles and
muskets,--and probably," as Averell afterward said, "there never was
such a destructive fire for a few minutes. It seemed as though every
man and horse of that battery just laid right down, and died right off!"
It is a dreadful mistake that has been made. And there seems to have
been no excuse for it either. The deliberateness of the Rebel colonel
has given Barry abundant time to have discovered his error. For Griffin
subsequently declared, under oath, that, "After the officer who had been
talking to the regiment had got through, he faced them to the left,
marched them about fifty yards to the woods, then faced them to the
right again, marched them about forty yards toward us, then opened fire
upon us--and that was the last of us!"
It is a terrible blunder. For, up to this moment, the battle is
undeniably ours. And, while the Rebel colonel has been haranguing his
brave men, there has been plenty of time to have "passed the word" along
the line of our batteries, and poured canister into the Rebel regiment
from the whole line of eleven guns, at point-blank range, which must
inevitably have cut it all to pieces. The fate of the day hung balanced
right there and then--with all the chances in favor of McDowell. But
those chances are now reversed. Such are the fickle changes in the
fortunes of battle!
Instead of our batteries cutting to pieces the Rebel Infantry regiment,
the Rebel Infantry regiment has mowed down the gallant artillerists of
our batteries. Hardly a man of them escapes. Death and destruction
reap a wondrous and instant harvest. Wounded, dying, or dead, lie the
brave cannoniers at their guns, officers and men alike hors du combat,
while wounded horses gallop wildly back, with bounding caissons, down
the gentle declivity, carrying disorder, and further danger, in their
The supporting Fire Zouaves and Marines, on the right and left of our
line of guns, stand, with staring eyes and dumb open-mouths, at the
sudden turn of affairs. They are absolutely paralyzed with
astonishment. They do not run at first. They stand, quaking and
panic-stricken. They are urged to advance upon the Rebel regiment
--"to give them a volley, and then try the bayonet." In vain! They
fire perhaps 100 scattering shots; and receive in return, as they break
and run down the hill to the rear, volley after volley, of deadly lead,
from the Rebel muskets.
But, as this Rebel regiment (Cummings's 33rd Virginia) advances to seize
the crippled and defenceless guns, it is checked, and driven back, by
the 1st Michigan Regiment of Willcox's Brigade, which has pushed forward
in the woods at our extreme right.
Meanwhile, having been ordered by McDowell to support Ricketts's
Battery, Howard has formed his four tired regiments into two lines
--Berry's 4th Maine, and Whitney's 2nd Vermont, on the right and left of
the first; and Dunnell's 5th, and his own 3rd Maine, under Staples, in
the second line. Howard himself leads his first line up the elevated
plateau of the Henry House. Reaching the crest, the line delivers its
fire, volley after volley, despite the concentrated hail of the Enemy's
Artillery and muskets. As the second line advances, a Rebel
cannon-ball, and an unfortunate charge of our own Cavalry, scatters most
of the 5th Maine. The 2nd Vermont, which has advanced 200 yards beyond
the crest, rapidly firing, while the Enemy retires, is now, in turn,
forced back by the Enemy's hot fire, and is replaced by the 3rd Maine,
while the remnant of the 5th moves up to the extreme right of Howard's
now single line. But the Rebel fire grows hotter and hotter, and owing
to this, and a misunderstood order, Howard's line begins to dissolve,
and then retires in confusion,--Howard and others vainly striving to
rally his own utterly exhausted men.
Sherman's Brigade, too, has come over from our left, and now advances
upon the deadly plateau, where lie the disabled Union batteries--the
prizes, in full sight of both Armies, for which each seems now to be so
Quinby's 13th New York Rifles, in column of companies, leads the
brigade, followed by Lieutenant-Colonel Peck's 2d Wisconsin, Cameron's
79th New York (Highlanders), and Corcoran's 69th New York (Irish), "in
line of battle." Down the slope, across the ravine, and up, on the
other side, steadily presses Quinby, till he reaches the crest. He
opens fire. An advancing Rebel regiment retires, as he pushes up to
where the Union batteries and cannoniers lie wounded and dying--the
other three regiments following in line-of-battle until near the crest,
when the fire of the Enemy's rifles and musketry, added to his heavy
cannonading, grows so severe that the brigade is forced back to shelter
in a roadway leading up the plateau.
Peck's 2nd Wisconsin, now emerges from this sheltered roadway, and
steadily mounts the elevation, in the face of the Enemy's severe fire
--returning it, with spirit, as it advances. But the Rebel fire becomes
too galling. The gray-clad Wisconsin boys return to the sheltered road
again, while the cry goes up from Sherman's ranks: "Our own men are
firing at them!" Rallying at the road, the 2nd Wisconsin again returns,
with desperate courage, to the crest of the hill, delivers its fire, and
then, unable to withstand the dreadful carnage, falls back once more, in
At this, the 79th (Highland) Regiment springs forward, to mount the brow
of the fatal hill, swept as it is, with this storm of shot and shell and
musket-balls. Up, through the lowering smoke, lit with the Enemy's
incessant discharges in the woods beyond, the brave Highlanders jauntily
march, and, with Cameron and their colors at their head, charge
impetuously across the bloody hill-crest, and still farther, to the
front. But it is not in human nature to continue that advance in the
teeth of the withering fire from Jackson's batteries, strengthened, as
they are, by Pelham's and Kemper's. The gallant fellows fall back,
rally again, advance once more, retire again, and at last,--the heroic
Cameron being mortally wounded,--fall back, in confusion, under the
cover of the hill.
And now, while Quinby's Regiment, on another ridge, more to the left, is
also again engaging the Enemy, the 69th New York, led by the fearless
Corcoran, dashes forward, up the Henry House hill, over the forbidding
brow, and beyond. As the brave Irishmen reach the abandoned batteries,
the hoarse roar of cannon, the sharp rattle of musketry-volleys, the
scream of shot and shell, and the whistling of bullets, is at once
deafening and appalling, while the air seems filled with the iron and
leaden sleet which sweeps across the scorched and blasted plateau of the
Henry House. Nobly the Irish Regiment holds its ground for a time; but,
at last, it too falls back, before the hurtling tempest.
The fortunes of the day are plainly turning against us. Time is also
against us--as it has been all along--while it is with the Enemy. It is
past 3 o'clock.
Since we last looked at Beauregard's third new defensive line, there
have been material accessions to it. The remains of the brigades of
Bee, Evans, and Bartow, have been reformed on the right of Jackson's
Brigade--Bee on his immediate right, Evans to the right of Bee, and
Bartow to the right of Evans, with a battery which has been engaging
Schenck's Brigade on the other side of Bull Run near the Stone Bridge;
while Cocke's Brigade watches Bull Run to the rear of Bartow. On the
left of Jackson's. Brigade, is now to be seen a part of Bonham's
Brigade (Kershaw's 2nd South Carolina, and Cash's 8th South Carolina)
with Kemper's Battery on its left. Kirby Smith has reached the front,
from Manassas, and--in advancing from his position on the left of
Bonham's demi-Brigade, just West of the Sudley road, with Elzey's
Brigade, in a counter-attack upon our right-is wounded, and carried to
the rear, leaving his command to Elzey. Stuart's Cavalry are in the
woods, still farther to the Enemy's left, supporting Beckham's Battery.
Early's Brigade is also coming up, from Union Mills Ford, not far to the
rear of the Enemy's left, with the design of coming into line between
Elzey's Brigade and Beckham's Battery, and out-flanking and attacking
our right. But let us bring our eyes back to the bloody contest, still
going on, for the possession of the batteries of Griffin and Ricketts.
Arnold's Battery has raced up on our right, and is delivering shot,
shell, spherical case, and canister, with effect, although exposed to a
severe and accurate fire from the Enemy. Wilcox, with what is left of
the 1st Michigan, after once retaking the batteries on the plateau, from
the 7th Georgia, has got around the Enemy's left flank and is actually
engaged with the Enemy's rear, while that Enemy's front is engaged with
Franklin and Sherman! But Hobart Ward's 38th New York, which Wilcox has
ordered up to support the 1st Michigan, on our extreme right, in this
flanking movement, has been misdirected, and is now attacking the
Enemy's centre, instead of his left; and Preston's 28th Virginia--which,
with Withers's 18th Virginia, has come up to the Rebel left, from
Cocke's Brigade, on the Enemy's right--finding the 1st Michigan broken,
in the woods, attacks it, and wounds and captures Wilcox. Withers's
Regiment has, with a yell--the old "Rebel yell," now rising everywhere
from Rebel throats, and so often heard afterward,--charged the 14th New
York Chasseurs, in the woods; and the Chasseurs, though retiring, have
fired upon it with such precision as to throw some of their assailants
[Says General Keyes, who had kept on down the Run, "on the extreme
left of our advance--having separated from Sherman on his right:--I
thought the day was won about 2 o'clock; but about half past 3
o'clock a sudden change in the firing took place, which, to my ear,
was very ominous. I knew that the moment the shout went up from
the other side, there appeared to be an instantaneous change in the
whole sound of the battle. * * * That, as far as I can learn, was
the shout that went up from the Enemy's line when they found out
for certain that it was Johnston [Kirby Smith] and not Patterson,
that had come."]
Meanwhile McDowell is making one more effort to retrieve the misfortunes
of the day. Lawrence's 5th, and Clark's 11th Massachusetts, with
Gorman's 1st Minnesota,--all belonging to Franklin's Brigade--together
with Corcoran's 69th New York, of Sherman's Brigade, have been brought
into line-of-battle, by the united efforts of Franklin, Averell, and
other officers, at our centre, and with the remnants of two or three
other regiments, are moving against the Enemy's centre, to support the
attack of the Chasseurs-rallied and led forward again by Heintzelman
upon the Rebel left, and that of the 38th New York upon the Rebel left
centre,--in another effort to recapture the abandoned batteries.
Charge after charge, is made by our gallant regiments, and
counter-charge after counter-charge, is made by the fresh troops of the
Enemy. For almost half an hour, has the contest over the batteries
rolled backward and forward. Three several times have the batteries
been taken, and re-taken,--much of the determined and desperate struggle
going on, over the prostrate and bleeding bodies of the brave Union
artillerists,--but without avail. Regiment after regiment, has been
thrown back, by the deadly fusillade of the Enemy's musketry from the
skirt of woods at his front and left, and the canister, case, and
bursting shells, of his rapidly-served Artillery.
It is now near upon 4 o'clock. Our last effort to recapture the
batteries has failed. The Union line of advance has been seriously
checked. Some of our own guns in those batteries are turned on us. The
Enemy's Infantry make a rush over the blood-soaked brow of the fatal
plateau, pouring into our men a deadly fire, as they advance,--while
over to our right and rear, at the same moment, are seen the fresh
regiments of Early's Brigade coming out of the woods--deploying rapidly
in several lines--with Stuart's handful of Rebel Cavalry, while
Beckham's guns, in the same quarter, open an oblique enfilading reverse
fire upon us, in a lively manner.
At once the minds of the fagged-out Union troops become filled with the
dispiriting idea that the exhausting fight which they have made all day
long, has been simply with Beauregard's Army of the Potomac, and that
these fresh Rebel troops, on the Union right and rear, are the vanguard
of Johnston's Army of the Shenandoah! After all the hard marching and
fighting they have done during the last thirteen hours,--with empty
stomachs, and parched lips, under a scorching sun that still, as it
descends in the West, glowers down upon them, through the murky air,
like a great, red, glaring eye,--the very thought is terrible!
Without fear, yet equally without hope, the Union troops crumble to
groups, and then to individuals. The attempt of McDowell to turn the
left of the Enemy's Bull Run line, has failed.
McDowell and his officers heroically but vainly strive, at great
personal risk to themselves, to stem the tide of confusion, and
disorder. Sykes's battalion of regulars, which has been at our left,
now steadily moves obliquely across the field of battle toward our
right, to a hill in the midground, which it occupies, and, with the aid
of Arnold's Battery and Palmer's Cavalry, holds, while the exhausted and
disorganized troops of the Union Army doggedly and slowly retire toward
Sudley Ford, their rear covered by an irregular square of Infantry,
which, mainly by the exertions of Colonel Corcoran, has been formed to
resist a threatened charge of Stuart's Cavalry.
[At the rate of "not more than two, or two and a half, miles an
hour," and not "helter-skelter," as some narrators state.]
It is not fear, that has got the better of our Union troops. It is
physical exhaustion for one thing; it is thirst for another. Men must
drink,--even if they have foolishly thrown away their canteens,--and
many have retired to get water. It is the moral effect also--the
terrible disappointment--of seeing what they suppose are Johnston's
fresh troops from the Shenandoah Valley, without Patterson "on their
heels," suddenly appear on their flank and rear. It is not fear; though
some of them are panic-stricken, and, as they catch sight of Stuart's
mounted men,--no black horse or uniform among them,--raise the cry of
"The Black Horse Cavalry!--The Black Horse Cavalry!"
The Union attack has been repulsed, it is true; but the Union soldiers,
though disorganized, discouraged, and disappointed, are not dismayed.
Their officers not yet having learned how to fight, and themselves
lacking the cohesion of discipline, the men have lost their regimental
organizations, and owing to the causes mentioned, slowly retire across
Sudley Ford of Bull Run, in a condition of disintegration, their retreat
being bravely covered by the 27th and 69th New York, (which have rallied
and formed there), Sykes's Infantry battalion, Arnold's Battery, and
[In his report to Major Barnard, Capt. D. P. Woodbury, of the
corps of Engineers, says: "It is not for me to give a history of
the battle. The Enemy was driven on our left, from cover to cover,
a mile and a half. Our position for renewing the action the next
morning was excellent; whence, then, our failure? It will not be
out of place, I hope, for me to give my own opinion of the cause of
this failure. An old soldier feels safe in the ranks, unsafe out
of the ranks, and the greater the danger the more pertinaciously he
clings to his place. The volunteer of three months never attains
this instinct of discipline. Under danger, and even under mere
excitement, he flies away from his ranks, and looks for safety in
dispersion. At four o'clock in the afternoon of the 21st, there
were more than twelve thousand volunteers on the battle-field of
Bull Run, who had entirely lost their regimental organizations.
They could no longer be handled as troops, for the officers and men
were not together. Men and officers mingled together
promiscuously; and it is worthy of remark that this disorganization
did not result from defeat or fear, for up to four o'clock we had
been uniformly successful. The instinct of discipline, which keeps
every man in his place, had not been acquired. We cannot suppose
that the troops of the Enemy had attained a higher degree of
discipline than our own, but they acted on the defensive, and were
not equally exposed to disorganization."]
While the divisions of Hunter and Heintzelman, which came down in the
morning across Sudley Ford, are now, with one brigade (Sherman's) of
Tyler's Division, retiring again, in this disordered condition, by that
ford; two other brigades of Tyler's Division, viz., that of Schenck
--which, at 4 o'clock, was just in the act of advancing upon, and across,
the Stone Bridge, to join in the Union attack, and of Keyes, which was,
at the same time, just succeeding in its effort to turn the right flank
of the Enemy's third new line,--are withdrawing from the field, across
Bull Run stream, by the Warrenton Pike, and other roads leading them
directly toward Centreville. The brigades of both Keyes and Schenck are
retiring in good order; that of Keyes, at "an ordinary pace," following
close after McDowell, who, with his staff, has ridden across the
battlefield and Bull Run; while part of that of Schenck, united with the
2nd Maine (of Keyes' Brigade) and Ayres's Battery, "promptly and
effectively" repulses a charge of the Enemy's Cavalry, and covers the
rear of Tyler's Division. Both of these brigades reach Centreville,
hungry and weary, but otherwise, for the most part, in good shape.
But during this grand all-day attack, by two of McDowell's divisions,
directly aided by part of a third, upon the left of the Enemy's original
Bull Run line of defense--which attack, while it has failed in its
purpose, has also utterly upset and defeated the Enemy's purpose to
carry out Beauregard's plan of attacking Centreville that same morning
--what has the Left Wing of McDowell's Army been doing? Let us go back
to Sunday morning, and ascertain:
All the Army of McDowell, save his Left Wing--which, comprising the two
brigades (Blenker's and Davies's) of Miles's Division, and Richardson's
Brigade of Tyler's Division that fought the preliminary battle of
Blackburn's Ford, is now under the command of Miles,--moved away from
Centreville, down the Warrenton Pike, as we have seen, very early in the
Blenker remains with his brigade as a reserve, on the heights a little
East of Centreville, to throw up intrenchments; which, however, he does
not do, for lack of trenching implements. Richardson and Davies are to
make a feint, at Blackburn's Ford, so as to draw the Enemy's troops
there, while the heavy blow of McDowell's Right Wing and Centre falls
upon the left flank and rear of the Enemy's Bull Run line.
Richardson's Brigade is already down the ridge, in his old position at
Blackburn's Ford, when Davies with his brigade reaches it, from
Centreville, and, by virtue of seniority, takes command of the two
brigades. Leaving Richardson's Brigade and Greene's Battery exactly on
the battle-ground of the 18th July, Davies posts two regiments (the 18th
and 32nd New York) of his own brigade, with Hunt's Battery, on the brow
of a hill, in an open wheat field, some eighty yards to the
South-Eastward of Richardson, distant some 1,500 yards from Longstreet's
batteries on the Western side of Bull Run,--and commences a rapid fire,
upon the Enemy's position at Blackburn's Ford, from both of the Union
At 10 o'clock, there is a lull in this Union fire. The Artillery
ammunition is running short. The demonstration, however, seems, thus
far, to be successful--judging by the movement of Rebel troops toward
Blackburn's Ford. The lull continues until 11 o'clock. At that time
Miles arrives at his front, in a towering rage.
On his way down the ridge, that morning, early, Davies had made a
discovery. While passing a roadway, his guide had casually remarked:
"There is a road that leads around to the Enemy's camp, direct." "Ah!"
--said Davies--"and can they get through that road?" "Oh, yes," replied
the guide. Davies had at once halted, and, after posting his 16th and
31st New York Regiments, with two guns of Hunt's Battery, near this
road, at its junction with the ridge road running up to Centreville and
Black burn's Ford, had proceeded, with the rest of his regiments and
guns, to the position where Miles finds him.
But Miles has discovered what Davies has done, in this matter of the
flanking roadway; and--without knowing, or apparently caring to know,
the reason underlying the posting of the two regiments and two guns in
its vicinity,--flies into "a terrible passion" because of it; in "no
very measured language," gives Davies "a severe dressing down;" and
orders him to bring both regiments and guns down to the front. Davies
complies, and says nothing. Miles also orders him to continue the
firing from his batteries, without regard to the quantity of ammunition.
This order, also, Davies obeys--and the firing proceeds, for two solid
hours, until another order comes, about 1 o'clock P.M., to stop firing.
The fact is, that Miles is not at all himself--but is suffering under
such a strain of mental excitement, he afterward claims, that he is not
Miles, however, returns to Centreville about noon; and no sooner is he
gone, than Davies at once sends back pioneers to obstruct that road
which would bring the Enemy around his left flank and rear, to
Centreville. These, work so industriously, that they cut down a quarter
of a mile of trees, and block the road up completely. Davies also posts
a few pickets there, in case of accidents. It is well he does so. It
is not long before the Enemy makes an attempt to get around to his rear,
by that road; but, finding it both obstructed and picketed, retires
again. Davies does not see the Rebels making that attempt, but catches
sight of them on their return, and gives them a severe shelling for
Davies keeps up his firing, more or less-according to the condition of
the Enemy and of his own ammunition--until 4 o'clock, when the firing
occasioned by the Union flanking movement, six miles to his right,
ceases. Then there reaches him a note from Richardson, so badly
penciled that he can only make out the one word "beaten,"--but cannot,
for the life of him, make out, whether the beaten one is our Right Wing,
or the Enemy!
Of what followed, he tells the story himself,--under oath, before the
Committee on the Conduct of the War--so graphically, that the temptation
to give it, in his own words, is irresistible. "I saw unmistakable
evidence," said he, "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 Rebels 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 shot 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, maybe, 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, (the Rebels)
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 * * * Lieutenant Benjamin to
fire. * * * He fired the first shot when the rear column presented
itself. It just went over their heads, and hit a horse and rider in
their 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 (belonging
to Richardson--who had by mistake got Greene's) performed so well, that,
in thirty 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 it was just like firing into a wheat
field; 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 to pieces; and it
did. We continued to fire for thirty minutes, when there was nothing
more to fire at, and no more shots were returned."
At a later hour--while remaining victorious at their well defended
position, with the Enemy at their front, dispersed and silenced,--these
two brigades of the Left Wing, receive orders to fall back on
Centreville, and encamp. With the brigade of Richardson, and Greene's
Battery in advance, Davies's own brigade and Hunt's Battery following,
they fall back on the heights of Centreville "without the least
confusion and in perfect order"--reaching them at 7 P.M.
Meantime Miles has been relieved from command, and McDowell has ordered
Blenker's Brigade to take position a mile or more in advance of
Centreville, toward Bull Run, on both sides of the Warrenton Pike, to
protect the retreat, now being made, in "a few collected bodies," but
mainly in great disorder--owing partly to the baggage-wagons choking the
road, along which both venturesome civilians and fagged-out troops are
retreating upon Centreville. This confused retreat passes through
Blenker's lines until 9 o'clock P.M.--and then, all is secure.
At midnight, McDowell has decided to make no stand at Centreville, but
to retire upon the defensive works at Washington. The order to retreat,
is given, and, with the rear well guarded by Richardson's and Blenker's
Brigades, is carried out, the van of the retreat, with no Enemy
pursuing, degenerating finally into a "mob," which carries more or less
panic into Washington itself, as well as terrible disappointment and
chagrin to all the Loyal States of the Union.
Knowing what we now do, concerning the Battle of Bull Run, it is
somewhat surprising, at this day, to read the dispatches sent by
McDowell to General Scott's headquarters at Washington, immediately
after it. They are in these words:
"CENTREVILLE, July 21, 1861--5:45 P.M.
"We passed Bull Run, engaged the Enemy, who, it seems, had just been
re-enforced by General Johnston. We drove them for several hours, and
finally routed them."
["No one who did not share in the sad experience will be able to
realize the consternation which the news of this discomfiture
--grossly exaggerated--diffused over the loyal portion of our
Country. Only the tidings which had reached Washington up to four
o'clock--all presaging certain and decisive victory--were permitted
to go North by telegraph that day and evening; so that, on Monday
morning, when the crowd of fugitives from our grand Army was
pouring into Washington, a heedless, harmless, worthless mob, the
Loyal States were exulting over accounts of a decisive triumph.
But a few hours brought different advices; and these were as much
worse than the truth as the former had been better: our Army had
been utterly destroyed-cut to pieces, with a loss of twenty-five to
thirty thousand men, besides all its artillery and munitions, and
Washington lay at the mercy of the Enemy, who were soon to advance
to the capture and sack of our great commercial cities. Never
before had so black a day as that black Monday lowered upon the
loyal hearts of the North; and the leaden, weeping skies reflected
and heightened, while they seemed to sympathize with, the general
gloom. It would have been easy, with ordinary effort and care, to
have gathered and remanded to their camps or forts around
Alexandria or Arlington, all the wretched stragglers to whom fear
had lent wings, and who, throwing away their arms and equipments,
and abandoning all semblance of Military order or discipline, had
rushed to the Capital to hide therein their shame, behind a cloud
of exaggerations and falsehoods. The still effective batteries,
the solid battalions, that were then wending their way slowly back
to their old encampments along the South bank of the Potomac,
depressed but unshaken, dauntless and utterly unassailed, were
unseen and unheard from; while the panic-stricken racers filled and
distended the general ear with their tales of impregnable
intrenchments and masked batteries, of regiments slaughtered,
brigades utterly cut to pieces, etc., making out their miserable
selves to be about all that was left of the Army. That these men
were allowed thus to straggle into Washington, instead of being
peremptorily stopped at the bridges and sent back to the
encampments of their several regiments, is only to be accounted for
on the hypothesis that the reason of our Military magnates had been
temporarily dethroned, so as to divest them of all moral
responsibility," Greeley's Am. Conflict, pp. 552-53., vol. I.]
"They rallied and repulsed us, but only to give us again the victory,
which seemed complete. But our men, exhausted with fatigue and thirst,
and confused by firing into each other, were attacked by the Enemy's
reserves, and driven from the position we had gained, overlooking
Manassas. After this, the men could not be rallied, but slowly left the
field. In the meantime the Enemy outflanked Richardson at Blackburn's
Ford, and we have now to hold Centreville till our men can get behind
it. Miles's Division is holding the town. It is reported that Colonel
Cameron is killed, Hunter and Heintzelman wounded, neither dangerously.
"FAIRFAX COURT HOUSE, July 21, 1861.
"The men having thrown away their haversacks in the battle, and left
them behind, they are without food; have eaten nothing since breakfast.
We are without artillery ammunition. The larger part of the men are a
confused mob, entirely demoralized. It was the opinion of all the
commanders that no stand could be made this side of the Potomac. We
will, however, make the attempt at Fairfax Court House. From a prisoner
we learn that 20,000 from Johnston joined last night, and they march on
"FAIRFAX COURT HOUSE, [July] 22, 1861.
"Many of the volunteers did not wait for authority to proceed to the
Potomac, but left on their own decision. They are now pouring through
this place in a state of utter disorganization. They could not be
prepared for action by to-morrow morning even were they willing. I
learn from prisoners that we are to be pressed here to-night and
tomorrow morning, as the Enemy's force is very large, and they are
elated. I think we heard cannon on our rear-guard. I think now, as all
of my commanders thought at Centreville, there is no alternative but to
fall back to the Potomac, and I shall proceed to do so with as much
regularity as possible.
"ARLINGTON, July 22, 1861.
"I avail myself of the re-establishing of telegraph to report my
arrival. When I left the forks of the Little River turnpike and
Columbia turnpike, where I had been for a couple of hours turning
stragglers and parties of regiments upon this place and Alexandria, I
received intelligence that the rear-guard, under Colonel Richardson, had
left Fairfax Court House, and was getting along well. Had not been
attacked. I am now trying to get matters a little organized over here.
"E. D. TOWNSEND."
McDowell had unquestionably been repulsed, in his main attack, with his
Right Wing, and much of his Army was badly demoralized; but, on the
other hand, it may be well to repeat that the Enemy's plan of attack
that same morning had been frustrated, and most of his forces so badly
shattered and demoralized that he dared not follow up the advantage
which, more by our own blunders than by his prowess, he had gained.
If the Union forces--or at least the Right Wing of them--were whipped,
the Enemy also was whipped. Jackson himself confesses that while he
had, at the last moment, broken our centre, our forces had turned both
of his flanks. The Enemy was, in fact, so badly used up, that he not
only dared not pursue us to Washington--as he would have down had he
been able--but he was absolutely afraid McDowell would resume the
attack, on the right of the original Bull Run line, that very night!
For, in a letter to General Beauregard; dated Richmond, Virginia, August
4, 1861, Jefferson Davis,--who was on the ground at Bull Run, July
21st,--alluding to the Battle of Bull Run, and Beauregard's excuses for
not pursuing the Union troops, says:
"I think you are unjust to yourself in putting your failure to pursue
the Enemy to Washington, to the account of short supplies of subsistence
and transportation. Under the circumstances of our Army, and in the
absence of the knowledge since acquired--if, indeed, the statements be
true--it would have been extremely hazardous to have done more than was
performed. You will not fail to remember that, so far from knowing that
the Enemy was routed, a large part of our forces was moved by you, in
the night of the 21st, to repel a supposed attack upon our right, and
the next day's operations did not fully reveal what has since been
reported of the Enemy's panic."
And Jefferson Davis's statement is corroborated by the Report of Colonel
Withers, of the 18th Virginia, who, after starting with other regiments,
in an attempt to cut off the Union retreat, was recalled to the Stone
Bridge,--and who says: "Before reaching the point we designed to occupy
(near the Stone Bridge) we were met by another order to march
immediately to Manassas Junction, as an attack was apprehended that
night. Although it was now after sunset, and my men had had no food all
day, when the command to march to Manassas was given, they cheerfully
took the route to that place."
Colonel Davies, who, as we have seen, commanded McDowell's stubborn Left
Wing, was after all, not far wrong, when, in his testimony before the
Committee on the Conduct of the War, he declared, touching the story of
the Bull Run Battle: "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."
In point of fact, the Battle of Bull Run--the first pitched battle of
the War--was a drawn battle.
War was now fully inaugurated--Civil War--a stupendous War between two
great Sections of one common Country; those of our People, on the one
side, fighting for the dissolution of the Union--and incidentally for
Free Trade, and for Slavery; those on the other side, fighting for the
preservation of the Union--and incidentally for Protection to our Free
Industries, and for the Freedom of the Slave.
As soon as the Republican Party controlled both Houses of Congress it
provided Protection to our Free Industries, and to the Free Labor
engaged in them, by the Morill Tariff Act of 1860--the foundation Act of
all subsequent enactments on the subject. In subsequent pages of this
work we shall see how the Freedom of the Slave was also accomplished by
the same great Party.