Part 7 out of 13
The Rebel response to this cannonade, is very feeble. McDowell observes
this. He suspects there has been a weakening of the Enemy's force at
the bridge, in order to strengthen his right for some purpose. And what
can that purpose be, but to throw his augmented right upon our left, at
Blackburn's Ford, and so, along the ridge-road, upon Centreville? Thus
McDowell guesses, and guesses well. To be in readiness to protect his
own left and rear, by reenforcing Miles's Division, at Centreville and
along the ridge to Blackburn's Ford, he temporarily holds back Howard's
Brigade of Heintzelman's Division at the point where the cross-road to
Sudley Springs Ford-along which Hunter's Division, followed by the
Brigades of Franklin and Wilcox, of Heintzelman's Division, have already
gone-intersects the Warrenton Pike.
It is 9 o'clock. Beauregard, as yet unaware of McDowell's new plan,
sends an order to Ewell, on his right, to hold himself ready "to take
the offensive, at a moment's notice,"--and directing that Ewell be
supported in his advance, toward Sangster's cross-roads and the rear of
Centreville, by Holmes's Brigade. In accordance with that order, Ewell,
who is "at Union Mills and its neighborhood," gets his brigade ready,
and Holmes moves up to his support. After waiting two hours, Ewell
receives another order, for both Ewell and Holmes "to resume their
places." Something must have occurred since 9 o'clock, to defeat
Beauregard's plan of attack on Centreville--with all its glorious
consequences! What can it be? We shall see.
While Tyler's Artillery has been cannonading the Rebel left, under
Evans, at Stone Bridge,--fully impressed with the prevailing Union
belief that the bridge is not only protected by strong masked batteries,
heavy supports of Infantry, and by abatis as well as other defenses, but
is also mined and ready to be blown up at the approach of our troops,
when in reality the bridge is not mined, and the Rebel force in men and
guns at that point has been greatly weakened in anticipation of
Beauregard's projected advance upon Centreville,--the Union column,
under Hunter and Heintzelman, is advancing from Centreville, in the
scorching heat and suffocating dust of this tropical July morning,
slowly, but surely, along the Warrenton Pike and the cross-road to
Sudley Springs Ford--a distance of some eight miles of weary and
toilsome marching for raw troops in such a temperature--in this order:
Burnside's Brigade, followed by Andrew Porter's Brigade,--both of
Hunter's Division; then Franklin's Brigade, followed by Willcox's
Brigade,--both of Heintzelman's Division.
It is half past 9 o'clock; before Burnside's Brigade has crossed the
Bull Run stream, at Sudley's Ford, and the head of Andrew Porter's
Brigade commences to ford it. The troops are somewhat slow in crossing.
They are warm, tired, thirsty, and as to dust,--their hair and eyes and
nostrils and mouths are full of it, while most of the uniforms, once
blue, have become a dirty gray. The sky is clear. The sun already is
fiercely hot. The men stop to drink and fill their canteens. It is
well they do.
McDowell, who has been waiting two or three hours at the turn, impatient
at the delay, has ridden over to the front of the Flanking column, and
now reaches Sudley's Ford. He feels that much valuable time is already
lost. His plan has, in a measure, been frustrated by delay. He had
calculated on crossing Bull Run, at Sudley's Ford, and getting to the
rear of the Enemy's position, at Stone Bridge, before a sufficient Rebel
force could be assembled to contest the Union advance. He sends back an
aide with orders to the regimental commanders in the rear, to "break
from column, and hurry forward separately, as fast as possible."
Another aide he sends, with orders to Howard to bring his brigade
across-fields. To Tyler he also sends orders to "press forward his
attack, as large bodies of the Enemy are passing in front of him to
attack the division (Hunter's) which has passed over."
It may here be explained, that the Sudley road, running about six miles
South-Southeasterly from Sudley Springs Ford to Manassas Junction, is
crossed at right angles, about two miles South of the Springs, by the
Warrenton Pike, at a point about one mile and a half West of the Stone
Bridge. For nearly a mile South of Sudley Ford, the Sudley road passes
through thick woods on the left, and alternate patches of wooded and
cleared lands on the right. The country farther South, opens into
rolling fields, occasionally cut by transverse gullies, and patched with
woods. This is what Burnside's Brigade beholds, as it marches
Southward, along the Sudley road, this eventful morning.
Thus far, the cannonade of Tyler's batteries, and the weak return-fire
of the Rebel Artillery, at Stone Bridge, over two miles South-East of
Sudley Ford, is about the only music by which the Union march has kept
But now, as Burnside's foremost regiment emerges from the woods, at half
past 10 o'clock, the Artillery of the Enemy opens upon it.
Let us see how this happens. Evans's Brigade, defending the Stone
Bridge, and constituting the Enemy's extreme left, comprises, as has
already been mentioned, Sloan's 4th South Carolina Regiment, Wheat's
Louisiana battalion, Terry's squadron of Virginia Cavalry, and
Davidson's section of Latham's Battery of six-pounders.
Earlier in the morning Evans has supposed, from the cannonade of Tyler's
batteries among the pines on the hills obliquely opposite the Enemy's
left, as well as from the sound of the cannonade of the Union batteries
away down the stream on the Enemy's right, near Blackburn's Ford, that
McDowell is about to make an attack upon the whole front of the Rebel
line of defense along Bull Run-by way of the Stone Bridge, and the
various fords below it, which cross that stream. But by 10 o'clock,
that Rebel general begins to feel doubtful, suspicious, and uneasy.
Despite the booming of Tyler's guns, he has caught in the distance the
rumbling sounds of Hunter's Artillery wheels.
Evans finds himself pondering the meaning of those long lines of dust,
away to his left; and then, like a flash, it bursts upon him, that all
this Military hubbub in his front, and far away to his right, is but a
feint; that the real danger is somehow connected with that mysterious
far-away rumble, and those lines of yellow dust; that the main attack is
to be on the unprepared left and rear of the Rebel position!
No sooner has the Rebel brigade-commander thus divined the Union plan of
attack, than he prepares, with the limited force at his command, to
thwart it. Burnside and he are about equidistant, by this time, from
the intersection of the Sudley road, running South, with the Warrenton
Pike, running West. Much depends upon which of them shall be the first
to reach it,--and the instinctive, intuitive knowledge of this, spurs
Evans to his utmost energy. He leaves four of his fifteen companies,
and Rogers's section of the Loudoun Artillery,--which has come up from
Cocke's Brigade, at the ford below--to defend the approaches to the
Stone Bridge, from the East side of Bull Run,--and, with the other
eleven companies, and Latham's half-battery, he hurries Westward, along
the Warrenton Pike, toward the Sudley road-crossing, to resist the
impending Union attack.
It is now 10:30 o'clock, and, as he hurries along, with anxious eyes,
scanning the woods at the North, he suddenly catches the glitter of
Burnside's bayonets coming down through them, East of the Sudley road,
in "column of regiments" toward Young's Branch--a small stream turning,
in a Northern and Southern loop, respectively above and below the
Warrenton Pike, much as the S of a prostrate dollar-mark twines above
and below its horizontal line, the vicinity of which is destined to be
hotly-contested ground ere night-fall.
[Says Captain D. P. Woodbury, U. S. corps of engineers, and
who, with Captain Wright, guided the divisions of Hunter and
Heintzelman in making the detour to the upper part of Bull Run: "At
Sudley's Mills we lingered about an hour to give the men and horses
water and a little rest before going into action, our advance guard
in the mean time going ahead about three quarters of a mile.
Resuming our march, we emerged from the woods about one mile South
of the ford, and came upon a beautiful open valley about one and a
quarter miles square, bounded on the right or West by a wooded
ridge, on the Fast by the rough spurs or bluffs of Bull Run, on the
North by an open plain and ridge, on which our troops began to
form, and on the South by another ridge, on which the Enemy was
strongly posted, with woods behind their backs. The Enemy was also
in possession of the bluffs of Bull Run on our left."]
Sending word to Headquarters, Evans pushes forward and gaining Buck
Ridge, to the North of the Northern loop of Young's Branch, forms his
line-of-battle upon that elevation--which somewhat compensates him for
the inferiority of his numbers--nearly at right angles to the Bull Run
line; rapidly puts his Artillery in position; the Rebel guns open on
Burnside's advance--their hoarse roar soon supplemented by the rattle of
Rebel musketry, and the answering roar and rattle of the Union onset;
and the Battle of Bull Run has commenced!
It is after 10:30 A.M., and Beauregard and Johnston are upon an eminence
in the rear of the centre of the Enemy's Bull Run line. They have been
there since 8 o'clock. An hour ago, or more, their Signal Officer has
reported a large body of Union troops crossing the Bull Run Valley, some
two or three miles above the Stone Bridge; upon the strength of which,
Johnston has ordered Bee's Brigade from near Cocke's position, with
Hampton's Legion and Stonewall Jackson's Brigade from near Bonham's
left, to move to the Rebel left, at Stone Bridge; and these troops are
now hastening thither, guided by the sound of the guns.
The artillery-firing is also heard by Johnston and Beauregard, but
intervening wooded slopes prevent them from determining precisely whence
it comes. Beauregard, with a badly-organized staff, is chaffing over
the delay that has occurred in carrying out his own plan of battle. He
is waiting to hear of the progress of the attack which he has ordered
upon the Union Army,--supposed by him to be at Centreville,--and
especially as to the advance of his right toward Sangster's Station. In
the meantime also,--from early morning,--the Rebel commanders have heard
heavy firing in the direction of Blackburn's Ford, toward their right,
where the Artillery attached to the brigades of Davies and Richardson,
constituting McDowell's Left Wing, is demonstrating in a lively manner,
in accordance with McDowell's plan.
It is 11 o'clock. Beauregard has become satisfied that his orders for
the Rebel advance and attack on Centreville, have failed or miscarried.
His plan is abandoned, and the orders countermanded. At the same time
the growing volume of artillery-detonations upon the left of the Bull
Run line of defense--together with the clouds of dust which indicate the
route of march of Hunter's and Heintzelman's Divisions from near
Centreville to the point of conflict, satisfies both Johnston and
Beauregard, that a serious attack is imperilling the Rebel left.
Beauregard at once proposes to Johnston "a modification of the abandoned
plan," viz.: "to attack with the" Rebel "right, while the left stands on
the defensive." But rapidly transpiring events conspire to make even
the modified plan impracticable.
Johnston, convinced by the still growing volume of battle-sounds on the
Rebel left, that the main attack of McDowell is being made there, urges
Beauregard to strengthen the left, as much as possible; and, after that
general has sent orders to this end,--to Holmes and Early to come up
with their Brigades from Union Mills Ford, moving "with all speed to the
sound of the firing," and to Bonham to promptly send up, from Mitchell's
Ford, a battery and two of his regiments--both he and Beauregard put
spurs to their horses, and gallop at full speed toward the firing, four
miles away on their left,--stopping on the way only long enough for
Johnston to order his Chief-of-artillery, Colonel Pendleton, to "follow,
with his own, and Alburtis's Batteries."
Meanwhile let us return and witness the progress of the battle, on the
Rebel left,--where we were looking on, at 10:30 o'clock. Evans had then
just posted his eleven companies of Infantry on Buck Ridge, with one of
his two guns on his left, near the Sudley road, and the other not far
from the Robinson House, upon the Northern spur of the elevated plateau
just South of Young's Branch, and nearly midway between the Sudley road
and Stone Bridge.
The battle, as we have seen, has opened. As Burnside's Brigade appears
on the slope, to the North of Buck Ridge (or Hill), it is received by a
rapid, well-sustained, and uncomfortable, but not very destructive fire,
from Evans's Artillery, and, as the Union regiments press forward, in
column, full of impulsive ardor, the Enemy welcomes the head of the
column with a hot musketry-fire also, delivered from the crest of the
elevation behind which the Rebel Infantry lie flat upon the ground.
This defense by Evan's demi-Brigade still continues, although half an
hour, or more, has elapsed. Burnside has not yet been able to dislodge
the Enemy from the position. Emboldened to temerity by this fact, Major
Wheat's Louisiana battalion advances through the woods in front, upon
Burnside, but is hurled back by a galling fire, which throws it into
disorder and flight.
At this moment, however, the brigades of Bee and Bartow--comprising the
7th and 8th Georgia, 2nd Mississippi, 4th Alabama, 6th North Carolina,
and two companies of the 11th Mississippi, with Imboden's Battery of
four pieces--recently arrived with Johnston from Winchester, come up,
form on the right of Sloan's 4th South Carolina Regiment, while Wheat
rallies his remnant on Sloan's left, now resting on the Sudley road, and
the whole new Rebel line opens a hot fire upon Burnside's Brigade.
Hunter, for the purpose of better directing the Union attack, is at this
moment rapidly riding to the left of the Union line,--which is advancing
Southwardly, at right angles to Bull Run stream and the old line of
Rebel defense thereon. He is struck by the fragment of a shell, and
carried to the rear.
Colonel John S. Slocum's, 2nd Rhode Island, Regiment, with Reynold's
Rhode Island Battery (six 13-pounders), having been sent to the front of
Burnside's left, and being closely pressed by the Enemy, Burnside's own
regiment the 1st Rhode Island, is gallantly led by Major Balch to the
support of the 2nd, and together they handsomely repulse the Rebel
onset. Burnside now sends forward Martin's 71st New York, with its two
howitzers, and Marston's 2nd New Hampshire,--his whole Brigade, of four
regiments and a light artillery battery, being engaged with the heavy
masked battery (Imboden's and two other pieces), and nearly seven full
regiments of the Enemy.
The regiments of Burnside's Brigade are getting considerably cut up.
Colonels Slocum and Marston, and Major Balch, are wounded. There is
some confusion in the ranks, and the Rhode Island Battery is in danger
of capture, when General Andrew Porter--whose own brigade has just
reached the field and is deploying to the right of Burnside's--succeeds
Hunter in command of the division, and rides over to his left. Burnside
asks him for Sykes's battalion of regulars, which is accordingly
detached from the extreme right of Andrew Porter's Division, rapidly
forms on the left, in support of the Rhode Island Battery, and opens a
hot and effective fire which, in connection with the renewed fire of
Burnside's rallied regiments, and the opening artillery practice of
Griffin's Battery--that has just come up at a gallop and gone into a
good position upon an eminence to the right of Porter's Division, and to
the right of the Sudley road looking South--fairly staggers the Enemy.
And now the brigades of Sherman and Keyes, having been ordered across
Bull Run by General Tyler, are seen advancing from Poplar Ford, at the
rear of our left,--Sherman's Brigade, headed by Corcoran's 69th New York
Regiment, coming up on Burnside's left, while Keves's Brigade is
following, to the left again of, Sherman.
[Sherman, in his Official Report, after mentioning the receipt by
him of Tyler's order to "cross over with the whole brigade to the
assistance of Colonel Hunter"--which he did, so far as the Infantry
was concerned, but left his battery under Ayres behind, on account
of the impassability of the bluff on the Western bank of Bull Run
--says: "Early in the day, when reconnoitering the ground, I had seen
a horseman descend from a bluff in our front, cross the stream, and
show himself in the open field, and, inferring we could cross over
at the same point, I sent forward a company as skirmishers, and
followed with the whole brigade, the New York Sixty-ninth leading."
This is evidently the ford at the elbow of Bull Run, to the right
of Sherman's front, which is laid down on the Army-maps as "Poplar
Ford," and which McDowell's engineers had previously discovered and
mapped; and to which Major Barnard of the U. S. Engineer Corps
alludes when, in his Official Report, he says: "Midway between the
Stone Bridge and Sudley Spring our maps indicated another ford,
which was said to be good."
The Comte de Paris, at page 241, vol. I. of his admirable "History
of the Civil War in America," and perhaps other Military
historians, having assumed and stated--upon the strength of this
passage in Sherman's Report--that "the Military instinct" of that
successful soldier had "discovered" this ford; and the impression
being thus conveyed, however undesignedly, to their readers, that
McDowell's Engineer corps, after spending two or three days in
reconnaissances, had failed to find the ford which Sherman had in a
few minutes "discovered" by "Military instinct;" it is surely due
to the truth of Military history, that the Engineers be fairly
credited with the discovery and mapping of that ford, the existence
of which should also have been known to McDowell's brigade
If, on the other hand, the Report of the Rebel Captain Arthur L.
Rogers, of the Loudoun Artillery, to General Philip St. George
Cocke, be correct, it would seem that Sherman attempted to cross
Bull Run lower down than Poplar Ford, which is "about one mile
above the Stone Bridge," but was driven back by the fire of
Rogers's guns to cross at that particular ford; for Rogers, in that
Report, says that about 11 o'clock A. M., the first section of the
Loudoun Artillery, under his command, "proceeded to the crest of
the hill on the West Side of Bull Run, commanding Stone Bridge. *
* * Here." continues he, "I posted my section of Artillery, and
opened a brisk fire upon a column of the Enemy's Infantry, supposed
to be two regiments, advancing towards me, and supported by his
battery of rifled cannon on the hills opposite. These poured into
my section a steady fire of shot and shell. After giving them some
fifty rounds, I succeeded in heading his column, and turned it up
Bull Run to a ford about one mile above Stone Bridge, where, with
the regiments which followed, they crossed, and proceeded to join
the rest of the Enemy's forces in front of the main body of our
Before this developing, expanding, and advancing attack of the Union
forces, the Rebel General Bee, who--since his coming up to support
Evans, with his own and Bartow's Brigades, to which had since been added
Hampton's Legion,--has been in command of this new Rebel line of defense
upon the left of the Bull Run line, concludes that that attack is
getting too strong for him, and orders his forces to retreat to the
Southward, and re-form on a second line, parallel to their present line,
and behind the rising ground at their rear. They do so, somewhat faster
than he desires. The whole line of the Rebel centre gives way, followed
by the wings, as far as the victorious Union troops can see.
We must be blind if we cannot perceive that thus far, the outlook, from
the Union point of view,--despite numberless mistakes of detail, and
some, perhaps, more general in their character--is very good. The "Boys
in Blue" are irresistibly advancing, driving the "Rebel Gray" back and
back, without let or hindrance, over the Buck Hill ridge, over Young's
Branch, back to, and even over, the Warrenton Pike. Time, to be sure,
is flying--valuable time; but the Enemy also is retiring.--There is some
slight confusion in parts of our own ranks; but there is much more in
his. At present, we have decidedly the best of it. McDowell's plan has
been, thus far, successful. Will that success continue? We shall see.
Heintzelman's Division is coming, up from the rear, to the Union right
--Franklin's Brigade, made up of the 5th and 11th Massachusetts, and 1st
Minnesota, with Ricketts's splendid battery of six 10-pounder Parrotts,
forming on the right of Andrew Porter's Brigade and Division; while
Willcox's demi-Brigade, with its 11th ("Fire Zouaves") and 38th New
York--having left Arnold's Battery of four pieces, with the 1st Michigan
as its support, posted on a hill commanding Sudley's Ford--comes in, on
the right of Franklin, thus forming the extreme right of the advancing
Union line of attack.
As our re-enforcing brigades come up, on our right, and on our left, the
Enemy falls back, more and more discouraged and dismayed. It seems to
him, as it does to us, "as though nothing can stop us." Jackson,
however, is now hurrying up to the relief of the flying and disordered
remnants of Bee's, Bartow's, and Evans's Brigades; and these
subsequently rally, with Hampton's Legion, upon Jackson's strong brigade
of fresh troops, so that, on a third new line, to which they have been
driven back, they soon have--6,500 Infantry, 13 pieces of Artillery, and
Stuart's cavalry-posted in a belt of pines which fringes the Southern
skirt of the Henry House plateau--in a line-of-battle which, with its
left resting upon the Sudley road, three-quarters of a mile South of its
intersection with the Warrenton Pike, is the irregular hypothenuse of a
right-angled triangle, formed by itself and those two intersecting
roads, to the South-East of such intersection. It is within this
right-angled triangular space that the battle, now proceeding, bids
fair to rage most fiercely.
Johnston and Beauregard, riding up from their rear, reach this new
(third) line to which the Rebel troops have been driven, about noon.
They find the brigades of Bee, Bartow, and Evans, falling back in great
disorder, and taking shelter in a wooded ravine, South of the Robinson
House and of the Warrenton Pike. Hampton's Legion, which has just been
driven backward over the Pike, with great loss, still holds the Robinson
House. Jackson, however, has reached the front of this line of defense,
with his brigade of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Virginia Infantry,
and Pendleton's Battery--all of which have been well rested, since their
arrival, with other brigades of Johnston's Army of the Shenandoah, from
Winchester, a day or two back.
As Jackson comes up, on the left of "the ravine and woods occupied by
the mingled remnants of Bee's, Bartow's and Evans's commands," he posts
Imboden's, Stanard's, and Pendleton's Batteries in line, "below the brim
of the Henry House plateau," perhaps one-eighth of a mile to the
East-Southeastward of the Henry House, at his centre; Preston's 4th
Virginia, and Echol's 27th Virginia, at the rear of the battery-line;
Harper's 5th Virginia, with Radford's Cavalry, at its right; and, on its
left, Allen's 2nd Virginia; with Cumming's 33rd Virginia to the left of
that again, and Stuart's Cavalry covering the Rebel left flank.
It is about this time that the chief Rebel generals find their position
so desperate, as to necessitate extraordinary measures, and personal
exposure, on their part. Now it is, that Jackson earns the famous
sobriquet which sticks to him until he dies.
[Bee approaches Jackson--so goes the story, according to Swinton;
he points to the disordered remnants of his own brigade mingled
with those of the brigades of Bartow and Evans huddled together in
the woods, and exclaims: "General, they are beating us back!"
"Sir," responds Jackson, drawing himself up, severely, "We'll give
them the bayonet!" And Bee, rushing back among his confused troops,
rallies them with the cry: "There is Jackson, standing like a Stone
wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer."]
Now it is, that Johnston and Beauregard, accompanied by their staffs,
ride backward and forward among the Rebel ranks, rallying and
encouraging them. Now it is, that, Bee and Bartow and Hampton being
wounded, and the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Hampton Legion killed,
Beauregard leads a gallant charge of that legion in person. And now it
is, that Johnston himself, finding all the field-officers of the 4th
Alabama disabled, "impressively and gallantly charges to the front" with
the colors of that regiment at his side!
These conspicuous examples of bravery, inspire the Rebel troops with
fresh courage, at this admittedly "critical" moment.
Johnston now assigns to Beauregard the chief "command of the left" of
the Bull Run line,--that is to say, the chief command of the Enemy's new
line of defense, which, as we have seen, is on the left of, and at right
angles to, the old Bull Run line--while he himself, riding back to the
Lewis House, resumes "the command of the whole field."
On his way to his rear, Johnston orders Cocke to send reenforcements to
Beauregard. He also dispatches orders to hurry up to that Rebel
general's support, the brigades of Holmes and Early from near the Union
Mills Ford, and that of Bonham from Mitchell's Ford,--Ewell with his
brigade, being also directed to "follow with all speed" from Union
Mills Ford-making a total of over 10,000 fresh troops.
From the "commanding elevation" of the Lewis House, Johnston can observe
the position of the Union forces beyond Bull Run, at Blackburn's Ford
and Stone Bridge; the coming of his own re-enforcing brigades from far
down the valley, toward Manassas; and the manoeuvres of our advancing
columns under McDowell.
As the battle proceeds, the Enemy's strength on the third new line of
defense increases, until he has 22 guns, 260 Cavalry, and 12 regiments
of Infantry, now engaged. It is interesting to observe also, that, of
these, 16 of the guns, 9 of the regiments, and all of the Cavalry
(Stuart's), belong to Johnston's Army of the Shenandoah, while only 6
guns and 3 Infantry regiments thus engaged, belong to Beauregard's Army
of the Potomac. Thus the burden of the battle has been, and is being,
borne by Johnston's, and not Beauregard's troops--in the proportion of
about three of the former, to one of the latter,--which, for over two
hours, maintain their position despite many successive assaults we make
It is after 2 o'clock P.M., when Howard's Brigade, of Heintzelman's
Division, reaches the battle-field, almost broken down with exhaustion.
By order of Heintzelman it has moved at double-quick for a mile of the
way, until, under the broiling heat, it can do so no longer. The last
two miles of the weary tramp, while the head of the brigade has moved at
quick time, the rear, having lost distances, moves, much of the time, at
a double-quick. As a consequence, many of Howard's men drop out, and
absolutely faint from exhaustion.
As Howard's Brigade approaches the field, besides the ambulances and
litters, conveying to the rear the wounded and dying, crowds of
retreating stragglers meet and tell it to hurry along; that the Enemy
has been driven back a mile; but, as it marches along, its regiments do
not feel particularly encouraged by the disorganization so prevalent;
and the fact that as they come into action, the thunders of the Rebel
Artillery do not seem to meet an adequately voluminous response--from
the Union side, seems to them, a portent of evil. Weary and fagged out,
they are permitted to rest, for a while, under cover.
Up to this time, our line, increased, as it has been, by the brigades of
Sherman and Keyes, on the left of Burnside, and of Franklin and Wilcox,
on the right of Porter, has continued to advance victoriously. Our
troops are, to be sure, considerably scattered, having been "moved from
point to point" a good deal. On our left, the Enemy has been driven
back nearly a mile, and Keyes's Brigade is pushing down Bull Run, under
shelter of the bluffs, trying to turn the right of the Enemy's new line,
and give Schenck's Brigade a better chance for crossing the Stone
Bridge, still commanded by some of the Rebel guns.
Having "nothing to do" there, "several of the Union regiments" are
coming over, from our left toward our right, with a view of overlapping,
and turning, the Enemy's left.
It is about half past 2 o'clock. The batteries of Griffin and Ricketts
have already been advanced as far as the eminence, upon our right, upon
which stands the Dogan House. Supported by Lyons's gallant 14th New
York Chasseurs, Griffin's and Ricketts's Batteries are still pouring a
terribly destructive fire into the batteries and columns of the Enemy,
now behind the brow of the Henry House hill, wherever exposed, while
Palmer's seven companies of Union Cavalry are feeling the Enemy's left
flank, which McDowell proposes to turn. The flags of eight Union
regiments, though "borne somewhat wearily" now point toward the hilly
Henry House plateau, beyond which "disordered masses of Rebels" have
been seen "hastily retiring."
There is a lull in the battle. The terrible heat is exhausting to the
combatants on both sides. Griffin and Ricketts have wrought such havoc
with their guns, that "nothing remains to be fired at." Victory seems
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.
THE COLORED CONTRABAND.
When the first gun was fired at Fort Sumter, its sullen echoes sounded
the funeral knell of Slavery. Years before, it had been foretold, and
now it was to happen. Years before, it had been declared, by competent
authority, that among the implications of the Constitution was that of
the power of the General Government to Emancipate the Slaves, as a War
measure. Hence, in thus commencing the War of the Rebellion, the South
marched with open eyes upon this, as among other of the legitimate and
logical results of such a War.
Patrick Henry, in opposing the ratification by Virginia of the Federal
Constitution, had declared to the Slaveholders of that State that "Among
ten thousand implied powers" which Congress may assume, "they may, if we
be engaged in War, liberate every one of your Slaves, if they please, *
* * Have they not power to provide for the General Defense and Welfare?
May they not think that these call for the abolition of Slavery? May
they not pronounce all Slaves Free? and will they not be warranted by
that power? * * * They have the power, in clear, unequivocal terms,
and will clearly and certainly exercise it."
So, too, in his great speech of May 25, 1836, in the House of
Representatives, John Quincy Adams had declared that in "the last great
conflict which must be fought between Slavery and Emancipation,"
Congress "must and will interfere" with Slavery, "and they will not only
possess the Constitutional power so to interfere, but they will be bound
in duty to do it, by the express provisions of the Constitution itself."
And he followed this declaration with the equally emphatic words: "From
the instant that your Slave-holding States become the theatre of War
--civil, servile, or foreign--from that instant, the War powers of
Congress extend to interference with the Institution of Slavery in every
Way by which it can be interfered with."
The position thus announced by these expounders of the Constitution--the
one from Virginia, the other from Massachusetts--was not to be shaken
even by the unanimous adoption, February 11, 1861, by the House of
Representatives on roll call, of the resolution of Mr. Sherman, of Ohio,
in these words:
"Resolved, That neither the Congress of the United States nor the people
or governments of the non-Slaveholding States have the Constitutional
right to legislate upon or interfere with Slavery in any of the
Slaveholding States in the Union."
Ex-President J. Q. Adams's cogent exposition of the Constitution,
twenty-five years before, in that same House, demonstrating not only
that Congress had the right but the Constitutional power to so
interfere--and his further demonstration April 15, 1842, of his
statement that under the laws of War, "when a Country is invaded, and
two hostile armies are set in martial array, the Commanders of both
Armies have power to Emancipate all the Slaves in the invaded
territory"--as not to be overcome by a mere vote of one House, however
unanimous. For the time being, however, it contributed, with other
circumstances, to confuse the public mind and conscience. Indeed as
early as May of 1861, the attitude of our Government and its troops
toward Negro Slaves owned or used by Rebels in rebellious States, began
to perturb the public, bother the Administration, and worry the Military
For instance, in Major-General McClellan's proclamation to the Union men
of West Virginia, issued May 26, 1861, he said:
"The General Government cannot close its ears to the demand you have
made for assistance. I have ordered troops to cross the river. They
come as your friends and brothers--as enemies only to armed Rebels, who
are preying upon you; your homes, your families, and your property are
safe under our protection. All your rights shall be religiously
respected, notwithstanding all that has been said by the Traitors to
induce you to believe our advent among you will be signalized by an
interference with your Slaves. Understand one thing clearly: not only
will we abstain from all such interference, but we will, on the
contrary, with an iron hand crush any attempt at insurrection on their
On the other hand, the very next day, May 27, 1861, Major-General
Butler, in command of the "Department of A Virginia," wrote to
Lieutenant-General Scott as follows:
"Since I wrote my last dispatch the question in regard to Slave property
is becoming one of very serious magnitude. The inhabitants of Virginia
are using their Negroes in the batteries, and are preparing to send the
women and children South. The escapes from them are very numerous, and
a squad has come in this morning to my pickets bringing their women and
children. Of course these cannot be dealt with upon the theory on which
I designed to treat the services of able-bodied men and women who might
come within my lines, and of which I gave you a detailed account in my
last dispatch. I am in the utmost doubt what to do with this species of
"Up to this time I have had come within my lines men and women with
their children, entire families, each family belonging to the same
owner. I have, therefore, determined to employ, as I can do very
profitably, the able-bodied persons in the party, issuing proper food
for the support of all, and charging against their services the expense
of care and sustenance of the non-laborers, keeping a strict and
accurate account as well of the services as of the expenditure, having
the worth of the services, and the cost of the expenditure, determined
by a Board of Survey, to be hereafter detailed. I know of no other
manner in which to dispose of this subject and the questions connected
"As a matter of Property to the Insurgents, it will be of very great
moment, the number that I now have amounting, as I am informed, to what,
in good times, would be of the value of sixty thousand dollars. Twelve
of these Negroes, I am informed, have escaped from the batteries on
Sewall's Point, which, this morning, fired upon my expedition as it
passed by out of range. As a means of offense, therefore, in the
Enemy's hands, these Negroes, when able-bodied, are of the last
importance. Without them the batteries could not have been erected, at
least for many weeks.
"As a Military question it would seem to be a measure of necessity to
deprive their masters of their services. How can this be done? As a
political question and a question of humanity, can I receive the
services of a father and mother, and not take the children? Of the
humanitarian aspect I have no doubt. Of the political one I have no
right to judge. I therefore submit all this to your better judgment,
and as the questions have a political aspect, I have ventured, and I
trust I am not wrong in so doing, to duplicate the parts of my dispatch
relating to this subject, and forward them to the Secretary of War."
In reply to the duplicate copy of this letter received by him, Secretary
Cameron thus answered:
"WASHINGTON, May 30, 1861.
"SIR: Your action in respect to the Negroes who came within your lines
from the service of the Rebels is approved. The Department is sensible
of the embarrassments which must surround officers conducting Military
operations in a State by the laws of which Slavery is sanctioned.
"The Government cannot recognize the rejection by any State of the
Federal obligations, nor can it refuse the performance of the Federal
obligations resting upon itself. Among these Federal obligations,
however, none can be more important than that of suppressing and
dispersing armed combinations formed for the purpose of overthrowing its
whole Constitutional authority.
"While, therefore, you will permit no interference by the persons under
your command, with the relations of Persons held to Service under the
laws of any State, you will, on the other hand, so long as any State,
within which your Military operations are conducted, is under the
control of such armed combinations, refrain from surrendering to alleged
masters any Person who may come within your lines.
"You will employ such Persons in the services to which they may be best
adapted, keeping an account of the labor by them performed, of the value
of it, and the expenses of their maintenance. The question of their
final disposition will be reserved for future determination.
"Secretary of War.
"To Major General BUTLER."
Great tenderness, however, was exhibited by many of the Union Generals
for the doomed Institution. On June 3, 1861, from Chambersburg, Pa., a
proclamation signed "By order of Major General Patterson, F. J. Porter,
Asst. Adj. General," was issued from "Headquarters Department of
Pennsylvania," "To the United States troops of this Department," in
which they are admonished "that, in the coming campaign in Virginia,
while it is your duty to punish Sedition, you must protect the Loyal,
and, should the occasion offer, at once suppress Servile Insurrection."
"General Orders No. 33," issued from "Headquarters Department of
Washington," July 17, 1861, "By command of Brigadier General Mansfield,
Theo. Talbot, Assistant Adjutant General," were to this effect:
"Fugitive Slaves will under no pretext whatever, be permitted to reside,
or be in any way harbored, in the quarters or camps of the troops
serving in this Department. Neither will such Slaves be allowed to
accompany troops on the march. Commanders of troops will be held
responsible for a strict observance of this order." And early in August
a Military order was issued at Washington "that no Negroes, without
sufficient evidence of their being Free or of their right to travel, are
permitted to leave the city upon the cars."
But Bull Run did much to settle the Military as well as public mind in
proper grooves on this subject.
Besides employing Negro Slaves to aid Rebellion, by the digging of
ditches, the throwing up of intrenchments, and the erection of
batteries, their Rebel masters placed in their hands arms with which to
shoot down Union soldiers at the Battle of Bull Run, which, as we have
seen, occurred on Sunday, July 21, 1861--and resulted in a check to the
The terror and confusion and excitement already referred to, that
prevailed in Washington all that night and the next day, as the
panic-stricken crowd of soldiers and civilians poured over the Long
Bridge, footsore with running, faint with weariness, weak with hunger,
and parched with thirst and the dust of the rout, can hardly be
But, however panicky the general condition of the inhabitants of the
National Capital, the Congress bravely maintained its equanimity.
In the Senate, on the day following the disaster, a bill touching the
Confiscation of Property used for insurrectionary purposes being up for
consideration, the following amendment was offered to it:
"And be it further enacted, That whenever any person claiming to be
entitled to the Service or Labor of any other Person under the laws of
any State, shall employ such Person in aiding or promoting any
Insurrection, or in resisting the Laws of the United States, or shall
permit him to be so employed, he shall forfeit all right to such Service
or Labor, and the Person whose Labor or Service is thus claimed shall be
thenceforth discharged therefrom, any law to the contrary
This amendment, emancipating Slaves employed by their masters to aid
Rebellion, was adopted by 33 yeas to 6 nays.
As showing the feeling expressed right upon the very heels of what
seemed to be a great disaster, and when rumor, at any rate, placed the
victorious Enemy at the very gates of the Capital City, a few lines from
the debate may be interesting.
Mr. Trumbull said: "I am glad the yeas and nays have been called to let
us see who is willing to vote that the Traitorous owner of a Negro shall
employ him to shoot down the Union men of the Country, and yet insist
upon restoring him to the Traitor that owns him. I understand that
Negroes were in the fight which has recently occurred. I take it that
Negroes who are used to destroy the Union, and to shoot down the Union
men by the consent of Traitorous masters, ought not to be restored to
them. If the Senator from Kentucky is in favor of restoring them, let
him vote against the amendment."
Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, said: "I shall vote with more heart
than I vote for ordinary measures, for this proposition. I hope the
Senate and the House of Representatives will sustain it, and that this
Government will carry it out with an inflexibility that knows no change.
The idea that men who are in arms destroying their Country shall be
permitted to use others for that purpose, and that we shall stand by and
issue orders to our Commanders, that we should disgrace our Cause and
our Country, by returning such men to their Traitorous masters, ought
not longer to be entertained. The time has come for that to cease; and,
by the blessing of God, so far as I am concerned, I mean it shall cease.
"If there is anybody in this Chamber that chooses to take the other
path, let him do it; let him know what our purpose is. Our purpose is
to save this Government and save this Country, and to put down Treason;
and if Traitors use bondsmen to destroy this Country, my doctrine is
that the Government shall at once convert these bondsmen into men that
cannot be used to destroy our Country. I have no apologies to make for
this position, I take it proudly.
"I think the time has come when this Government, and the men who are in
arms under the Government, should cease to return to Traitors their
Fugitive Slaves, whom they are using to erect batteries to murder brave
men who are fighting under the flag of their Country. The time has come
when we should deal with the men who are organizing Negro companies, and
teaching them to shoot down loyal men for the only offence of upholding
the flag of their Country.
"I hope further, Sir, that there is a public sentiment in this Country
that will blast men who will rise, in the Senate or out it, to make
apologies for Treason, or to defend or to maintain the doctrine that
this Government is bound to protect Traitors in converting their Slaves
into tools for the destruction of the Republic."
Senator McDougall, of California, said: "I regard this as a Confiscation
for Treason, and I am for the proposition."
Mr. Ten Eyck, said: "No longer ago than Saturday last I voted in the
Judiciary Committee against this amendment, for two reasons: First, I
did not believe that persons in Rebellion against this Government would
make use of such means as the employment of Persons held to Labor or
Service, in their Armies; secondly, because I did not know what was to
become of these poor wretches if they were discharged. God knows we do
not want them in our Section of the Union. But, Sir, having learned and
believing that these persons have been employed with arms in their hands
to shed the blood of the Union-loving men of this Country, I shall now
vote in favor of that amendment with less regard to what may become of
these people than I had on Saturday. I will merely instance that there
is a precedent for this. If I recollect history aright, General
Jackson, in the Seminole War, declared that every Slave who was taken in
arms against the United States should be set Free,"
So, too, in the House of Representatives, the retrograde of a badly
demoralized Army, its routed fragments still coming in with alarming
stories of a pursuing Enemy almost at the gates of the city, had no
terrors for our legislators; and there was something of Roman dignity,
patriotism, and courage, in the adoption, on that painfully memorable
Blue Monday, (the first--[Offered by Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky]--with
only two dissenting votes, on a yea and nay vote; and, the second
--[Offered by Mr. Vandever, of Iowa.]--with entire unanimity) of the
"Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United
States, That the present deplorable Civil War has been forced upon the
Country by the Disunionists of the Southern States, now in arms against
the Constitutional Government, and in arms around the Capital; that in
this National emergency, Congress, banishing all feelings of mere
passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole
Country; that this War is not waged on their part in any spirit of
oppression, or for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of
overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established Institutions
of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the
Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality,
and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that as soon as these
objects are accomplished, the War ought to cease."
"Resolved, That the maintenance of the Constitution, the preservation of
the Union, and the enforcement of the Laws, are sacred trusts which must
be executed; that no disaster shall discourage us from the most ample
performance of this high duty; and that we pledge to the Country and the
World, the employment of every resource, National and individual, for
the suppression, overthrow, and punishment of Rebels in arms."
The first of these Resolutions was intended to calm the fears of the
Border States--excited by Rebel emissaries; the second, to restore
confidence and courage to the patriot hearts of Union-men, everywhere.
Both were effectual.
And here it will hardly be amiss to glance, for an instant, toward the
Senate Chamber; and especially at one characteristic incident. It was
the afternoon of August the 1st, 1861,--scarce ten days since the check
to the Union arms at Bull Run; and Breckinridge, of Kentucky, not yet
expelled from the United States Senate, was making in that Body his
great speech against the "Insurrection and Sedition Bill," and upon "the
sanctity of the Constitution."
Baker, of Oregon,--who, as Sumner afterward said: "with a zeal that
never tired, after recruiting men drawn by the attraction of his name,
in New York and Philadelphia and elsewhere, held his Brigade in camp,
near the Capitol, so that he passed easily from one to the other, and
thus alternated the duties of a Senator and a General," having reached
the Capitol, direct from his Brigade-camp, entered the Senate Chamber,
in his uniform, while Breckinridge was speaking.
When the Kentucky Senator "with Treason in his heart, if not on his
lips," resumed his seat, the gray-haired soldier-Senator at once rose to
reply. "He began,"--said Charles Sumner, in alluding to the incident
--"simply and calmly; but as he proceeded, his fervid soul broke forth in
words of surpassing power. As on a former occasion he had presented the
well-ripened fruits of study, so now he spoke with the spontaneous
utterance of his own mature and exuberant eloquence--meeting the
polished Traitor at every point with weapons keener and brighter than
After demolishing Breckinridge's position touching the alleged
Unconstitutionality of the measure, and characterizing his other
utterances as "reproof, malediction, and prediction combined," the
Patriot from the Far-West turned with rising voice and flashing eye upon
the gloomy Kentuckian:
"I would ask him," said he, "what would you have us do now--a
Confederate Army within twenty miles of us, advancing, or threatening to
advance, to overwhelm your Government; to shake the pillars of the
Union, to bring it around your head, if you stay here, in ruins? Are we
to stop and talk about an uprising sentiment in the North against the
War? Are we to predict evil, and retire from what we predict? Is it
not the manly part to go on as we have begun, to raise money, and levy
Armies, to organize them, to prepare to advance; when we do advance, to
regulate that advance by all the laws and regulations that civilization
and humanity will allow in time of battle? Can we do anything more? To
talk to us about stopping, is idle; we will never stop. Will the
Senator yield to Rebellion? Will he shrink from armed Insurrection?
Will his State justify it? Will its better public opinion allow it?
Shall we send a flag of Truce? What would he have? Or would he conduct
this War so feebly, that the whole World would smile at us in derision?"
And then cried the orator-his voice rising to a higher key, penetrating,
yet musical as the blast from a silver trumpet: "What would he have?
These speeches of his, sown broadcast over the Land, what clear distinct
meaning have they? Are they not intended for disorganization in our
very midst? Are they not intended to dull our weapons? Are they not
intended to destroy our zeal? Are they not intended to animate our
enemies? Sir, are they not words of brilliant, polished Treason, even
in the very Capitol of the Nation?
"What would have been thought, if, in another Capitol, in another
Republic, in a yet more martial age, a Senator as grave, not more
eloquent or dignified than the Senator from Kentucky, yet with the Roman
purple flowing over his shoulder, had risen in his place, surrounded by
all the illustrations of Roman glory, and declared that the cause of
advancing Hannibal was just, and that Carthage ought to be dealt with in
terms of peace? What would have been thought if, after the battle of
Cannae, a Senator there had risen in his place and denounced every levy
of the Roman People, every expenditure of its treasure, and every appeal
to the old recollections and the old glories?"
The speaker paused. The sudden and intent silence was broken by another
voice: "He would have been hurled from the Tarpeian rock."
"Sir," continued the soldier-orator, "a Senator, himself learned far
more than myself in such lore, [Mr. Fessenden,] tells me, in a voice
that I am glad is audible, that he would have been hurled from the
Tarpeian Rock! It is a grand commentary upon the American Constitution
that we permit these words [Senator Breckinridge's] to be uttered.
"I ask the Senator to recollect, too, what, save to send aid and comfort
to the Enemy, do these predictions of his amount to? Every word thus
uttered falls as a note of inspiration upon every Confederate ear.
Every sound thus uttered is a word, (and, falling from his lips, a
mighty word) of kindling and triumph to a Foe that determines to
"For me, I have no such word as a Senator, to utter. For me"--and here
his eyes flashed again while his martial voice rang like a clarion-call
to battle--"amid temporary defeat, disaster, disgrace, it seems that my
duty calls me to utter another word, and that word is, bold, sudden,
forward, determined, WAR, according to the laws of War, by Armies, by
Military Commanders clothed with full power, advancing with all the past
glories of the Republic urging them on to conquest!
* * * * * *
"I tell the Senator," continued the inspired Patriot, "that his
predictions, sometimes for the South, sometimes for the Middle States,
sometimes for the North-East, and then wandering away in airy visions
out to the Far Pacific, about the dread of our people, as for loss of
blood and treasure, provoking them to Disloyalty, are false in
sentiment, false in fact, and false in Loyalty. The Senator from
Kentucky is mistaken in them all.
"Five hundred million dollars! What then? Great Britain gave more than
two thousand million in the great Battle for Constitutional Liberty
which she led at one time almost single-handed against the World. Five
hundred thousand men! What then? We have them; they are ours; they are
the children of the Country; they belong to the whole Country; they are
our sons; our kinsmen; and there are many of us who will give them all
up before we will abate one word of our just demand, or will retreat one
inch from the line which divides right from wrong.
"Sir, it is not a question of men or of money in that sense. All the
money, all the men, are, in our judgment, well bestowed in such a cause.
When we give them, we know their value. Knowing their value well, we
give them with the more pride and the, more joy. Sir, how can we
retreat? Sir, how can we make Peace? Who shall treat? What
Commissioners? Who would go? Upon what terms? Where is to be your
boundary line? Where the end of the principles we shall have to give
up? What will become of Constitutional Government? What will become of
public Liberty? What of past glories? What of future hopes?
"Shall we sink into the insignificance of the grave--a degraded,
defeated, emasculated People, frightened by the results of one battle,
and scared at the visions raised by the imagination of the Senator from
Kentucky on this floor? No, Sir! a thousand times, no, Sir! We will
rally--if, indeed, our words be necessary--we will rally the People, the
Loyal People, of the whole Country. They will pour forth their
treasure, their money, their men, without stint, without measure. The
most peaceable man in this body may stamp his foot upon this Senate
Chamber floor, as of old a warrior and a Senator did, and from that
single tramp there will spring forth armed Legions.
"Shall one battle determine the fate of empire, or a dozen?--the loss of
one thousand men, or twenty thousand? or one hundred million or five
hundred million dollars? In a year's Peace--in ten years, at most, of
peaceful progress--we can restore them all. There will be some graves
reeking with blood, watered by the tears of affection. There will be
some privation; there will be some loss of luxury; there will be
somewhat more need for labor to procure the necessaries of life. When
that is said, all is said. If we have the Country, the whole Country,
the Union, the Constitution, Free Government--with these there will
return all the blessings of well-ordered civilization; the path of the
Country will be a career of greatness and of glory such as, in the olden
time, our Fathers saw in the dim visions of years yet to come, and such
as would have been ours now, to-day, if it had not been for the Treason
for which the Senator too often seeks to apologize."
This remarkable speech was the last utterance of that glorious and
courageous soul, in the National Senate. Within three months, his
lifeless body, riddled by Rebel rifle balls, was borne away from the
fatal field of Ball's Bluff--away, amid the lamentations of a Nation
--away, across land and ocean--to lie beside his brave friend Broderick,
on that Lone Mountain whose solemn front looks out upon the calm
He had not lived in vain. In his great speech at the American Theatre
in San Francisco, after his election by Oregon (1860) to represent her
in the United States Senate, he had aroused the people to a sense of
shame, that, as he said: "Here, in a land of written Constitutional
Liberty it is reserved for us to teach the World that, under the
American Stars and Stripes, Slavery marches in solemn procession; that,
under the American flag, Slavery is protected to the utmost verge of
acquired territory; that under the American banner, the name of Freedom
is to be faintly heard, the songs of Freedom faintly sung; that, while
Garibaldi, Victor Emanuel, every great and good man in the World,
strives, struggles, fights, prays, suffers and dies, sometimes on the
scaffold, sometimes in the dungeon, often on the field of battle,
rendered immortal by his blood and his valor; that, while this triumphal
procession marches on through the arches of Freedom--we, in this land,
of all the World, shrink back trembling when Freedom is but mentioned!"
And never was a shamed people more suddenly lifted up from that shame
into a grand frenzy of patriotic devotion than were his auditors, when,
with the inspiration of his matchless genius, he continued:
"As for me, I dare not, will not, be false to Freedom. Where the feet
of my youth were planted, there, by Freedom, my feet shall ever stand.
I will walk beneath her banner. I will glory in her strength. I have
watched her in history struck down on an hundred chosen fields of
battle. I have seen her friends fly from her; her foes gather around
her. I have seen her bound to the stake; I have seen them give her
ashes to the winds. But when they turned to exult, I have seen her
again meet them face to face, resplendent in complete steel, brandishing
in her strong right hand a flaming sword, red with Insufferable light!
I take courage. The People gather around her. The genius of America
will, at last, lead her sons to Freedom."
Never were grander utterances delivered by man in all the ages; never
was there exhibited a more sublime faith; never a truer spirit of
prophecy; never a more heroic spirit.
He was then on his way to Washington; on his way to perform the last
acts in the drama of his own career--on his way to death. He knew the
time had come, of which, ten years before, he had prophetically spoken
in the House of Representatives, when he said: "I have only to say that,
if the time should come when Disunion rules the hour, and discord is to
reign supreme, I shall again be ready to give the best blood in my veins
to my Country's Cause. I shall be prepared to meet all antagonists with
lance in rest, to do battle in every land, in defense of the
Constitution of the Country which I have sworn to support, to the last
extremity, against Disunionists, and all its Enemies, whether of the
South or North; to meet them everywhere, at all times, with speech or
hand, with word or blow, until thought and being shall be no longer
mine." And right nobly did he fulfil in all respects his promise; so
that at the end--as was afterward well said of him by Mr. Colfax--he had
mounted so high, that, "doubly crowned, as statesman, and as warrior--
'From the top of Fame's ladder he stepped to the Sky!'"
[This orator and hero was a naturalized Englishman, and commanded
an American regiment in the Mexican War.]
FREEDOM'S EARLY DAWN.
On the day following Baker's great reply to Breckinridge, another
notable speech was made, in the House of Representatives--notable,
especially, in that it foreshadowed Emancipation, and, coming so soon
after Bull Run, seemed to accentuate a new departure in political
thought as an outgrowth of that Military reverse. It was upon the
Confiscation Act, and it was Thaddeus Stevens who made it. Said he:
"If we are justified in taking property from the Enemy in War, when you
have rescued an oppressed People from the oppression of that Enemy, by
what principle of the Law of Nations, by what principle of philanthropy,
can you return them to the bondage from which you have delivered them,
and again rivet the chains you have once broken? It is a disgrace to
the Party which advocates it. It is against the principle of the Law of
Nations. It is against every principle of philanthropy. I for one,
shall never shrink from saying when these Slaves are once conquered by
us, 'Go and be Free.' God forbid that I should ever agree that they
should be returned again to their masters! I do not say that this War
is made for that purpose. Ask those who made the War, what is its
object. Do not ask us. * * * Our object is to subdue the Rebels.
"But," continued he, "it is said that if we hold out this thing, they
will never submit--that we cannot conquer them--that they will suffer
themselves to be slaughtered, and their whole country to be laid waste.
Sir, War is a grievous thing at best, and Civil War more than any other;
but if they hold this language, and the means which they have suggested
must be resorted to; if their whole country must be laid waste, and made
a desert, in order to save this Union from destruction, so let it be. I
would rather, Sir, reduce them to a condition where their whole country
is to be re-peopled by a band of freemen than to see them perpetrate the
destruction of this People through our agency. I do not say that it is
time to resort to such means, and I do not know when the time will come;
but I never fear to express my sentiments. It is not a question with me
of policy, but a question of principle.
"If this War is continued long, and is bloody, I do not believe that the
free people of the North will stand by and see their sons and brothers
and neighbors slaughtered by thousands and tens of thousands by Rebels,
with arms in their hands, and forbear to call upon their enemies to be
our friends, and to help us in subduing them; I for one, if it continues
long, and has the consequences mentioned, shall be ready to go for it,
let it horrify the gentleman from New York (Mr. Diven) or anybody else.
That is my doctrine, and that will be the doctrine of the whole free
people of the North before two years roll round, if this War continues.
"As to the end of the War, until the Rebels are subdued, no man in the
North thinks of it. If the Government are equal to the People, and I
believe they are, there will be no bargaining, there will be no
negotiation, there will be no truces with the Rebels, except to bury the
dead, until every man shall have laid down his arms, disbanded his
organization, submitted himself to the Government, and sued for mercy.
And, Sir, if those who have the control of the Government are not fit
for this task and have not the nerve and mind for it, the People will
take care that there are others who are--although, Sir, I have not a bit
of fear of the present Administration, or of the present Executive.
"I have spoken more freely, perhaps, than gentlemen within my hearing
might think politic, but I have spoken just what I felt. I have spoken
what I believe will be the result; and I warn Southern gentlemen, that
if this War is to continue, there will be a time when my friend from New
York (Mr. Diven) will see it declared by this free Nation, that every
bondman in the South--belonging to a Rebel, recollect; I confine it to
them--shall be called upon to aid us in War against their masters, and
to restore this Union."
The following letter of instruction from Secretary Cameron, touching the
Fugitive Slave question, dated seven days after Thaddeus Stevens'
speech, had also an interesting bearing on the subject:
"WASHINGTON, August 8, 1861.
"GENERAL: The important question of the proper disposition to be made of
Fugitives from Service in States in Insurrection against the Federal
Government, to which you have again directed my attention in your letter
of July 30, has received my most attentive consideration.
"It is the desire of the President that all existing rights, in all the
States, be fully respected and maintained. The War now prosecuted on
the part of the Federal Government is a War for the Union, and for the
preservation of all Constitutional rights of States, and the citizens of
the States, in the Union. Hence, no question can arise as to Fugitives
from Service within the States and Territories in which the authority of
the Union is fully acknowledged. The ordinary forms of Judicial
proceeding, which must be respected by Military and Civil authorities
alike, will suffice for the enforcement of all legal claims.
"But in States wholly or partially under Insurrectionary control, where
the Laws of the United States are so far opposed and resisted that they
cannot be effectually enforced, it is obvious that rights dependent on
the execution of those laws must, temporarily, fail; and it is equally
obvious that rights dependent on the laws of the States within which
Military operations are conducted must be necessarily subordinated to
the Military exigences created by the Insurrection, if not wholly
forfeited by the Treasonable conduct of parties claiming them. To this
general rule, rights to Services can form no exception.
"The Act of Congress, approved August 6, 1861, declares that if Persons
held to Service shall be employed in hostility to the United States, the
right to their services shall be forfeited, and such Persons shall be
discharged therefrom. It follows, of necessity, that no claim can be
recognized by the Military authorities of the Union to the services of
such Persons when fugitives.
"A more difficult question is presented in respect to Persons escaping
from the Service of Loyal masters. It is quite apparent that the laws
of the State, under which only the services of such fugitives can be
claimed, must needs be wholly, or almost wholly, suspended, as to
remedies, by the Insurrection and the Military measures necessitated by
it. And it is equally apparent that the substitution of Military for
Judicial measures for the enforcement of such claims must be attended by
great inconveniences, embarrassments, and injuries.
"Under these circumstances it seems quite clear that the substantial
rights of Loyal masters will be best protected by receiving such