While this is going on, McDowell has ridden in a Southerly direction down to Heintzelman's Division, at Sangster's Station, "to make arrangements to turn the Enemy's right, and intercept his communications with the South," but has found, owing to the narrowness and crookedness of the roads, and the great distance that must be traversed in making the necessary detour, that his contemplated movement is too risky to be ventured. Hence he at once abandons his original plan of turning the Enemy's right, and determines on "going around his left, where the country is more open, and the roads broad and good."
McDowell now orders a concentration, for that night, of the four divisions, with two days cooked rations in their haversacks, upon and about Centreville,—the movement to commence as soon as they shall receive expected commissariat supplies. But, later on the 18th, —learning that his advance, under Tyler, has, against orders, become engaged with the Enemy—he directs the concentration to be made at once.
Let us examine, for a moment, how this premature engagement comes about. We left Tyler, accompanied by Richardson, with a squadron of Cavalry and a battalion of light Infantry making a reconnaissance, on Thursday morning the 18th, toward Blackburn's Ford. They approach within a mile of the ford, when they discover a Rebel battery on the farther bank of Bull Run—so placed as to enfilade the road descending from their own position of observation down to the ford,—strong Rebel infantry pickets and skirmishing parties being in front.
Tyler at once orders up his two rifled guns, Ayres' Battery, and Richardson's entire Brigade—and later, Sherman's Brigade as a reserve. As soon as they come up,—about noon-he orders the rifled guns into battery on the crest of the hill, about one mile from, and looking down upon, the Rebel battery aforesaid, and opens upon the Enemy; giving him a dozen shells,—one of them making it lively for a body of Rebel Cavalry which appears between the ford and Manassas.
The Rebel battery responds with half a dozen shots, and then ceases. Tyler now orders Richardson to advance his brigade and throw out skirmishers to scour the thick woods which cover the Bull Run bottom-land. Richardson at once rapidly deploys the battalion of light Infantry as skirmishers in advance of his brigade, pushes them forward to the edge of the woods, drives in the skirmishers of the Enemy in fine style, and supports their further advance into the woods, with the 1st Massachusetts Regiment.
Meanwhile Tyler, discovering a favorable opening in the woods, "low down on the bottom of the stream," for a couple of howitzers in battery, sends Captain Ayres of the 5th U. S. Artillery, and a detached section (two 12-pound howitzers) of his battery, with orders to post it himself on that spot, and sends Brackett's squadron of the 2d Cavalry to his support.
No sooner does Ayres open fire on the Enemy, than he awakens a Rebel hornet's-nest. Volley after volley of musketry shows that the Bull Run bottom fairly swarms with Rebel troops, while another Rebel battery, more to the Rebel right, opens, with that already mentioned, a concentrated cross-fire upon him.
And now Richardson orders up the 12th New York, Colonel Walrath, to the left of our battery. Forming it into line-of-battle, Richardson orders it to charge through the woods upon the Enemy. Gallantly the regiment moves forward, after the skirmishers, into the woods, but, being met by a very heavy fire of musketry and artillery along the whole line of the Enemy's position, is, for the most part, thrown back in confusion—a mere fragment* remaining in line, and retreating,—while the howitzers, and Cavalry also, are withdrawn.
Meantime, however, Richardson has ordered up, and placed in line-of-battle, on the right of our battery, the 1st Massachusetts, the 2d Michigan (his own), and the 3d Michigan. The skirmishers in the woods still bravely hold their ground, undercover, and these three regiments are plucky, and anxious to assault the Enemy. Richardson proposes to lead them in a charge upon the Enemy's position, and drive him out of it; but Tyler declines to give permission, on the ground that this being "merely a reconnaissance," the object of which—ascertaining the strength and position of the Enemy—having been attained, a further attack is unnecessary. He therefore orders Richardson to "fall back in good order to our batteries on the hill,"—which he does.
Upon reaching these batteries, Richardson forms his 2d Michigan, in "close column by division," on their right, and the 1st Massachusetts and 3d Michigan, in "line of battle," on their left—the 12th New York re-forming, under cover of the woods at the rear, later on. Then, with our skirmishers thrown into the woods in front, their scattering fire, and the musketry responses of the Rebels, are drowned in the volume of sound produced by the deafening contest which ensues between our Artillery, and that of the Enemy from his batteries behind Bull Run.
This artillery-duel continues about one hour; and then seems to cease by mutual consent, about dusk—after 415 shots have been fired on the Union side, and have been responded to by an equal number from the Rebel batteries, "gun for gun"—the total loss in the engagement, on the Union side, being 83, to a total loss among the Enemy, of Thursday night, Richardson retires his brigade upon Centreville, in order to secure rations and water for his hungry and thirsty troops,—as no water has yet been found in the vicinity of the Union batteries aforesaid. On the morrow, however, when his brigade re-occupies that position, water is found in abundance, by digging for it.
This premature attack, at Blackburn's Ford, by Tyler, against orders, having failed, throws a wet blanket upon the martial spirit of McDowell's Army. In like degree is the morale of the Rebel Army increased.
It is true that Longstreet, in command of the Rebel troops at Blackburn's Ford, has not had things all his own way; that some of his artillery had to be "withdrawn;" that, as he acknowledges in his report, his brigade of three Virginia regiments (the 1st, 11th, and 17th) had "with some difficulty repelled" the Union assault upon his position; that he had to call upon General Early for re-enforcements; that Early re-enforced him with two Infantry regiments (the 7th Louisiana and 7th Virginia) at first; that one of these (the 7th Virginia) was "thrown into confusion;" that Early then brought up his own regiment (the 24th Virginia) under Lieutenant Colonel Hairston, and the entire seven guns of the "Washington Artillery;" and that but for the active "personal exertions" of Longstreet, in "encouraging the men under his command," and the great numerical superiority of the Rebels, there might have been no Union "repulse" at all. Yet still the attack has failed, and that failure, while it dispirits the Patriot Army, inspires the Rebel Army with renewed courage.
Under these circumstances, Friday, the 19th of July, is devoted to reconnaissances by the Engineer officers of the Union Army; to the cooking of the supplies, which have at last arrived; and to resting the weary and road-worn soldiers of the Union.
Let us take advantage of this halt in the advance of McDowell's "Grand Army of the United States"—as it was termed—to view the Rebel position at, and about Manassas, and to note certain other matters having an important and even determining bearing upon the issue of the impending shock-at-arms.
Beauregard has received early information of McDowell's advance from Arlington, and of his plans.
[This he admits, in his report, when he says; "Opportunely informed of the determination of the Enemy to advance on Manassas, my advanced brigades, on the night of the 16th of July, were made aware, from these headquarters, of the impending movement,"]
On Tuesday the 16th, he notifies his advanced brigades. On Wednesday, he sends a dispatch from Manassas, to Jefferson Davis, at Richmond, announcing that the Union troops have assailed his outposts in heavy force; that he has fallen back before them, on the line of Bull Run; and that he intends to make a stand at Mitchell's Ford (close to Blackburn's Ford) on that stream,—adding: if his (McDowell's) force is overwhelming, "I shall retire to the Rappahannock railroad bridge, saving my command for defense there, and future operations. Please inform Johnston of this, via Staunton, and also Holmes. Send forward any re-enforcements at the earliest possible instant, and by every possible means."
In the meantime, however, Beauregard loses no time in advantageously posting his troops. On the morning of the 18th of July, when the Union advance enters Centreville, he has withdrawn all his advanced brigades within the Rebel lines of Bull Run, resting them on the South side of that stream, from Union Mills Ford, near the Orange and Alexandria railroad bridge, up to the stone bridge over which the Warrenton Pike crosses the Run,—a distance of some six to eight miles.
Between the Rebel left, at Stone Bridge, and the Rebel right, at Union Mills Ford, are several fords across Bull Run—the general course of the stream being from the North-West to South-East, to its confluence with the Occoquan River, some twelve miles from the Potomac River.
Mitchell's Ford, the Rebel center, is about three miles to the South-West of, and about the same distance North-East from, Manassas Junction. But it may be well, right here, to locate all these fordable crossings of the rocky, precipitous, and well-wooded Bull Run stream, between the Stone Bridge and Union Mills Ford. Thus, half a mile below the Stone Bridge is Lewis's Ford; half a mile below that, Ball's Ford; half a mile below that, Island Ford; one and one-half miles below that, Mitchell's Ford—one mile below that.
Blackburn's Ford; three-quarters of a mile farther down, McLean's Ford; and nearly two miles lower down the stream, Union Mills Ford.
By Thursday morning, the 18th of July, Beauregard has advantageously posted the seven brigades into which he has organized his forces, at these various positions along his extended front, as follows:
At the Stone Bridge, Brigadier-General N. G. Evans's Seventh Brigade, of one regiment and one battalion of Infantry, two companies of Cavalry, and a battery of four six-pounders.
At Lewis's, Balls, and Island Fords—Colonel P. St. George Cocke's Fifth Brigade, of three regiments of Infantry, one battery of Artillery, and one company of Cavalry.
At Mitchell's Ford, Brigadier-General M. L. Bonham's First Brigade, of four Infantry regiments, two batteries, and six companies of Cavalry.
At Blackburn's Ford, Brigadier-General J. Longstreet's Fourth Brigade, of four Infantry regiments, with two 6-pounders.
At McLean's Ford, Brigadier-General D. R. Jones's Third Brigade of three Infantry regiments, one Cavalry company, and two 6-pounders.
At Union Mills Ford, Brigadier-General R. S. Ewell's Second Brigade, of three Infantry regiments, three Cavalry companies, and four 12-powder howitzers—Colonel Jubal A. Early's Sixth Brigade, of three Infantry regiments and three rifled pieces of Walton's Battery, being posted in the rear of, and as a support to, Ewell's Brigade.
[Johnston also found, on the 20th, the Reserve Brigade of Brig. Gen. T. H. Holmes—comprising two regiments of Infantry, Walker's Battery of Artillery, and Scott's Cavalry-with Early's Brigade, "in reserve, in rear of the right."]
The disposition and strength of Beauregard's forces at these various points along his line of defense on Bull Run stream, plainly shows his expectation of an attack on his right; but he is evidently suspicious that it may come upon his centre; for, as far back as July 8th, he had issued special orders to the effect that:
"Should the Enemy march to the attack of Mitchell's Ford, via Centreville, the following movements will be made with celerity:
"I. The Fourth Brigade will march from Blackburn's Ford to attack him on the flank and centre.
"II. The Third Brigade will be thrown to the attack of his centre and rear toward Centreville.
"III. The Second and Sixth Brigades united will also push forward and attack him in the rear by way of Centreville, protecting their own right flanks and rear from the direction of Fairfax Station and Court House.
"IV. In the event of the defeat of the Enemy, the troops at Mitchell's Ford and Stone Bridge, especially the Cavalry and Artillery, will join in the pursuit, which will be conducted with vigor but unceasing prudence, and continued until he shall have been driven beyond the Potomac."
And it is not without interest to note Beauregard's subsequent indorsement on the back of these Special Orders, that: "The plan of attack prescribed within would have been executed, with modifications affecting First and Fifth Brigades, to meet the attack upon Blackburn's Ford, but for the expected coming of General Johnston's command, which was known to be en route to join me on [Thursday] the 18th of July."
The knowledge thus possessed on Thursday, the 18th, by Beauregard, that Johnston's Army is on its way to join him, is of infinite advantage to the former. On the other hand, the complete ignorance, at this time, of McDowell on this point,—and the further fact that he has been lulled into a feeling of security on the subject, by General Scott's emphatic assurance to him that "if Johnston joins Beauregard, he shall have Patterson on his heels"—is a great disadvantage to the Union general.
Were McDowell now aware of the real Military situation, he would unquestionably make an immediate attack, with the object of crushing Beauregard before Johnston can effect a junction with him. It would then be a mere matter of detail for the armies of McDowell, McClellan, and Patterson, to bag Johnston, and bring the armed Rebellion to an inglorious and speedy end. But Providence—through the plottings of individuals within our own lines—wills it otherwise.
Long before this, Patterson has been informed by General Winfield Scott of the proposed movement by McDowell upon Manassas,—and of its date.
On Saturday, July 13th, General Scott telegraphed to Patterson: "I telegraphed to you yesterday, if not strong enough to beat the Enemy early next week, make demonstrations so as to detain him in the Valley of Winchester; but if he retreats in force toward Manassas, and it be too hazardous to follow him, then consider the route via Keys Ferry, Leesburg, etc."
On Wednesday, the 17th, Scott telegraphs to Patterson: "I have nothing official from you since Sunday (14th), but am glad to learn, through Philadelphia papers, that you have advanced. Do not let the Enemy amuse and delay you with a small force in front whilst he re-enforces the Junction with his main body. McDowell's first day's work has driven the Enemy beyond Fairfax Court House. The Junction will probably be carried by to-morrow."
On Thursday, the 18th, Patterson replies that to attack "the greatly superior force at Winchester when the three months volunteers' time was about up, and they were threatening to leave him—would be "most hazardous" and then he asks: "Shall I attack?"
Scott answers the same day: "I have certainly been expecting you to beat the Enemy. If not, to hear that you had felt him strongly, or, at least, had occupied him by threats and demonstrations. You have been at least his equal, and, I suppose, superior in numbers. Has he not stolen a march and sent re-enforcements toward Manassas Junction? A week is enough to win victories," etc.
Patterson retorts, on the same day: "The Enemy has stolen no march upon me. I have kept him actively employed, and by threats, and reconnaissances in force, caused him to be re-enforced. I have accomplished in this respect more than the General-in-Chief asked, or could well be expected, in face of an Enemy far superior in numbers, with no line of communication to protect."
In another dispatch, to Assistant Adjutant-General Townsend (with General Scott), he says, that same afternoon of Thursday, the 18th: "I have succeeded, in accordance with the wishes of the General-in-Chief, in keeping General Johnston's Force at Winchester. A reconnaissance in force, on Tuesday, caused him to be largely re-enforced from Strasburg."
Again, on Friday, the 19th, he informs Colonel Townsend that: "The Enemy, from last information, are still at Winchester, and being re-enforced every night."
It is not until Saturday, the 20th of July, that he telegraphs to Townsend: "With a portion of his force, Johnston left Winchester, by the road to Millwood, on the afternoon of the 18th." And he adds the ridiculous statement: "His whole force was about 35,200."
Thus, despite all the anxious care of General Scott, to have Johnston's Army detained in the Shenandoah Valley, it has escaped Patterson so successfully, and entirely, that the latter does not even suspect its disappearance until the day before the pitched Battle of Bull Run is fought! Its main body has actually reached Manassas twenty-four hours before Patterson is aware that it has left Winchester!
And how is it, that Johnston gets away from Patterson so neatly? And when does he do it?
[The extraordinary conduct of General Patterson at this critical period, when everything seemed to depend upon his exertions, was afterward the subject of inquiry by the Joint-Committee on the Conduct of the War. The testimony taken by that Committee makes it clear, to any unprejudiced mind, that while Patterson himself may have been loyal to the Union, he was weak enough to be swayed from the path of duty by some of the faithless and unpatriotic officers with whom he had partly surrounded himself—and especially by Fitz John Porter, his Chief-of-staff. Let us examine the sworn testimony of two or three witnesses on this point.
General CHARLES W. SANFORD, who was second in command under Patterson, and in command of Patterson's Left Wing, testified [see pages 54-66, Report on Conduct of the War, Vol. 3, Part 2,] that he was at a Council of War held at the White House, June 29th, when the propriety of an attack on the Rebel lines at Manassas was discussed; that he objected to any such movement until Patterson was in such a position as to prevent the junction between General Johnston's Army and the troops at Manassas; that on the 6th of July, he was sent by General Scott, with four picked New York regiments, to Patterson, and (waiving his own seniority rank) reported to that General, at Williamsport; that Patterson gave him command of a division of 8,000 men (and two batteries) out of a total in his Army of 22,000; that he "delivered orders from General Scott to General Patterson, and urged a forward movement as soon as possible;" that there was "Some delay at Martinsburg, notwithstanding the urgency of our matter," but they "left there on [Monday] the 15th of July, and went in the direction of Winchester,"—down to Bunker Hill,—Patterson with two divisions going down the turnpike, and Sanford taking his division a little in advance and more easterly on the side roads so as to be in a position to flank Johnston's right; that on that afternoon (Monday, July 15) General Patterson rode up to where Sanford was locating his camp.
Continuing his testimony, General Sanford said: "I was then within about nine miles of Johnston's fortified camp at Winchester. Patterson was complimenting me upon the manner in which my regiments were located, and inquiring about my pickets, which I had informed him I had sent down about three miles to a stream below. I had driven out the Enemy's skirmishers ahead of us. They had some cavalry there. In answer to his compliments about the comfortable location I had made, I said: 'Very comfortable, General, when shall we move on?' * * * He hesitated a moment or two, and then said: 'I don't know yet when we shall move. And if I did I would not tell my own father.' I thought that was rather a queer speech to make to me under the circumstances. But I smiled and said: 'General, I am only anxious that we shall get forward, that the Enemy shall not escape us.' He replied: 'There is no danger of that. I will have a reconnaissance to-morrow, and we will arrange about moving at a very early period.' He then took his leave.
"The next day [Tuesday, July 16th], there was a reconnaissance on the Winchester turnpike, about four or five miles below the General's camp. He sent forward a section of artillery and some cavalry, and they found a post-and-log fence across the Winchester turnpike, and some of the Enemy's cavalry on the other side of it. They gave them a round of grape. The cavalry scattered off, and the reconnaissance returned. That was the only reconnaissance I heard of while we were there. My own pickets went further than that. But it was understood, the next afternoon, that we were to march forward at daylight. I sent down Col. Morell, with 40 men, to open a road down to Opequan Creek, within five miles of the camp at Winchester, on the side-roads I was upon, which would enable me, in the course of three hours, to get between Johnston and the Shenandoah River, and effectually bar his way to Manassas. I had my ammunition all distributed, and ordered my men to have 24 hours' rations in their haversacks, independent of their breakfast. We were to march at 4 o'clock the next morning. I had this road to the Opequan completed that night. I had then with me, in addition to my eight regiments amounting to about 8,000 men and a few cavalry, Doubleday's heavy United States battery of 20 and 30 pounders, and a very good Rhode Island battery. And I was willing to take the risk, whether Gen. Patterson followed me up or not, of placing myself between Johnston and the Shenandoah River, rather than let Johnston escape. And, at 4 o'clock [July 17th] I should have moved over that road for that purpose, if I had had no further orders. But, a little after 12 o'clock at night [July 16th-17th,] I received a long order of three pages from Gen. Patterson, instructing me to move on to Charlestown, which is nearly at right angles to the road I was going to move on, and twenty-two miles from Winchester. This was after I had given my orders for the other movement."
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'Question [by the Chairman].—And that left Johnston free? "Answer—Yes, Sir; left him free to make his escape, which he did. * * *"
'Question.—In what direction would Johnston have had to move to get by you? "Answer—Right out to the Shenandoah River, which he forded. He found out from his cavalry, who were watching us, that we were actually leaving, and he started at 1 o'clock that same day, with 8,000 men, forded the Shenandoah where it was so deep that he ordered his men to put their cartridge-boxes on their bayonets, got out on the Leesburg road, and went down to Manassas."
"Question [by the Chairman].—Did he [Patterson] assign any reason for that movement? "Answer.—I was, of course, very indignant about it, and so were all my officers and men; so much so that when, subsequently, at Harper's Ferry, Patterson came by my camp, there was a universal groan—against all discipline, of course, and we suppressed it as soon as possible. The excuse given by Gen. Patterson was this: that he had received intelligence that he could rely upon, that Gen. Johnston had been re-enforced by 20,000 men from Manassas, and was going to make an attack upon him; and in the order which I received that night—a long order of three pages—I was ordered to occupy all the communicating roads, turning off a regiment here, and two or three regiments there, and a battery at another place, to occupy all the roads from Winchester to the neighborhood of Charlestown, and all the cross-roads, and hold them all that day, until Gen. Patterson's whole army went by me to Charlestown; and I sat seven hours in the saddle near a place called Smithfield, while Patterson, with his whole army, went by me on their way to Charlestown, he being apprehensive, as he said, of an attack from Johnston's forces."
"Question [by Mr. Odell].—You covered his movement? "Answer—Yes, Sir. Now the statement that he made, which came to me through Colonel Abercrombie, who was Patterson's brother-in-law, and commanded one division in that army, was, that Johnston had been re-enforced; and Gen. Fitz-John Porter reported the same thing to my officers. Gen. Porter was then the chief of Patterson's staff, and was a very excellent officer, and an accomplished soldier. They all had got this story, which was without the slightest shadow of foundation; for there had not a single man arrived at the camp since we had got full information that their force consisted of 20,000 men, of whom 1,800 were sick with the measles. The story was, however, that they had ascertained, by reliable information, of this re-enforcement. Where they got their information, I do not know. None such reached me; and I picked up deserters and other persons to get all the information I could; and we since have learned, as a matter of certainty, that Johnston's forces never did exceed 20,000 men there. But the excuse Patterson gave was, that Johnson had been re-enforced by 20,000 men from Manassas, and was going to attack him. That was the reason he gave then for this movement. But in this paper he has lately published, he hints at another reason—another excuse—which was that it was by order of Gen. Scott. Now, I know that the peremptory order of Gen. Scott to Gen. Patterson, repeated over and over again, was this—I was present on several occasions when telegraphic communications went from Gen. Scott to Gen. Patterson: Gen. Scott's orders to Gen. Patterson were that, if he were strong enough, he was to attack and beat Johnston. But if not, then he was to place himself in such a position as to keep Johnston employed, and prevent him from making a junction with Beauregard at Manassas. That was the repeated direction of Gen. Scott to Gen. Patterson; and it was because of Patterson's hesitancy, and his hanging back, and keeping so far beyond the reach of Johnston's camp, that I was ordered to go up there and re-enforce him, and assist him in any operations necessary to effect that object. The excuse of Gen. Patterson now is, that he had orders from Gen. Scott to move to Charlestown. Now, that is not so. But this state of things existed: Before the movement was made from Martinsburg, General Patterson suggested to General Scott that Charlestown would be a better base of operations than Martinsburg and suggested that he had better move on Charlestown, and thence make his approaches to Winchester; that it would be better to do that than to move directly to Winchester from Martinsburg; and General Scott wrote back to say that, if he found that movement a better one, he was at liberty to make it. But Gen. Patterson had already commenced his movement on Winchester direct from Martinsburg, and had got as far as Bunker Hill; so that the movement which he had formerly suggested, to Charlestown, was suppressed by his own act. But that is the pretence now given in his published speech for making the movement from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, which was a retreat, instead of the advance which the movement to Charlestown he first proposed to Gen. Scott was intended to be."
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"Question [by the Chairman].—Was not that change of direction and movement to Charlestown a total abandonment of the object which you were pursuing? "Answer.—Entirely an abandonment of the main principles of the orders he was acting under."
"Question.—And of course an abandonment of the purpose for which you were there? "Answer.—Yes, Sir.
"Question [by Mr. Odell].-Was it not your understanding in leaving here, and was it not the understanding also of Gen. Scott, that your purpose in going there was to check Johnston with direct reference to the movement here? "Answer—Undoubtedly. It was in consequence of the suggestion made by me at the Council at the President's house. * * * And upon the suggestion of General Scott they wanted me to go up there and assist Patterson in this movement against Johnston, so as to carry out the point I had suggested of first checkmating Johnston before the movement against Manassas was made here."
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Question [by the Chairman].—Would there have been any difficulty in preventing Johnston from going to Manassas? "Answer.—None whatever."
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"Question [by the Chairman.]—I have heard it suggested that he (Patterson) undertook to excuse this movement on the ground that the time of many of his troops had expired, and they refused to accompany him. "Answer.—That to my knowledge, is untrue. The time of none of them had expired when this movement was made. All the troops that were there were in the highest condition for the service. These three-months' men, it may be well to state to you who are not Military men, were superior to any other volunteer troops that we had, in point of discipline. They were the disciplined troops of the Country. The three-months' men were generally the organized troops of the different States—New York, Pennsylvania, etc. We had, for instance, from Patterson's own city, Philadelphia, one of the finest regiments in the service, which was turned over to me, at their own request; and the most of my regiments were disciplined and organized troops. They were all in fine condition, anxious, zealous, and earnest for a fight. They thought they were going to attack Johnston's camp at Winchester. Although I had suggested to Gen. Patterson that there was no necessity for that, the camp being admirably fortified with many of their heavy guns from Norfolk, I proposed to him to place ourselves between Johnston and the Shenandoah, which would have compelled him to fight us there, or to remain in his camp, either of which would have effected General Scott's object. If I had got into a fight, it was very easy, over this road I had just been opening, for Patterson to have re-enforced me and to have come up to the fight in time. The proposition was to place ourselves between Johnston's fortified camp and the Shenandoah, where his fortified camp would have been of no use to him."
"Question.—Even if you had received a check there, it would have prevented his junction with the forces at Manassas? "Answer.—Yes, Sir; I would have risked a battle with my own division rather than Johnston should have escaped. If he had attacked me, I could have taken a position where I could have held it, while Patterson could have fallen upon him and repulsed him."
"Question [by Mr. Odell].—Had you any such understanding with Patterson? "Answer.—I told him I would move down on this side-road in advance, leaving Gen. Patterson to sustain me if I got into a fight. So, on the other hand, if he should attack Patterson, I was near enough to fall upon Johnston's flank and to support Patterson. By using this communication of mine to pass Opequan Creek—where, I had informed Patterson, I had already pushed forward my pickets, [200 men in the day and 400 more at night,] to prevent the Enemy from burning the bridge—it would have enabled me to get between Johnston and the Shenandoah River. On the morning [Wednesday, July 17th] of our march to Charlestown, Stuart's cavalry, which figured so vigorously at Bull Run, was upon my flank all day. They were apparently about 800 strong. I saw them constantly on my flank for a number of miles. I could distinguish them, with my glass, with great ease. Finally, they came within about a mile of the line of march I was pursuing and I sent a battery around to head them off, and the 12th Regiment across the fields in double-quick time to take them in the rear. I thought I had got them hemmed in. But they broke down the fences, and went across the country to Winchester, and I saw nothing more of them. They were then about eight miles from Winchester, and must have got there in the course of a couple of hours. That day [Wednesday, the 17th] at 10 o'clock—as was ascertained from those who saw him crossing the Shenandoah—Johnston started from Winchester with 8,000 men, forded the Shenandoah, and got to Manassas on Friday night; and his second in command started the next day with all the rest of the available troops—something like 9,000 men; leaving only the sick, and a few to guard them, in the camp at Winchester—and they arrived at the battle-field in the midst of the fight, got out of the cars, rushed on the battle-field, and turned the scale. I have no doubt that, if we had intercepted Johnston, as we ought to have done, the battle of Bull Run would have been a victory for us instead of a defeat. Johnston was undoubtedly the ablest general they had in their army."
Colonel CRAIG BIDDLE, testified that he was General Patterson's aide-de-camp at the time. In answer to a question by the Chairman, he continued:
"Answer.—I was present, of course, at all the discussions. The discussion at Martinsburg was as to whether or not General Patterson should go on to Winchester. General Patterson was very full of that himself. He was determined to go to Winchester; but the opinions of all the regular officers who were with him, were against it. The opinions of all the men in whose judgment I had any confidence, were against it. They seemed to have the notion that General Patterson had got his Irish blood up by the fight we had had at Falling Waters, and was bound to go ahead. He decided upon going ahead, against the remonstrances of General [Fitz John] Porter, who advised against it. He told me he considered he had done his duty, and said no more. The movement was delayed in consequence of General Stone's command not being able to move right away. It was then evident that there was so much opposition to it that the General was induced to call a council of the general officers in his command, at which I was present. They were unanimously opposed to the advance. That was at Martinsburg."
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"Question.—While at Bunker Hill, the night before you left there, were any orders issued to march in the evening? "Answer.—I think there were such orders."
"Question.—Did not General Patterson issue orders at Bunker Hill, the night before you marched to Charlestown, for an attack on the Enemy? "Answer.-I think such orders were written. I do not think they were issued. I think General Patterson was again persuaded not to make an advance."
Colonel R. BUTLER PRICE, Senior aide to Patterson, testified as follows:
* * * * * * * * *
"Question [by Mr. Gooch].—Was it not the intention to move from Bunker Hill to Winchester? "Answer.—Yes, Sir. At one time General Patterson had given an order to move from Bunker Hill to Winchester. He was very unwilling to leave Johnston even at Winchester without attacking him; and on the afternoon before we left Bunker Hill he decided to attack him, notwithstanding his strong force."
"Question.—Behind his intrenchments? "Answer.—Yes, Sir; it went so far that his order was written by his adjutant, General [Fitz John] Porter. It was very much against the wishes of General [Fitz John] Porter; and he asked General Patterson if he would send for Colonel Abercrombie and Colonel Thomas and consult them on the movement. General Patterson replied: No, Sir; for I know they will attempt to dissuade me from it, and I have made up my mind to fight Johnston under all circumstances. That was the day before we left Bunker Hill. Then Colonel [Fitz John] Porter asked to have Colonel Abercrombie and Colonel Thomas sent for and consulted as to the best manner to carry out his wishes. He consented, and they came, and after half an hour they dissuaded him from it."
"Question.—At that time General Patterson felt it was so important to attack Johnston that he had determined to do it? "Answer.—Yes, Sir; the order was not published, but it was written."
"Question.—You understood General Patterson to be influenced to make that attempt because he felt there was a necessity for detaining Johnston? "Answer.—Yes, Sir; to detain him as long as he possibly could."
"Question.—That order was not countermanded until late on Tuesday, the 16th, was it? "Answer.—That order never was published. It was written; but, at the earnest solicitation of Colonel [Fitz John] Porter, it was withheld until he could have a consultation with Colonel Abercrombie and Colonel Thomas."]
It is about 1 o'clock on the morning of Thursday, July 18th,—that same day which witnesses the preliminary Battle of Blackburn's Ford—that Johnston, being at Winchester, and knowing of Patterson's peculiarly inoffensive and timid movement to his own left and rear, on Charlestown, receives from the Rebel Government at Richmond, a telegraphic dispatch, of July 17th, in these words: "General Beauregard is attacked. To strike the Enemy a decisive blow, a junction of all your effective force will be needed. If practicable, make the movement. * * * In all the arrangements exercise your discretion."
Johnston loses no time in deciding that it is his duty to prevent, if possible, disaster to Beauregard's Army; that to do this he must effect a junction with him; and that this necessitates either an immediate fight with, and defeat of, Patterson,—which may occasion a fatal delay—or else, that Union general must be eluded. Johnston determines on the latter course.
Leaving his sick, with some militia to make a pretense of defending the town in case of attack, Johnston secretly and rapidly marches his Army, of 9,000 effective men, Southeasterly from Winchester, at noon of Thursday, the 18th; across by a short cut, wading the Shenandoah River, and then on through Asby's Gap, in the Blue Ridge, that same night; still on, in the same direction, to a station on the Manassas Gap railroad, known as Piedmont, which is reached by the next (Friday) morning,—the erratic movements of Stuart's Cavalry entirely concealing the manoeuvre from the knowledge of Patterson.
From Piedmont, the Artillery and Cavalry proceed to march the remaining twenty-five miles, or so, to Manassas Junction, by the roads. The 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments of Bartow's Brigade, with Jackson's Brigade, —comprising the 2d, 4th, 5th, 27th and 33d Virginia Regiments—are embarked on the cars, and hurriedly sent in advance, by rail, to Manassas, reaching there on that same (Friday) afternoon and evening. These are followed by General Johnston, with Bee's Brigade—comprising the 4th Alabama, 2d Mississippi, and a battalion of the 11th Mississippi—which arrive at Manassas about noon of Saturday, the 20th of July, the balance of Johnston's Infantry being billed for arrival that same day, or night.
Upon Johnston's own arrival at Manassas, Saturday noon,—the very day that Patterson ascertains that "the bird has flown,"—after assuming command, by virtue of seniority, he proceeds to examine Beauregard's position. This he finds "too extensive, and the ground too densely wooded and intricate," to be learned quickly, and hence he is impelled to rely largely upon Beauregard for information touching the strength and positions of both the Rebel and Union Armies.
Beauregard has now 21,833 men, and 29 pieces of artillery of his own "Army of the Potomac." Johnston's and Holmes's junction with him has raised the Rebel total to 32,000 effectives, and 55 guns. McDowell, on the other hand, who started with 30,000 effectives, finds himself on the 19th—owing to the departure of one of his regiments and a battery of Artillery, because of the expiration of their term of enlistment,—with but "28,000 men at the utmost."—[Comte de Paris.]
On the evening of Saturday, the 20th of July, Johnston and Beauregard hold an important consultation. The former feels certain that Patterson, with his more than 20,000 effectives, will now lose no time in essaying a junction with McDowell's Army, and that such junction will probably be effected by July 22nd. Hence he perceives the necessity of attacking McDowell, and if possible, with the combined Rebel Forces, whipping him before Patterson can come up to his assistance.
At this consultation it is agreed by the two Rebel generals to assume the offensive, at once. Beauregard proposes a plan of battle—which is an immediate general advance of the Rebel centre and left, concentrating, from all the fords of Bull Run, upon Centreville, while the Rebel right advances toward Sangster's cross-roads, ready to fall either on Centreville, or upon Fairfax Court House, in its rear, according to circumstances.
The plan proposed, is accepted at once by Johnston. The necessary order is drawn up by Beauregard that night; and at half past four o'clock on Sunday morning, July 21st, Johnston signs the written order. Nothing now remains, apparently, but the delivery of the order to the Rebel brigade commanders, a hurried preparation for the forward movement, and then the grand attack upon McDowell, at Centreville.
Already, no doubt, the fevered brain of Beauregard pictures, in his vivid imagination, the invincible thunders of his Artillery, the impetuous advance of his Infantry, the glorious onset of his Cavalry, the flight and rout of the Union forces, his triumphal entry into Washington—Lincoln and Scott and the Congress crouching at his feet —and the victorious South and conquered North acclaiming him Dictator! The plan is Beauregard's own, and Beauregard is to have command. Hence all the glory of capturing the National Capital, must be Beauregard's. Why not? But "man proposes, and God disposes." The advance and attack, are, in that shape, never to be made.
McDowell, in the meantime, all unconscious of what has transpired in the Shenandoah Valley, and between there and Manassas; never dreaming for an instant that Patterson has failed to keep Johnson there—even if he has not attacked and defeated him; utterly unsuspicious that his own lessened Union Army has now to deal with the Forces of Johnston and Beauregard combined—with a superior instead of an inferior force; is executing a plan of battle which he has decided upon, and announced to his general officers, on that same Saturday evening, at his Headquarters in Centreville.
Instead of attempting to turn the Enemy's right, and cut off his communications with Richmond and the South, McDowell has now determined to attack the Enemy's left, cut his communication, via the Manassas Gap railroad, with Johnston's Army,—still supposed by him to be in the Valley of the Shenandoah—and, taking him in the left flank and rear, roll him upon Manassas, in disorder and defeat—with whatever might follow.
That is the plan—in its general features. In executing it, Blenker's Brigade of Miles's Division is to remain at Centreville as a reserve, throwing up intrenchments about its Heights, upon which to fall back, in case of necessity; Davies's Brigade of the same Division, with Richardson's Brigade of Tyler's Division—as the Left Wing—are to demonstrate at Blackburn's Ford, toward the Enemy's right; Tyler's other three brigades, under Keyes, Schenck, and Sherman, are to feign an attack on the Enemy's left, posted behind the strongly-defended Stone Bridge over which the Warrenton turnpike, running Westward, on its way from Centreville to Warrenton, crosses Bull Run stream; while the strong divisions under Hunter and Heintzelman—forming McDowell's Right Wing —are to follow Tyler's Division Westward down the turnpike to a point within one mile and a half of the Stone Bridge, thence, by cross-road, diverge several miles to the North, then sweep around gradually to the West, and then Southwardly over Bull Run at Sudley Springs Ford, swooping down the Sudley road upon the Enemy's left flank and rear, near Stone Bridge, rolling it back toward his center, while Tyler's remaining three brigades cross the bridge and join in the assault. That is the whole plan in a nutshell.
It has been McDowell's intention to push forward, from Centreville along the Warrenton Pike a few miles, on the evening of this Military conference; but he makes his first mistake, in allowing himself to be dissuaded from that, by those, who, in his own words, "have the greatest distance to go," and who prefer "starting early in the morning and making but one move."
The attacking divisions now have orders to march at 2:30 A. M., in order "to avoid the heat," which is excessive. Tyler's three immediate brigades—or some of them—are slow in starting Westward, along the Warrenton Pike, to the Stone Bridge; and this leads to a two or three hours delay of the divisions of Hunter and Heintzelman, before they can follow that Pike beyond Centreville, and commence the secret detour to their right, along the cross-road leading to Sudley Springs.
At 6:30 A.M., Tyler's Artillery gets into position, to cannonade the Enemy's batteries, on the West Bank of Bull Run, commanding the Stone Bridge, and opens fire. Half an hour before this, (at 6 A.M.), the Rebel artillerists, posted on a hill South of the Pike, and 600 yards West of the bridge, have caught sight of Tyler's Union blue-jackets. Those of the Rebel gunners whose eyes are directed to the North-East, soon see, nearly a mile away, up the gradual slope, a puff of blue smoke. Immediately the bang of a solitary rifle cannon is heard, and the scream of a rifled shot as it passes over their heads. At intervals, until past 9 A.M., that piece and others in the same position, keep hammering away at the Rebel left, under Evans, at Stone Bridge.
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 time.
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 commanders.
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 Army."]
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 upon them.
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 it is:
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 sharpshooters.
[For this, and what immediately follows, see the testimony of Ricketts and others, before the Committee on the Conduct of the War.]
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 battery-supports!"
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 Confederates!"
But Barry thinks he knows better, and hastily responds: "I know they are your battery-support."
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 mad flight.
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 desperately striving.
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 disorder.
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 into disorder.
[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.