Clement Anselm Evans.

Confederate military history; a library of Confederate States history online

. (page 10 of 153)
Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 10 of 153)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

killed, while bravely rallying their men. This attack was made
without orders, and McDowell says it frustrated, for the time, a


more important movement, which Ewell learned was to have been
an attack on Manassas.

On June loth, Col. Charles 'V. Stone began, with the District of
Columbia volunteers, what is known as "the Rockville expedition,"
having for its object the holding of the line of the Potomac from
Washington up toward Harper's Ferry, guarding the fords and fer-
ries of that river from Virginia, and any movement on Washington
from that direction. This resulted in skirmishes near Seneca mills
on the 14th, at Conrad's Ferry on the 17th, at Edward's Ferry on
the i8th, at Harper's Ferry July 4th, and at Great Falls July 7th.
Colonel Stone was reinforced from time to time with other volunteer
troops from Washington. His headquarters were opposite Harper's
Ferry July 6th, when he marched, with most of his command, to
Williamsport, Md., and thence to Martinsburg, to reinforce Patter-
son. The Confederate force opposing him was mainly that under
Col. Eppa Hunton, in observation at Leesburg.

On June i6th. Col. Maxcy Gregg, with the First South Carolina
infantry, about 575 strong, several companies of cavalry and two
g^ns of Kemper's battery, marched from his camp near Fairfax on
a reconnoissance to Dranesville, where he learned that several hun-
dred of the enemy had that day come up the Leesburg turnpike to
near Hunter's mill. On the morning of the 17th, Gregg rode with a
troop of horse to the Potomac, opposite Seneca creek, and reconnoi-
tered. Returning, he marched by Hunter's mill to Vienna, on the
Alexandria & Leesburg railroad. About 6 p. m., as he was mov-
ing off, the whistle of an approaching train was heard in the direc-
tion of Alexandria. He at once marched back, planted his two guu&
on a hill commanding a curve in the railroad, and placed his infantry
and cavalry in support. As the train came round the curve, Kem-
per opened on it a rapid fire from his guns, which badly damaged the
train and|caused the Federals, the First Ohio, under Brig. -Gen. R. C.
Schenck.'to escape from it and rapidly retreat. Owing to the late-
ness of the hour Gregg, could not pursue, but he destroyed one
passenger and five platform cars, captured some arms, and killed
and wounded several of the enemy, without loss and with credit ta
his management.

On June 25th a small party of the enemy landed at Mathias Point,
under cover of guns from a steamer, and burned the house of Dr.
Howe ; the object being to discover whether a battery was being
located there. On the 27th another descent was made by a force
landed from boats. Maj. R. M. Mayo's command of one cavalry and
three infantry companies met and drove this body. Brig.-Gen. T. H.
Holmes, in command, reported that he then had fifteen companies
of volunteers at Mathias Point, and had ordered a section of Walk-
er's battery to the same place.

On July 14th, Colonel Davies, with the Fifteenth New York, made
a reconnoissance from Alexandria 7 miles out on the Fairfax
road, lo miles on the Richmond, or Telegraph road, and to Mt. Ver-
non. Only a small picket was met on the Richmond road. Some
of Davies' command visited the house of Col. John A. Washington,
near Mt. Vernon, and brought away plantation supplies, taking Col-
onel Washington's teams and negroes to haul them to camp. Davies
sent back the teams and supplies, but kept the negroes to do team duty
in his brigade. Col. D. S. Miles, his division commander, instructed
Davies to.respect private property, and send back the negroeS.


On June 2d, Brig. -Gen. G. T. Beauregard took com-
mand of the Confederate troops on the "Alexandria
line." His main line of defense was behind Bull run,
and his headquarters at Manassas Junction, 26 miles from
Alexandria and the Potomac river. This army then held
the line of the Potomac from the Blue ridge down to
the vicinity of Washington, thence around the already
partially fortified Virginia front of that city to the
Potomac, and then south along that river to Chesapeake

The only advantages of the line of Bull run to the
Confederates were strategic. It was, by public roads,
about 20 miles from the Potomac, a distance over which the
movements of the Federal army could be easily watched ;
and it covered the junction of the Orange & Alexandria
railroad — ^which had connection at Gordonsville, by the
Virginia Central, with Richmond, the capital of the Con-
federacy, and with Staunton, a great depot of supplies and
the most important town in the Shenandoah valley —
with the Manassas Gap railroad, which led from Manas-
sas Junction to Strasburg in the lower valley of the Shen-
andoah, giving quick connection with the army there
operating under Gen. J. E. Johnston.

Excellent highways from Alexandria and Washington,,
and from other important points to the northwest and
southwest, converged at Centreville, about 3 miles
east of Bull run, offering great advantages for the con-
centration of the Federal army in the immediate front of
this line ; while roads diverging from the same village to
the northwest, west and southwest, made it an easy mat-
ter to maneuver troops for offensive operations upon
the flanks of a defensive army holding the line of Bull
run. There were also excellent positions on the north-
eastern side of that stream for holding the defensive
army in check in front of its center while flanking move-
ments to either hand were in process of execution.

The Federal army of invasion consisted of five divi-
sions: The First, under Brig. -Gen. Daniel Tyler, was
composed of four brigades of infantry and four batteries
of regular United States artillery; the Second, under
Col. D. M. Hunter, of two brigades of infantry, a battal-
ion of United States cavalry, a battery of regular United
States artillery, and two volunteer batteries ; the Third,
under Col. S. P. Heintzelman, of three brigades of infan-


try and two batteries of regular United States artillery.
These three divisions and their cavalry and batteries par-
ticipated in the battle. The Fourth division, under
Brig. -Gen. T. Runyon, and the Fifth, under Col. D. S.
Miles, each composed of two brigades of infantry, two
"batteries of regular United States artillery, and one vol-
unteer battery, were held in reserve, in front of and at
Centreville, and in its rear, and did not participate in
the battle, except that the Fifth had some skirmishing
while covering the retreat of the Federal army. The
Fifth division guarded the roads leading to the Poto-
mac and did not get nearer to Centreville than about
Fairfax, 7 miles eastward. The official returns for
July 17th show that McDowell had 34,127 men present
for duty. His adjutant-general claims that the rank and
file of his army that participated in the battle of Bull
Run numbered 18,572, with 24 pieces of artillery. This
does not include the two divisions in reserve, which had
over 11,000 men and 25 pieces of artillery.*

The Confederate forces at Bull Run were embraced in
the army of the Potomac, which, under Brig. -Gen. G. T.
Beauregard, had been holding Manassas and the line of
the Potomac east of the Blue ridge, and the army of the
Shenandoah, under Gen. J. E. Johnston, which reinforced
the former, from the Shenandoah valley, during the
engagement. The army of the Potomac, before the bat-
tle, consisted of the First brigade, one North Carolina
and four South Carolina regiments, under Brig. -Gen.
M. L. Bonham; Second brigade, two Alabama and one
Louisiana regiments, under Brig. -Gen. R. S. Ewell;
Third brigade, two Mississippi and one South Carolina
regiments, under Brig. -Gen. D. R. Jones; Fourth bri-
gade, one North Carolina and three Virginia regiments,
under Brig. -Gen. James Longstreet; Fifth brigade, one
Louisiana battalion and five Virginia regiments, under Col.
P. St. George Cocke; Sixth brigade, two Virginia, one
Mississippi and one South Carolina regiment, uiider Col.
J. A. Early; and not brigaded, two Louisiana and one
South Carolina infantry, regiment, two cavalry regiments
and one artillery battalion, and five artillery batteries.

* Beauregard states, in a paper published since the war, that the
combined Confederate army at Manassas mustered 29,188 men, rank
and file, and 55 guns; that of these, 21,923 men, infantry, cavalry
.and artillery, and 29 guns, belonged to his army of the Potomac.


'"« ^» . . ■ .5 Is - .- ■ ■ ^S

3^ i^S-fiw-***!*! j^ei'l*'^* ^^Pi«-»



The army of the Shenandoah, when it joined Beaure-
gard, was composed of the First brigade, four Virginia
infantry regiments and Pendleton's Virginia battery,
under Col. T. J. Jackson; Second brigade, three Georgia
regiments, two Kentucky battalions and Alburtis' Virginia
battery; Third brigade, one Alabama, two Mississippi
and one Tennessee regiment, and Imboden's Virginia
battery, under Brig. -Gen. B. E. Bee ; Fourth brigade,
one Tennessee and two Virginia regiments, a Maryland
infantry battalion, and Grove's Virginia battery, under
Col. A. Elzey; and one Virginia regiment of infantry
and one of cavalry, not brigaded. The army of the
Potomac, it was estimated, had 9,713 men of all arms
engaged; the army of the Shenandoah had a total of
8,340 of all arms for duty. The combined army was
estimated to contain some 30,000 men of all arms; but
only about 18,000 of these were actually engaged in the

When Beauregard took command at Manassas, John-
ston's "army of the Shenandoah," in the lower
Shenandoah valley, was, in a sense, Beauregard's left,
although not under his command, as Johnston ranked
him. On the right, at Aquia creek, on the Potomac,
liolding the terminus of the Richmond, Fredericksburg
& Potomac railroad, was a Confederate force of some
2,500 men, under Brig.-Gen. T. H. Holmes. Beaure-
gard had a small advanced outpost, under Colonel Hunton,
at Leesburg, watching the fords of the upper Potomac
east of the Blue ridge; another at Fairfax, in direct
observation of the Federal army at Washington, with
detachments on the line of the railway toward Alexan-
dria, and to the south of that road, guarding the ap-
proaches to his right from Alexandria. The principal
advantage of his chosen line of defense was that it was
an interior one.

From information that he deemed authentic, Beaure-
gard concluded that he was confronted by an army of
50,000 men, fully equipped and ready for offensive oper-
ations, under the direction, as general-in-chief , of Lieut. -
Gen. Winfield Scott, then considered the most able, as he
was the most distinguished military oflScer on the Ameri-
can continent, and under the immediate command of
Brig. -Gen. Irvin McDowell, one of the most esteemed of
the active officers of the Federal army. To oppose these
Ta 7


he could muster barely 18,000 men and 29 guns. In
view of this supposed disparity of opposing force, Beaure-
gard urged President Davis to concentrate the armies of
Johnston and Holmes with his at Manassas, that he
might be ready to fall upon McDowell's flanks, rear, and
line of communication, whenever he should advance, cut
off his retreat upon Washington, and force him to sur-
render ; and, by so doing, compel Patterson to retreat
from the lower Shenandoah valley, and thus insure the
capture of Washington. These suggestions were not
favorably received at Richmond, and it was intimated to
Beauregard that he should retire behind the Rappahan-
nock when an offensive movement of the Federal army

Left to his own discretion, Beauregard informed him-
self fully concerning his position and the approaches to
it, destroyed the railroad bridge across Bull run in front
of Manassas Junction, and awaited results. A faithful
spy, sent to Washington, having reliable information July
iSth that the Federal army would march the next day,
rode rapidly around the left flank of that army and put this
important information in the hands of Beauregard before
9 p. m. of the same day, thus giving him notice of the
ordered movement of the Federal army nearly half a
day before it began. He at once ordered his outposts
back to assigned positions ; that from Leesburg, by way
of Aldie, by forced marches (28 miles in a day and a half)
to Manassas. President Davis was informed of the situa-
tion and the suggestion made that the army of the Shen-
andoah and Holmes' brigade at Aquia creek should be
ordered to reinforce Manassas. Davis promptly ordered
Holmes to report to Beauregard, and gave Johnston dis-
cretion to move his command for the same purpose.
The latter, in anticipation of such a call for aid, unhesi-
tatingly consented to this arrangement, and Beauregard,
on request, hastened trains up the Manassas Gap railroad
to meet the army of the Shenandoah on the way to Ma-
nassas Junction and expedite its arrival. At the same
time he suggested to Johnston that he concentrate his
army at the Aldie gap of the Bull Run mountains, where
the turnpikes from the valley through Snicker's gap and
Ashby's gap of the Blue ridge unite, and then march
southeastward by roads leading to McDowell's line of ad-
vance, and fall upon the right and rear of the Federal


army while he pressed him offensively in front. This
proposition of a divided instead of a combined co-oper-
ation did not meet the approval of Johnston.

The Federal army, in light marching order, began its
march toward Manassas in the afternoon of Tuesday,
July 1 6th, and its advance, in well-disposed parallel
columns, but little opposed, encamped that night in front
of Fairfax. Advancing again on the 17th, the cavalry
moving along the right of the Federal army had a skir-
mish with the Confederate cavalry at Vienna, on the
Alexandria & Loudoun railroad, and the column on the
Centreville road with the Confederate pickets in front of
Fairfax as they retired, leaving the way open for the
Federals to reach the vicinity of Centreville and the front
of Bull run late in the evening of that day, after having
covered 20 miles from the Potomac in two days.

By morning of Thursday, July i8th, McDowell's army
was massed around Centreville, with the exception of a
division which had been left at Fairfax Court House to
guard the right of the advance and watch the roads lead-
ing to the northwest. The Confederate line south of Bull
run, at Mitchell's ford, on the direct road from Centre-
ville to Manassas Junction, was but 3 miles from
Centreville. On this road the Federal forces advanced
on the morning of the i8th, the leading division, under
Tyler, making infantry demonstrations before Mitchell's
ford and Blackburn's ford (about a mile further east),
opening with artillery from the fine positions on the north
side of Bull run in front of each of these fords. Beaure-
gard had placed Longstreet's brigade, with Early's in
reserve, to cover these two fords. These repulsed the
Federal attacks and efforts to force a passage, and the
enemy's infantry retired about i p. m., but an artillery
duel continued the contest.

Federal authorities deny that an attempt was made to
force a passage of Bull run on the i8th, and that this
engagement, which has been called the "battle of Bull
Run" (that of the 21st being known as the "battle of
Manassas"), was only a demonstration to engage the
attention of the Confederates while McDowell recon-
noitered to decide upon his plan of attack. Beauregard
claims that his success in this first encounter was of
especial advantage to his army of raw troops; that it
made McDowell cautious and hesitating in forming his.


plans for a general engagement, and that it gave him
time, then his greatest need, for the concentration of
the three Confederate armies for the final struggle.

While providing for and awaiting the general attack,
Beauregard was, on the 19th, urged by Adjutant-General
Cooper to withdraw his call upon Johnston for assistance
if the enemy in front of him had abandoned an immediate
attack. As this was not an order, Beauregard paid no
attention to it, and continued his efforts to secure the
early arrival of Johnston's forces, intending, with their
help, to take the offensive. McDowell spent the 19th
and 20th reconnoitering the Confederate front and wait-
ing for rations. During these two days, 8,340 of John-
ston's men with twenty guns, and 1,265 of Holmes', with
six guns, arrived upon Beauregard's left and right; the
larger number of them in the afternoon of the 20th.
Most of these were ordered to the Confederate left-center
and left, at the instance of General Johnston, as Beaure-
gard had placed the most of his own army on his right-
center and right, expecting, from McDowell's demonstra-
tions of the 1 8th, that his main effort would be to turn the
■Confederate right by marching southward to Union Mills.

From Centreville, in the rear of which McDowell had
established his headquarters, and around which he had
massed his troops, seven public roads diverge to the
principal points of the compass, and from each of these,
at no great distance from that village, other roads diverge
to intermediate points, until not less than a dozen roads
lead from that village, crossing Bull run at nearly as
many fords, making it an extremely difficult matter to
watch the movements of an army there concentrated and
having for its objective the southwestern side of Bull run.
A circle with a radius of 3 miles from Centreville
will pass through or near ten of these fords, from Mc-
Lean's on the southeast to Poplar on the northwest.
Bull run, in this interval of 6 miles of arc, nearly fol-
lows the three-mile circle drawn around Centreville. A
circle with 7 miles of radius, drawn around the same
center, crosses Bull run to the south of Centreville, near
Union Mills and the bridge of the Orange & Alexandria
railroad; about 9j^ miles away to the northwest it crosses
the Sudley ford of Bull run; and from that ford, back
toward the beginning, in a distance of 3 miles, it
passes directly through the field of the 21st.


With this many-roaded problem of offense and d.efense
before him, and his notions of McDowell's designs,
Beauregard disposed his forces along Bull run for over a
dozen miles in the following order, from right to left, so
as to cover all the fords by which he thought McDowell
might seek a crossing: At the Union Mills ford, on his
extreme right, beyond the railway bridge, he placed
Ewell's brigade, supported by that of Holmes, which had
arrived from Aquia creek; at McLean's ford, about two
miles farther up the stream, D. R. Jones' brigade, sup-
ported by Early's; at Blackburn's ford, one mile farther
up, Longstreet's brigade; at Mitchell's ford, about a
mile farther up stream, Bonham's brigade, which also
covered another ford about three-quarters of a mile still
farther up and near the mouth of Cub run. Cocke's bri-
gade held the line from Bonham's left, covering Island,
Ball's and Lewis' fords, for two miles up the stream to
the mouth of Young's branch, three-fourths of a mile
below the stone bridge, while Evans' half brigade, under
Cocke's command, extended the Confederate line up to
and covering the stone bridge, the Warrenton turnpike
from Centreville, and a farm ford a quarter of a mile
above that bridge. The brigades of the army of the
Shenandoah that had already arrived were placed in
reserve; those of Bee and Bartow between McLean's and
Blackburn's fords, in the rear of Early's and Longstreet's
brigades, and Jackson's to the left, between Blackburn's
and Mitchell's fords, covering the rear of parts of Long-
street's and Bonham's brigades.

During the night of Saturday, July 20th, the Federal
army was thus disposed: Tyler's division was advanced
along the Warrenton road and massed about a mile west
of Centreville, near Rocky run, and Richardson's brigade
of this division was advanced about a mile and a half to
the southwest of Centreville, on the road to Blackburn's
ford. The remainder of the Federal army, except the
reserve divisions left near Centreville and Fairfax, was
encamped a short distance to the east of Centreville.
After having spent two days reconnoitering along Bull
run, McDowell decided to make demonstrations in the
Confederate front, on the Warrenton road and on the
road to Blackburn's ford, with Tyler's division, while with
Hunter's and Heintzelman's he would, by a wide detour
of 7 miles or more to the westward and northward,


cross Bull run at Sudley ford, turn the Confederate left,
and get in its rear between Bull run and the Manassas
Gap railroad, hoping by so doing to prevent Johnston
from joining Beauregard. This plan of engagement
adopted, McDowell intended to begin his movement
during the night of the 20th, but his division commanders
persuaded him to put it off until the morning of the 21st.
Schenck's and Sherman's brigades of Tyler's division,
with Carlisle's battery of six brass guns and a 30-pounder
Parrott gun, marched at 2:30 a. m. of the 21st from near
Centreville, along the Warrenton road to near the stone
bridge over Bull run, where Schenck deployed his bri-
gade on the left of the road and Sherman's on the right,
with artillery in the Warrenton road and in that leading
to Blackburn's ford, and opened at 6:30 a. m. on the Con-
federate left with all his guns, but brought no reply, as
the Confederate guns were of too short range. This
disconcerted McDowell, leading him to fear an attack
from Blackburn's ford, and caused him to hold back one of
Heintzelman's brigades in reserve to Schenck. Later,
as Schenck's skirmish line advanced, it was met on the
eastern side of Bull run by that of the Confederates.
About 7 Beauregard ordered Jackson's brigade, the near-
est reserve force, to move with Imboden's Staunton artil-
lery and Walton's battery to the left to support Cocke
as well as Bonham; the brigades of Bee and Bartow,
under the former, were also sent to support the left against
the threatened attack by Schenck.

In the meantime, the main Federal column continued
its flanking movement by Sudley ford, but losing time in
wading across as the men halted to drink. Seeing clouds
of dust rising in the direction of Manassas Junction, in-
dicating the coming of a large force that might head off
his movement, McDowell ordered the heads of regiments
to break from the columns and march forward, separately,
as rapidly as possible; directed Heintzelman's reserve
brigade to cross the fields on the left to a nearer ford
TdcIow Sudley, and sent word to Tyler to hurry up the
advance. The brigades of Burnside and Porter, with
Griffin's battery, had already passed through the Sudley
wood, which Jackson made famous the next year, and
were deploying, facing southward, on the sloping open of
cultivated ground beyond ; and immediately behind these
were marching the brigades of Franklin and Wilcox,


accompanied by the batteries of Ricketts and Arnold.
The brigades of Howard and Keyes were still detained
in the vicinity of the Warrenton turnpike, where the road
that the flanking columns had followed diverged to the
northward. The distance to Sudley had proved greater
than McDowell expected and the troops had been delayed.

Learning from his scouts that the enemy was concen-
trating along the Warrenton turnpike, Beauregard con-
cluded that an attempt would be made to turn his left
flank at the stone bridge ; therefore, at half past four, not
long after sunrise, he ordered his brigade commanders to
hold themselves in readiness to move at short notice, sug-
gesting to each that the Federal attack might be on his
left. A little later he was advised of the advance of the
Federals toward the stone bridge, and, by half past five,
that they were deploying in front of Evans, who covered
that bridge. Concluding that the opportunity had arrived
for an offensive flank movement on the Federal left and
rear, Beauregard sent orders to the brigades on his center
and right to cross the fords and advance rapidly on Cen-
treville, with vigorous attacks, while he held, with Evans
and Cocke and their supports, the attack on the stone
bridge to the last extremity. This wheeling movement
of his right to the Federal left and rear, by his front line,
was to be followed up by the reserves, which, without

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 10 of 153)