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Longstreet: From Manassas to Appomattox
Chapter 3a - Battle of Manassas, or Bull Run.
Commanders on both Sides generally Veterans of the Mexican War— General Irvin McDowell's Preconceived Plan—Johnston reinforces Beauregard and approves his Plans—General Bernard E. Bee—Analysis of the Fight—Superb Work of the Federal Artillery—Christening of " Stonewall Jackson"—McDowell's Gallant Effort to recover Lost Power—Before he was shorn of his Artillery he was the Samson of the Field—The flout—Criticism of McDowell—Tyler's Reconnoissance —Ability of the Commanding Generals tested.


BEFORE treating of future operations, I should note the situation of the Confederate contingents in the Shenandoah Valley and at Acquia Creek. The latter was ordered up to reinforce Beauregard as soon as the advance from Washington took definite shape, and arrived as a supporting brigade to his right on the 19th of July. At the same time orders were sent authorizing Johnston's withdrawal from the Valley, to join with Beauregard for the approaching conflict. The use of these contingents was duly considered by both sides some days before the campaign was put on foot.

Opposing Johnston in the Valley was General Robert Patterson, of Philadelphia, a veteran of the war of 1812 and of the Mexican War, especially distinguished in the latter by the prestige of the former service. Johnston was a veteran of the Mexican War, who had won distinction by progressive service and was well equipped in the science of war. Beauregard and McDowell were also veterans of the Mexican War, of staff service, and distinguished for intelligent action and attainments, both remarkable for physical as well as mental power.

Between Johnston and Beauregard the Blue Ridge stretched out from the Potomac- southwest far below the southern line of Virginia, cut occasionally by narrow passes, quite defensible by small bodies of infantry and artillery. Patterson was ordered to hold Johnston in the Valley, while McDowell should direct his strength against Beauregard. McDowell seems to have accepted that order as not only possible, but sure of success, while the Confederates viewed the question from the other side, in a reverse light, and, as will presently appear, with better judgment.

So far as it is possible to project a battle before reaching the field, it seems that McDowell had concluded upon the move finally made before setting out on his march from Washington. It was to give him an open field, with superior numbers and appointments, and when successful was to give him the approach to the base line of his adversary with fine prospects of cutting off retreat. His ride to view the approaches of the Confederate right on the morning of the 18th was made to confirm his preconceived plan. The reconnoissance made by Tyler on the same morning reinforced his judgment, so that the strategic part of the campaign was concluded on that morning, except as to the means to be adopted to secrete or mislead in his movement as long as possible, leaving, we may say, the result to tactical operations. But tactics is time, and more decisive of results than strategy when wisely adjusted.

Johnston was sixty miles away from Beauregard, but the delay of three days, for McDowell's march via Sudley Springs, so reduced the distance in time and space as to make the consolidation easy under well-organized transportation facilities. Holmes's brigade and six-gun battery were posted in rear of Ewell's brigade.

General McDowell's order for battle on the 21st of July was issued on the afternoon of the 20th, directing his First Division to march by the Warrenton Turnpike, and make a diversion against the crossing of Bull Run at the Stone Bridge, while the Second and Third Divisions, following on the turnpike, were to file to the right, along the farm road, about half-way between Centreville and the bridge, cross Bull Run at Sudley Springs, and bear down against the Confederate rear and left; the First Division, under Tyler, to march at two o'clock in the morning, to be closely followed by the others under Hunter and Heintzelman; the turning divisions, after crossing, to march down, clear the bridge, and lift Tyler over the Run, bringing the three into compact battle order.

General Johnston came in from the Shenandoah Valley on the 20th with the brigades of Bee, Bartow, and Jackson. The brigades were assigned by Beauregard, the former two in reserve near the right of Blackburn's Ford, the latter near its left.

Beauregard's order for battle, approved by General Johnston, was issued at five A.M. on the 21 st,—the brigades at Union Mills Ford to cross and march by the road leading towards Centreville, and in rear of the Federal reserve at that point; the brigades at McLean's Ford to follow the move of those on their right, and march on a converging road towards Centreville; those at and near Blackburn's to march in co-operative action with the brigades on the right; the reserve brigades and troops at Mitchell's Ford to be used as emergency called, but in the absence of special orders to seek the most active point of battle.

This order was only preliminary, coupled with the condition that the troops were to be held ready to move, but to wait for the special order for action. The brigade at Blackburn's Ford had been reinforced by the Fifth North Carolina and Twenty-fourth Virginia Regiments, under Lieutenant-Colonel Jones and Colonel Kemper. I crossed the Run under the five o'clock order, adjusted the regiments to position for favorable action, and gave instructions for their movements on the opening of the battle.

While waiting for the order to attack, a clever reconnoissance was made by Colonels Terry and Lubbock, Texans, on the brigade staff; which disclosed the march of the heavy columns of the Federals towards our left. Their report was sent promptly to head-quarters, and after a short delay the brigade was ordered back to its position behind the Run.

Tyler's division moved early on the 21st towards the Stone Bridge. The march was not rapid, but timely. His first shells went tearing through the elements over the heads of the Confederates before six o'clock. The Second and Third Divisions followed his column till its rear cleared the road leading up to the ford at Sudley Springs, when they filed off on that route. McDowell was with them, and saw them file off on their course, and followed their march. His Fifth Division and Richardson's brigade of the First were left in reserve at Centreville, and the Fourth Division was left in a position farther rearward. The march of the columns over the single track of the farm road leading up to Sudley Springs was not only fatiguing, but so prolonged the diversion of Tyler's division at the bridge as to expose its real intent, and cause his adversary to look elsewhere for the important work. Viewing the zone of operations as far as covered by the eye, Evans discovered a column of dust rising above the forest in the vicinity of Sudley Springs. This, with the busy delay of Tyler in front of the bridge, exposed the plans, and told of another quarter for the approaching battle; when Evans, leaving four companies of infantry and two pieces of artillery to defend the bridge, moved with the rest of his command to meet the approaching columns off his left. Bearing in mind his care of the bridge, it was necessary to occupy grounds north of the pike. The position chosen was the plateau near the Matthews House, about a thousand yards north of the pike, and about the same distance from Bull Run, commending the road by which the turning divisions of the enemy were to approach. His artillery (two six-pound guns) was posted to his right and left, somewhat retired. Meanwhile, Tyler's batteries maintained their position at and below the Stone Bridge, as did those near the lower fords. McDowell's column crossed at Sudley's Ford at nine o'clock, and approached Evans a few minutes before ten. The leading division under Hunter, finding Evans's command across its route, advanced the Second Rhode Island Regiment and battery of six guns of Burnside's brigade to open the way. Evans's infantry and artillery met the advance, and after a severe fight drove it back to the line of woodland, when Burnside, reinforced by his other three regiments, with them advanced eight guns. This attack was much more formidable, and pressed an hour or more before their forces retired to the woodland. The fight, though slackened, continued, while the brigade under Porter advanced to Burnside's support.

Waiting some time to witness the opening of his aggressive fight towards Centreville, Beauregard found at last that his battle order had miscarried. While yet in doubt as to the cause of delay, his attention was drawn to the fight opened by McDowell against Evans. This affair, increasing in volume, drew him away from his original point and object of observation. He reconsidered the order to attack at Centreville, and rode for the field just opening to severe work. The brigades of Bee and Bartow,—commanded by Bee,—and Jackson's, had been drawn towards the left, the former two near Cocke's position, and Jackson from the right to the left of Mitchell's Ford. They were to await orders, but were instructed, and intrusted, in the absence of orders, to seek the place where the fight was thickest. About twelve o'clock that splendid soldier, Bernard E. Bee, under orders to find the point of danger, construed it as calling him to Evans's support, and marched, without other notice than the noise of increasing battle, with his own and Bartow's brigades and Imboden's battery. The move against the enemy's reserve at Centreville suspended, Colonels Terry and Lubbock, volunteer aides, crossed the Run to make another reconnoissance of the positions about Centreville. Captain Goree, of Texas, and Captain Sorrel, of Georgia, had also joined the brigade staff. As Bee approached Evans he formed line upon the plateau at the Henry House, suggesting to Evans to withdraw to that as a better field than the advance ground held by the latter; but in deference to Evans's care for the bridge, which involved care for the turnpike, Bee yielded, and ordered his troops to join Evans's advance. Imboden's artillery, however, failed to respond, remaining on the Henry plateau; leaving Bee and Evans with two six-pounder smoothbore guns to combat the enemy's formidable batteries of eight to twelve guns of superior metal, as well as the accumulating superior infantry forces, Imboden's battery making a show of practice with six-pounders at great range. Bee's infantry crossed Young's Branch under severe fire, and were posted on the line of Evans's battle.

Burnside was reinforced by Porter's brigade, and afterwards by a part of Heintzelman's division. Ricketts's battery, and subsequently the battery under Griffin, pressed their fight with renewed vigor. The batteries, particularly active and aggressive, poured incessant fire upon the Confederate ranks, who had no artillery to engage against them except Imboden's, far off to the rear, and the section of Latham's howitzers. The efforts of the Federal infantry were cleverly met and resisted, but the havoc of those splendid batteries was too severe, particularly Griffin's, that had an oblique fire upon the Confederates. It was the fire of this battery that first disturbed our ranks on their left, and the increasing pounding of that and Ricketts's eventually unsettled the line. At this juncture two brigades of Tyler's division, with General W. T. Sherman and General Keyes, crossed the Run at a ford some distance above the bridge and approached the Confederate right, making more unsettled their position. At the same time the attacking artillery and infantry followed up their opportunity in admirable style, pushed the Confederates back, and pursued down to the valley of Young's Branch.

At one P.M., Colonels Terry and Lubbock returned from their reconnoissance of the ground in front of Centreville, with a diagram showing points of the Union lines and troops there posted. I sent it up to head-quarters, suggesting that the brigades at the lower fords be put across the Run, and advance against the reserves as designed by the order of the morning. Colonel Terry returned with the suggestion approved, and we communicated the same to the brigades at McLean's and Union Mills Fords, commanded by officers of senior dates to myself. The brigades were prepared, however, for concert of action. Bee, Bartow, and Evans made valorous efforts, while withdrawing from their struggle on the Matthews plateau, to maintain the integrity of their lines, and with some success, when General Wade Hampton came with his brigade to their aid, checked the progress of pursuit, and helped to lift their broken ranks to the plateau at the Henry House. The fight assumed proportions which called for the care of both General Johnston and General Beauregard, who, with the movements of their right too late to relieve the pressure of the left, found it necessary to draw their forces to the point at which the battle had been forced by the enemy. At the same time the reserve brigades of their right were called to the left. General Thomas J. Jackson also moved to that quarter, and reached the rear crest of the plateau at the Henry House while yet Bee, Bartow, Evans, and Hampton were climbing to the forward crest. Quick to note a proper ground, Jackson deployed on the crest at the height, leaving the open of the plateau in front. He was in time to secure the Imboden battery before it got off the field, and put it into action. Stanard's battery, Pendleton's, and Pelham's, and part of the Washington Artillery were up in time to aid Jackson in his new formation and relieve our discomfited troops rallying on his flank. As they rose on the forward crest, Bee saw, on the farther side, Jackson's line, serene as if in repose, affording a haven so promising of cover that he gave the christening of " Stonewall" for the immortal Jackson.

" There," said he, "is Jackson, standing like a stone wall."

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