Incidents of the first Bull Run.
From the day of his arrival at Winchester
[see page 124], General Johnston
was ceaseless in his labors to improve the efficiency of his little army, in which he was greatly assisted by several staff-officers who afterward rose to high distinction.
The two most active of these subordinates were Majors W. H. C. Whiting
and E. Kirby Smith
, the former of whom as a major-general fell mortally wounded at the capture of Fort Fisher
in North Carolina
, and the latter as a lieutenant-general commanded the Trans-Mississippi army when the final collapse came.
During our withdrawal from Harper's Ferry
, on June 16th, we were deflected from our direct line of march, and held in line of battle a day at Bunker Hill
, a few miles north of Winchester
, to receive an expected assault from General Patterson
, who had crossed the Potomac
, but who went back without attacking us. Again on July 2d we were marched to Darksville
, about midway to Martinsburg
, to meet Patterson
, where we lay in line of battle till the 5th, when General Patterson
, after a slight “brush” with Jackson
, again recrossed the Potomac
We returned to Winchester
, and to our arduous drilling.
After midnight of July 17th, General Bee
, my brigade commander, sent for me to go with him to headquarters, whither he had been summoned.
Several brigade commanders were assembled in a room with General Johnston
, and a conference of one or two hours was held.
When General Bee
joined me on the porch to return to our quarters, I saw he was excited, and I asked him, “What is up?”
He took my arm, and, as we walked away, told me we would march next day to the support of General Beauregard
He repeated a telegram General Johnston
had received from Adjutant-General Cooper
This was the famous dispatch that has led to so much controversy between Mr. Davis
and General Johnston
, as to whether it was a peremptory order, or simply permission to Johnston
to go to Beauregard
I quote it, and leave the reader to his own construction:
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, sending your sick and baggage to Culpeper Court House, either by railroad or by Warrenton.
In all the arrangements exercise your discretion.
On the next day, the 18th of July, we left Winchester
It was late in the afternoon before my battery took up the line of march — as I now recollect, with the rear-guard, as had been the case when we left Harper's Ferry
a month before.
It was thought probable that Patterson
, who was south of the Potomac
, and only a few miles distant, would follow us. But J. E. B. Stuart
with the cavalry so completely masked our movement that it was not suspected by Patterson
until July 20th, the day before the Bull Run
fight, and then it was too late for him to interfere.
On the second day of the march an order reached me at Rectortown, Virginia
, through Brigadier-General Barnard E. Bee
, to collect the four field-batteries of Johnston
's army into one column, and, as senior artillery captain, to march them by country roads that were unobstructed by infantry or trains as rapidly as possible to Manassas Junction
, and to report my arrival, at any hour, day or night, to General Bee
, who was going forward by rail with his brigade.
Having assembled the batteries in the night, I began the march at dawn of Saturday, July 20th, the day before the battle.
About 8 in the morning we reached a village in Fauquier county
, I think it was. The whole population turned out to greet us. Men, women, and children brought us baskets, trays, and plates loaded with their own family breakfasts.
With the improvidence of raw campaigners, we had finished the night before our three days cooked rations; so I ordered a halt for thirty minutes to enjoy the feast.
The Staunton Artillery,1
(my own battery) was at the head of the column, and, being largely composed of young men of high social standing, was especially honored by the ladies of the village, conspicuous among whom were the young daughters of Colonel John A. Washington
, late of Mount Vernon
I noticed that some of the young fellows of the battery, lingering round the baskets borne by these young ladies, who bade them die or conquer in the fight, seemed very miserable during the remainder of the march.
No doubt many of them, during the battle, felt that it would be better to die on the field than retreat and live to meet those enthusiastic girls again.
I make special note of that breakfast because it was the last food any of us tasted till the first Bull Run
had been fought and won, 36 hours later.
It was 1 o'clock that night when the head of my little column reached General Bee
's headquarters, about one mile north-east of Manassas Junction
He was established in the log-cabin to which afterward he was brought when he was mortally wounded, and to which I shall again allude.
ordered us to unharness the horses and bivouac in the fence corners, adding, “You will need all the rest you can get, for a great battle will begin in the morning.”
A little after daybreak we were aroused by the sharp, ringing report of a great Parrott gun across Bull Run
, two miles away, and the whizzing of a 30-pounder elongated shell over the tree-tops, 400 or 500 yards to our left.
Instantly every man was on his feet, and in five minutes the horses were
harnessed and hitched to the guns and caissons.
beckoned to me to come up to the porch, where he was standing in his shirt-sleeves, having also been aroused by the shot.
He rapidly informed me of the disposition of our troops of Johnston
's army so far as they had arrived at Manassas
His own brigade had been brought forward by rail the evening before.
Above all, he was dissatisfied at the prospect of not participating prominently in the battle, saying that he had been ordered to the Stone Bridge
, three or four miles away on our extreme left, to cover the left flank of the army from any movement that might be made against it. And as he had been directed to take a battery with him, he had selected mine, and wished me to move at once.
He gave me a guide, and said he would follow immediately with his infantry.
When I told him we had been 24 hours without food for men or horses, he said he would order supplies to follow, remarking, “You will have plenty of time to cook and eat, to the music of a battle in which we shall probably take little or no part.”
Away we went, retracing our steps to the Junction
, and by a westerly detour striking into the Sudley
road, at a point half-way between the Junction
and the scene of the battle.
After an hour or so we ascended the hill to the Lewis house
, or “Portici
Here a courier at full speed met us with news that the whole Federal army seemed to be marching north-westerly on the other side of Bull Run
Halting my men, I rode to the top of the hill, and had a full view of a long column of glittering bayonets moving up on the north side of the creek.
Glancing down the valley, I saw Bee
's brigade advancing, and galloped to meet him and report what I had seen.
He divined the plans of
Confederate fortifications about Manassas Junction.
This view is from a photograph taken in March, 1862.
It represents the works substantially as they were at the time of the battle.|
The Stone House on the Warrenton Turnpike.
From a photograph taken in March, 1862.
The stream in the foreground is Young's Branch.
The Sudley road crosses a little to the left of the picture.
See map, page 204.|
, and, asking me to accompany him, rode rapidly past the Lewis house
, across the hollow beyond it, and up the next hill through the pines, emerging on the summit immediately east of the Henry house
As the beautiful open landscape in front burst upon his vision, he exclaimed with enthusiasm: “Here is the battle-field, and we are in for it!
Bring up your guns as quickly as possible, and I'll look round for a good position.”
In less than twenty minutes I and my battery had passed the Lewis house
, when I discovered Bee
coming out of the pines.
He stopped, and, placing his cap on his sword-point, waved it almost frantically as a signal to hurry forward.
We went at a gallop, and were guided to a depression in the ground about one hundred yards to the north-east of the Henry house
, where we unlimbered.
With his keen military eye, General Bee
had chosen the best possible position for a battery on all that field.
We were almost under cover by reason of a slight swell in the ground immediately in our front, and not fifty feet away.
Our shot passed not six inches above the surface of the ground on this “swell,” and the recoil ran the guns back to still lower ground, where as we loaded only the heads of my men were visible to the enemy.
We went into position none too soon; for, by the time we had unlimbered, Captain Ricketts
, appearing on the crest of the opposite hill, came beautifully and gallantly into battery at a gallop, a short distance from the Matthews
house on our side of the Sudley
road, and about fifteen hundred yards to our front.
I wanted to open on him while he was unlimbering, but General Bee
objected till we had received a fire, and had thus ascertained the character and caliber of the enemy's guns.
Mine, four in number, were all brass smooth-bore 6-pounders.
The first round or two from the enemy went high over us. Seeing this, General Bee
directed us to fire low and ricochet our shot and shrapnel on the hard, smooth, open field that sloped toward the Warrenton turnpike
in the valley between us. We did this, and the effect was very destructive to the enemy.
The rapid massing of Federal troops in our front soon led to very heavy fighting.
My little battery was under a pitiless fire for a long time.
Two guns from an Alexandria battery Latham
's, I thinktook part in the conflict on the north side of Young's Branch
to our right and across the
Plan of the Bull Run battle-field.
Imboden's second position is on the line of the Confederate front as formed by Jackson.
Finally the Confederate line reached from behind the Robinson house to the left along the edge of the pines, and (as reinforcements came up) made a concave arc to a point behind the Chinn house. General Imboden counted twenty-six Confederate guns in the semicircle east of the Sudley road, when Griffin and Ricketts had taken position near the Henry house.-editors.|
turnpike, so long as Bee
, and Wheat
were on that side, we firing over their heads; and about 11 o'clock two brass 12-pounder Napoleons from the New Orleans Washington Artillery unlimbered on our right, retiring, however, after a few rounds.
We were hardly more than fairly engaged with Ricketts
's splendid battery came to his aid, and took position full five hundred yards nearer to us, in a field on the left of the Sudley
had 6 Parrott
guns, and Griffin
had as many more, and, I think, 2 12-pounder howitzers besides.
These last hurt us more than all the rifles of both batteries, since the shot and shell of the rifles, striking the ground at any angle over 15 or 20 degrees, almost without exception bored their way in several feet and did no harm.
It is no exaggeration to say that hundreds of shells from these fine rifle-guns exploded in front of and around my battery on that day, but so deep in the ground that the fragments never came out. After the action the ground looked as though it had been rooted up by hogs.
For at least a half-hour after our forces were driven across Young's Branch
no Confederate soldier was visible from our position near the Henry house
The Staunton Artillery, so far as we could see, was “alone in its glory.”
's order had been, “Stay here till you are ordered away.”
To my surprise, no orders had come, though, as I afterward learned, orders to withdraw had been sent three-quarters of an hour before through Major Howard
, of Bee
's staff, who had fallen, desperately wounded, on the way.
Infantry was now massing near the Stone house
on the turnpike, not five hundred yards away, to charge and capture us. On making this discovery and learning from the sergeants of pieces that our ammunition was almost entirely exhausted, there remained but one way to save our guns, and that was to run them off the field.
More than half of our horses had been killed, only one or two being left in several of my six-horse teams.
Those that we had were quickly divided among the guns and caissons, and we limbered up and fled.
Then it was that the Henry house
was riddled, and the old lady, Mrs. Henry
, was mortally wounded;3
for our line of retreat was so chosen that for 200 or 300 yards the house would conceal us from Griffin
's battery, and, in a measure, shelter us from the dreaded fire of the infantry when they should reach the crest we had just abandoned.
Several of Griffin
's shot passed through the house, scattering shingles, boards, and splinters all around us. A rifle-shot from Ricketts
broke the axle of one of our guns and dropped the gun in the field, but we saved the limber.
The charging infantry gained the crest in front of the Henry house
in time to give us one volley, but with no serious damage.
We crossed the summit at the edge of the pines, midway behind the Henry
and Robinson houses, and there met “Stonewall
” Jackson at the head of his brigade, marching by the flank at a double-quick.
had arrived upon the field, and were hurrying troops into position, but we had not yet seen them.
When I met Jackson
I felt very angry at what I then regarded as bad treatment from General Bee
, in leaving us so long exposed to capture, and I expressed myself with some profanity, which I could see was displeasing to Jackson
He remarked, “I'll support your battery.
Unlimber right here.”
We did so, when a perfect lull in the conflict ensued for 20 or 30 minutesat least in that part of the field.
It was at this time — that McDowell
committed, as I think, the fatal blunder of the day, by ordering both Ricketts
's and Griffin
's batteries to cease firing and move across the turnpike to the top of the Henry Hill
, and take position on the west side of the house.
The short time required to effect the change enabled Beauregard
to arrange his new line of battle on the highest crest of the hill,
south-east of the Henry
and Robinson houses, in the edge of the pines.
If one of the Federal
batteries had been left north of Young's Branch
, it could have so swept the hill-top where we re-formed, that it would have greatly delayed, if not wholly have prevented, us from occupying the position.
And if we had been forced back to the next hill, on which stands the Lewis house
, who had crossed Bull Run
not far above the Stone Bridge
at a farm ford, would have had a fair swing at our right flank, to say nothing of the effect of the artillery playing upon us from beyond Bull Run
When my retiring battery met Jackson
, and he assumed command of us, I reported that I had remaining only three rounds of ammunition for a single gun, and suggested that the caissons be sent to the rear for a supply.
He said, “No, not now-wait till other guns get here, and then you can with-
draw your battery, as it has been so torn to pieces, and let your men rest.”
During the lull in front, my men lay about, exhausted from want of water and food, and black with powder, smoke, and dust.
and I had amused ourselves training one of the guns on a heavy column of the enemy, who were advancing toward us, in the direction of the Chinn house
, but were still 1,200 to 1,500 yards away.
While we were thus engaged, General Jackson
rode up and said that three or four batteries were approaching rapidly, and that we might soon retire.
I asked permission to fire the three rounds of shrapnel left to us, and he said, “Go ahead.”
I picked up a charge (the fuse was cut and ready) and rammed it home myself, remarking to Harman
, “Tom, put in the primer and pull her off.”
I forgot to step back far enough from the muzzle, and, as I wanted to see the shell strike, I squatted to be under the smoke, and gave the word “Fire.”
Heavens! what a report.
Finding myself full twenty feet away, I thought the gun had burst.
But it was only the pent — up gas, that, escaping sideways as the shot cleared the muzzle, had struck my side and head with great violence.
I recovered in time to see the shell explode in the enemy's ranks.
The blood gushed out of my left ear, and from that day to this it has been totally deaf.
The men fired the other two rounds, and limbered up and moved away, just as the Rockbridge Artillery, under Lieutenant Brockenbrough
, came into position, followed a moment later by the Leesburg Artillery, under Lieutenant Henry Heaton
, supposed by me still to be captain of the first, as Rogers
was of the second, were not with
their batteries when they unlimbered.4
were equal to the occasion.
had been under my command with his battery at the Point of Rocks
, below Harper's Ferry
, the previous May, and was a brave and skillful young officer.
Several other batteries soon came into line, so that by the time Griffin
were in position near the Henry house
, we had, as I now remember, 26 fresh guns ready for them.
The contest that ensued was terrific.
ordered me to go from battery to battery and see that the guns were properly aimed and the fuses cut the right length.
This was the work of but a few minutes.
On returning to the left of the line of guns, I stopped to ask General Jackson
's permission to rejoin my battery.
The fight was just then hot enough to make him feel well.
His eyes fairly blazed.
He had a way of throwing up his left hand with the open palm toward the person he was addressing.
And as he told me to go, he made this gesture.
The air was full of flying missiles, and as he spoke he jerked down his hand, and I saw that blood was streaming from it. I exclaimed, “General, you are wounded.”
He replied, as he drew a handkerchief from his breast-pocket, and began to bind it up, “Only a scratch — a mere scratch,” and galloped away along his line.
To save my horse, I had hitched him in a little gully some fifty yards or more in the rear.
And to reach him, I had to pass the six hundred infantry of Hampton
's Legion, who were lying down in supporting distance of our artillery, then all in full play.
While I was untying my horse, a shell exploded in the midst of Hampton
's infantry, killing several and stampeding 15 or 20 nearest the spot.
I tried to rally them; but one huge fellow, musket in hand, and with bayonet fixed, had started on a run. I threw myself in his front with drawn sword, and threatened to cut him down, whereupon he made a lunge at me. I threw up my left arm to ward off the blow, and the bayonet-point ran under the wristband of my red flannel
shirt, and raked the skin of my arm from; wrist to shoulder.
The blow knocked me sprawling on the ground, and the fellow got away.
I tore off the dangling shirt-sleeve, and was bare-armed as to my left, the remainder of the fight.
I overtook my battery on the hill near the Lewis house
, which was used as a hospital.
In a field in front I saw General Johnston
and his staff grouped on their horses, and under fire from numerous shells that reached that hill.
I rode up to him, reported our ammunition all gone, and requested to know where I could find the ordnance wagons and get a fresh supply.
Observing the sorry plight of the battery and the condition of the surviving men and horses, he directed me to remove them farther to the rear to a place of perfect safety, and return myself to the field, where I might be of some service.
I took the battery back perhaps a mile, where we found a welcome little stream of water.
Being greatly exhausted, I rested for perhaps an hour, and returned to the front with Sergeant Thomas Shumate
When we regained the crest of the Henry plateau
, the enemy had been swept from it, and the retreat had begun all along the line.
We gazed upon the scene for a time, and, hearing firing between the Lewis house
and the Stone Bridge
, we rode back to see what it meant.
Captain Lindsay Walker
had arrived from Fredericksburg
with his six-Parrott-gun battery, and from a high hill was shelling the fugitives beyond Bull Run
as they were fleeing in wild disorder to the shelter of the nearest woods.
Colonel J. E. B. Stuart
, at the head of a body of yelling cavalry with drawn sabers, was sweeping round the base of the hill we were on, to cross the Run
and fall upon the enemy.
disappeared in the distance, Shumate
and I rode slowly back toward the battery.
Nearing the Lewis house
, we saw General Johnston
and his staff coming toward us slowly, preceded a little by a gentleman on horseback, who was lifting his hat to every one he met. From the likeness I had seen of President Jefferson Davis
, I instantly recognized him and told Shumate
who it was. With the impulsiveness of his nature, Shumate
dashed up to the President
, seized his hand, and huzzaed at the top of his voice.
I could see that Mr. Davis
was greatly amused, and I was convulsed with laughter.
When they came within twenty steps of me, where I had halted to let the group pass, Shumate
exclaimed, to the great amusement of all who heard him: “Mr. President
, there's my captain, and I want to introduce you to him.”
The President eyed me for a moment, as if he thought I was an odd-looking captain.
I had on a battered slouch hat, a red flannel
shirt with only one sleeve, corduroy trousers, and heavy cavalry boots, and was begrimed with burnt powder, dust, and the blood from my ear and arm, and must have been about as hard-looking a specimen of a captain as was ever seen.
Nevertheless, the President
grasped my hand with a cordial salutation, and after a few words passed on.
We found our battery refreshing themselves on fat bacon and bread.
After a hasty meal, I threw myself on a bag of oats, and slept till broad daylight next morning, notwithstanding a drenching rain which beat upon me during the night.
In fact, I was aroused in the morning by a messenger from ex-Governor Alston
, of South Carolina
, summoning me to the side of my gallant commander, Brigadier-General Bee
, who had been mortally wounded near the Henry house
, where Bartow
had been instantly killed almost at the same moment.
When I reached General Bee
, who had been carried back to the cabin where I had joined him the night before, he was unconscious; in a few minutes, while I was holding his hand, he died.
Some one during the night had told him that I had reflected on him for leaving our battery so long exposed to capture; and, at his request, messengers had been for hours hunting me in the darkness, to bring me to him, that I might learn from his own lips that he had sent Major Howard
to order me to withdraw, when he was driven back across Young's Branch
and the turnpike.
I was grieved deeply not to have seen him sooner.
Possibly the failure of his order to reach me was providential.
For full three-quarters of an hour we had kept up
a fire that delayed the enemy's movement across Young's Branch
But for that, they might have gained the Henry plateau
, before Jackson
came up, and before Bee
had rallied their disorganized troops.
Minutes count as hours under such circumstances, and trifles often turn the scale in great battles.
's wound became very serious when inflammation set in. On hearing, three days after the fight, that he was suffering with it, I rode to his quarters, a little farm-house near Centreville
Although it was barely sunrise, he was out under the trees, bathing the hand with spring water.
It was much swollen and very painful, but he bore himself stoically.
His wife had arrived the night before.
Of course, the battle was the only topic discussed at breakfast.
I remarked, in Mrs. Jackson
's hearing, “General, how is it that you can keep so cool, and appear so utterly insensible to danger in such a storm of shell and bullets as rained about you when your hand was hit?”
He instantly became grave and reverential in his manner, and answered, in a low tone of great earnestness: “Captain
, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death.
I do not concern myself about that
, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me.”
He added, after a pause, looking me full in the face: “Captain
, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.”
I felt that this last remark was intended as a rebuke for my profanity, when I had complained to him on the field of the apparent abandonment of my battery to capture, and I apologized.
He heard me, and simply said, “Nothing can justify profanity.”
The battle was mainly fought by Johnston
's troops from the Shenandoah
Two-thirds of the killed and wounded were his men and officers.
's troops were strung out for several miles down the valley of Bull Run
, and did not get up to our aid till near the end of the day. General Beauregard
himself, who was in the thickest of the fight, came upon the field long before any of his troops arrived, except those he had posted under Evans
to guard the Stone Bridge
, and which, with Bee
's troops, bore the brunt of the first attack.
The uninformed, North and South, have wondered why Johnston
did not follow on to Washington
, in his “Narrative,” has clearly and conclusively answered that question.
It was simply impossible.
We had neither the food nor transportation at Manassas
necessary to a forward movement.
This subject was the cause of sharp irritation between our commanding generals at Manassas
on the one hand, and Mr. Davis
and his Secretary of War
, Mr. Benjamin
, on the other.
There was a disposition in the quartermaster's and commissary departments at Richmond
to deny the extent of the destitution of our army immediately after the battle.
To ascertain the exact facts of the case, General Johnston
organized a board of officers to investigate and report the condition of the transportation and commissariat of the army at Manassas
on the 21st of July, and their daily condition for two weeks thereafter.
That Board was composed of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert B. Lee
(a cousin of General R. E. Lee
), representing the commissary department, Major
) W. L. Cabell
, representing the quartermasters department, and myself from the line.
My associates on this Board were old United States army officers of acknowledged ability and large experience.
We organized early in August, and made an exhaustive investigation and detailed report.
I have a distinct recollection that we found that on the morning of the battle there was not at Manassas
one full day's rations for the combined armies of Johnston
, and that on no single day for the succeeding two weeks was there as much as a three days supply there.
We found that there were not wagons and teams enough at any time to have transported three days supplies for the troops if they had been put in motion away from the railroad.
We found that for weeks preceding the 21st of July General Beauregard
had been urgent and almost importunate in his demands on the quartermaster and commissary generals at Richmond
for adequate supplies.
We found that Colonel Northrop
, the commissary general
, had not only failed to send forward adequate supplies for such an emergency as arose when General Johnston
brought his army from the valley, but that he had interfered with and interdicted the efforts of officers of the department who were with General Beauregard
to collect supplies from the rich and abundant region lying between the hostile armies.
After reporting the facts, we unanimously concurred in the opinion that they proved the impossibility of a successful and rapid pursuit of the defeated enemy to Washington
This report, elaborately written out and signed, was forwarded to Richmond
, and in a few days was returned by Mr. Judah P. Benjamin
, Secretary of War
, with an indorsement to the effect that the Board had transcended its powers by expressing an opinion as to what the facts did or did not prove, and sharply ordering us to strike out all that part of the report, and send only the facts ascertained by us. We met and complied with this order, though indignant at the reprimand, and returned our amended report.
This was the last I ever heard of it. It never saw daylight.
Who suppressed it I do not know.6