The President had just arrived by special train from Richmond, and Providence seemed to be with us again. The contest was no longer doubtful. As I heard one of the officers say, our men could have whipped legions of devils. The word “Onward!” was given, Davis bareheaded in the van. No more lingering or dallying. It was a grand and sublime onset of a few determined sons of liberty against the legions of despotism. The lines of the enemy were broken, their columns put to flight, and until after dark the pursuit was continued. The rout was complete. Off scampered the Yankees, throwing away guns, knapsacks, clothing, and every thing that could retard their progress. Thus was the day won, and the long bright Sabbath closed, a lovely full moon looking down calmly and peacefully upon the bloodiest field that the continent of America ever witnessed. Our loss is fully two thousand killed and wounded. Among the killed are Gen. Bee, of South Carolina; Gen. E. K. Smith, Gen. Bartow, of Georgia; Col. Moore and all the Alabama field officers; Col. Fisher and the North Carolina field officers; Adjutant Branch of Georgia, and a host of other leading men. Thomas G. Duncan, of Nelson County, Ky., was in the fight, and shot through the left shoulder. His wound is not dangerous. Col. Barbour, of Louisville; Capt. Menifee and Shelby Coffee, of Kentucky, were in the hottest of the fight. We took thirteen hundred prisoners, sixty pieces of artillery, ten thousand stand of arms, and an immense amount of baggage. This is a sad day. The rain is pouring in torrents. The killed and wounded are being brought in by hundreds, and a gloom pervades all hearts, that even the sense of our great victory cannot relieve.
The retreat from Centreville.
Washington, July 22, 1861.There is no use. of concealing the fact, however terrible it may be to realize, that the army of the Union, under command of General McDowell, has been completely routed. I endeavored to intimate the sad intelligence in my letter of yesterday; I had hoped, however, that subsequent advices would have enabled me to say that the gallant, the superhuman conduct of our troops had met the rewards of bravery. Every account that comes, comes filled with disaster. Every eye is sad, and the exultation of yesterday has given place to the gloom and apprehension of to-day. The present is one of sorrow, the future has but few gleams of hope. We have sent into Virginia the best appointed division of our grand army, we have fought the greatest battle ever fought on the continent, and we have been not only beaten, but our army has been routed, and many of its best regiments wholly demoralized. The narrative of this disaster will be my duty; you may make your own conclusions, and solve the terrible political problem it presents to the American people. It was impossible for me, in the heat of a terrible engagement, exactly to locate the position of our forces during the battle; but I find my conjecture of yesterday verified, that it was not at Bull Run, but at Manassas Gap. In other words, that General McDowell, with an army which, including the reserves at Centreville, did not number more than forty thousand, actually attacked the rebel forces at Manassas Gap, where Beauregard has been for months preparing his fortifications, and where he had lined the hills with elaborate and carefully-constructed intrenchments, behind which were rifled cannon of large calibre, properly manned and supported by an army which subsequent information leads me to estimate at nearly a hundred thousand men. Behind these batteries the Southern troops fought. They were constructed in a manner calculated to deceive the most experienced eye. The breastworks were in the shape of a gently sloping hill, neatly sodded, with here and there a tree left growing, to more thoroughly deceive our troops as to their existence. Their line of batteries covered two or three miles. The whole region seemed literally to be one masked battery. What appeared to be a natural declivity, would in a moment bellow forth a most fearful charge of grape-shot, shell, and cannister; and from every clump of bushes or shrubbery, the terrible messengers of death would come at the most unexpected moment. I mention this in order that you may more properly understand the details of this great battle, and more properly appreciate the gallantry of our men. Notwithstanding they had slept on their arms, and had marched ten miles to the place of engagement, they rushed into the contest weary, wanting food and water; they drove the enemy from battery and battery; slowly and slowly pushing them from their position. From nine o'clock till three, the battle was a victory, and if at three o'clock there had been ten thousand fresh men to assist them; if General Patterson had only come from Martinsburg, or McClellan over the Blue Ridge from Western Virginia--or if even Miles' division of reserves could have been marched from Centreville, we could have driven them from the field and won the day. Our men were weary, and in many cases inefficiently commanded, The enemy was being constantly reinforced. So rapidly did they arrive, that many of their regiments rushed into the field with their knapsacks on their shoulders, and I could distinctly see with a strong spy-glass, even from the hills beyond Centreville, regiment after regiment of the rebels coming from the neighboring districts, and passing over the roads to Manassas. In many cases the colors of their flags could be easily distinguished. The causes of our defeat appear to be these: A premature advance on the enemy without a