Doc. 4.-N. Y. Tribune narrative.
A correspondent of the New York Tribune
writing from Washington
, under date of July 23, gives the following account of the battle:
My narrative of this extraordinary battle can accurately embrace most of what occurred with the division under Gen. Tyler
, which opened the attack, which was, with the exception of one brigade, desperately engaged from the beginning to the end, and which, so far as I can judge from the course in which events ran, was the last to yield before the panic which spread through the army.
It is well understood that the conflict extended over a space of many miles, and that the experience of a single observer could grasp only those details which immediately surrounded him. The general progress and effects of the entire engagement were apparent from the advanced positions of Gen. Tyler
's action, and of these it will be possible for me to speak safely; but the particular movement of the divisions under Col. Hunter
and Col. Heintzelman
should be told of by others who accompanied them.
For the clear understanding of this record, the plan of battle, although often given, must be once more briefly set down.
The enemy's strength had been tested and affirmed by the hot skirmish of Thursday, the result of which did not justify a second serious attempt upon the same ground.
There was, moreover, abundant evidence that the entire line of defences along Bull Run
was equally formidable, and that any attack upon a single point would be extremely hazardous.
It was therefore determined to open the assault in two directions simultaneously, and to offer a feint of a third onset, to divert attention, and if possible, confuse the enemy's defence.
Accordingly, Col. Richardson
was left with a considerable battery of artillery and one brigade — the fourth of Gen. Tyler
's division — at the scene of the skirmish of Thursday, with directions to open heavily with cannon at about the moment of the real attack elsewhere.
The remainder of Gen. Tyler
's division, his 1st, 2d, and 3d brigades, with powerful artillery, but without cavalry, was sent to cross Bull Run
at a point a mile and a half or more to the right, upon a road known as the Stone Bridge
A stronger wing, comprising the divisions of Col. Hunter
and Col. Heintzelman
, was carried around a good distance to the right, with the purpose of breaking upon the enemy in flank and rear, and driving them towards Gen. Tyler
, by whom their regular retreat should be cut off. Col. Miles
' division remained at Centreville
in reserve, and had no part in the action.
Long before dawn, the three divisions which sustained the battle moved from Centreville
to the attack.
The march was slow, and, to a certain degree, irregular.
Even at that hour, there seemed a lack of unity and direct purpose among the officers, which sometimes was made too evdent to the troops not to affect their spirit and demeanor.
I believe it just to say that, at the very opening of the day, it was plain to all that real and sound discipline was abandoned.
I do not mean that this was the case with separate regiments, many of which were always prompt, sure, and perfectly at the disposal of their commanders, but with the brigades, the divisions, even the army, as a whole.
The march was continued until, at 5 1/2 o'clock, Gen. Tyler
's division had reached the place of its attack.
His Second and Third brigades, under Gen. Schenck
and Col. Sherman
, were arrayed in lines of battle, the former taking the left, and the latter, after some changes, the right of the road.
Skirmishers were pushed forward, who, when close upon Bull Run
, encountered the pickets of the enemy, and presently exchanged irregular shots with them, by which slight injuries were caused on both sides.
Nothing further was attempted by the infantry
A heavy 32-pound rifled cannon was brought well forward on the road, and threw a couple of shell among the rebel lines, which were indistinctly seen formed and forming a mile before us. These were not answered, and, for a while, the cannonade was discontinued from our side.
Our position was less commanding and less clear than that we had occupied on Thursday.
We were still before the valley of Bull Run
, but the descent from our side was more gradual, and we were surrounded by thick woods down almost to the ravine through which the stream flows.
The enemy, on the contrary, had cleared away all obstructing foliage, and bared the earth in every direction over which they could bring their artillery upon us. Clumps of trees and bushes remained wherever their earthworks and other concealed defences could be advantageously planted among them.
The ground on their side was vastly superior to ours.
It rose in regular slopes to great heights, but was broken into knolls and terraces in numberless places, upon which strong earthworks were successively planted, some openly, but the greater part concealed.
The long interval between our first discharge of artillery and the positive attack afforded abundant opportunity to overlook the ground.
In no spot did the enemy seem weak.
Nature had supplied positions of defence which needed but little labor to render them desperately formidable.
How thoroughly these advantages had been improved we know by the enormous efforts which were required to dislodge the troops, and by the obstinate opposition which they displayed before retiring from point to point.
While our division waited, quiet and alert, Gen. McDowell
led the columns of hunter and Heintzelman
far around by the right, to the enemy's flank and rear.
The march was long and doubtless slow, for it was not until about 11 o'clock that we were able to discover indications of their having met the rebels.
's position, to the left, however, we heard, at 8 o'clock, the commencement of vigorous cannonading.
The deep, sullen sound from his distant batteries was all that broke the silence for nearly an hour.
Then the hurrying of our officers up and down the hill, and through the woods, told us that our assault was about to open.
The skirmishers had detected a thick and tangled abatis at the banks of the run, into which, before advancing, a few shell were thrown.
As these burst, the rebels swarmed out from their hiding-places, and took up their next fortified post beyond.
's brigade was moved forward at the left, but, before reaching the run, received the full fire of a battery masked with bushes, before which they retired to their first line.
Again all operations were suspended by our division, and until 11 o'clock the contest was carried on by the artillery, which, indeed, at that hour, resounded from every point of the field.
The action by artillery must have extended over five or six miles, from Richardson
's position at the extreme left around to Hunter
's at the right.
The roar and rattle were incessant, and the air above the vast field soon became thick with smoke.
Suddenly a line of troops was seen moving over the open hill-slope precisely in advance of us and within a mile — the least distance at which the rebel infantry had been seen.
The 3d brigade under Col. Sherman
was now drawn from its shelter among the woods and led rapidly around by the right across the run and towards one of the enemy's best positions.
Brisk volleys of musketry were soon after heard, but the smoke hung like a veil before us and it was impossible to discover by whom, or against whom, they were directed.
A puff of wind afterwards cleared the view, and we saw the brigade still in firm line, and advancing with great speed.
A few shots, and a round or two of artillery, next came from the right upon the 2d brigade, which had not yet moved forward, and which, as a whole, held its post squarely, although some squads broke and ran into the open road.
Orders were given to the men to lie upon their faces when not in motion, and menaced by artillery.
However proper this precaution may have been at this time, it afterwards turned out to be one of the most fatal causes of the demoralization of the division.
It was so frequently repeated that some regiments at last could not be made to stand at any point whatever, the least report of cannon or musketry sending them instantly upon their knees; and I saw an entire company of the New York 2d grovel in the dust at the accidental snapping of a percussion cap of one of their own rifles.
At 11 1/2 o'clock the cannonading was lighter from our side, and the attention of the enemy seemed to be distracted from us. We were then able to descry great volumes of smoke arising in front, in the precise spot at which Hunter
's column should have arrived.
This gloomy signal of the battle waved slowly to the left, assuring us that Hunter
were pushing forward, and driving the enemy before them.
At the same time, our right brigade disappeared over the eminence for which they had been contending, and the distant cheers, which evidently came from them, proved that the present triumph was their own. To sustain and re-enforce them, the reserve brigade of Colonel Keyes
was then brought down, and marched forward, in spite of a tremendous cannonade which opened upon them from the left, in the same line as that which Colonel Sherman
The left brigade, under General Schenck
, did not advance, but still remained on the ground where it had formed at the very outset.
The result of this inaction was, that our left was at the close of the battle assailed and successfully turned; and although the enemy did not pursue this final triumph, it was not the fault of the commander of that brigade that great mischief was not
soon vanished with his four regiments, and the Second brigade was left isolated at the edge of the battle-ground.
Its best protection then was furnished by the 32-pound Parrott
rifled cannon, which some rods to the right, among the brushwood, was raking the road far ahead, and plunging shell among the strongholds which the enemy still maintained.
At half-past 12 o'clock the battle appeared to have reached its climax.
's and Heintzelman
's divisions were deep in the enemy's position, and our own force, excepting always the 2d brigade, was well at work.
The discharges of artillery and musketry caused a continuous and unbroken roar, which sometimes swelled tumultuously to terrific crashes, but never lulled.
On the heights before us, bodies of infantry were plainly seen driving with fury one against the other, and slowly pressing towards the left — another proof that our advance was resisted in vain.
At one point, the rebels seemed determined to risk all rather than retreat.
Many a regiment was brought to meet our onset, and all were swept back with the same impetuous charges.
Prisoners who were subsequently brought in admitted that some of our troops, especially the 71st New York regiment, literally mowed down and annihilated double their number.
regiments, in succession, were cut right and left by the 71st.
The flanking column was now fully discernible, and the junction of our forces was evidently not far distant.
The gradual abandonment of their positions by the rebels could not be doubted.
At some points they fled precipitately, but in most cases moved regularly to the rear.
It is probable that they only deserted one strong post for another even stronger, and that however far we might have crushed them back we should still have found them intrenched and fortified to the last — even to Manassas
But they had positively relinquished the entire line in which they had first arrayed themselves against Tyler
's division, excepting one fortified elevation at the left, which could and should have been carried by the 2d brigade an hour before.
How far the enemy had retreated before Hunter
, I cannot say, but I am given to understand that they had forsaken all excepting one powerful earthwork with lofty embankments, upon the highest ground of their field.
It was this work, which, later in the day, was stormed by the Zouaves, and other regiments, and which, in spite of a daring and intrepidity which our rebel prisoners speak of with amazement, resisted their charge.
But other important works had been carried by the 3d and 4th brigades on our side, so that little appeared to remain for our victory but to perfect the union of the two columns, and to hold the ground we had won.
The fire now slackened on both sides for several minutes.
Although the movements of our own troops were mainly hidden, we could see a peculiar activity among the enemy at the spot where they had been most vehemently repulsed by Heintzelman
A long line of apparently fresh regiments was brought forward, and formed at the edge of a grove through which our men had penetrated.
Four times we saw this line broken, and reformed by its officers, who rode behind, and drove back those who fled with their swords.
A fifth time it was shattered, and reformed, but could not be made to stand fast, and was led back to the fortified ground.
This afforded us who looked on from the lower battle-field, a new ground for the conviction that the triumph would be with us.
For nearly half an hour after this we were left in great uncertainty.
The enemy languished, and our own movements seemed clogged by some mysterious obstacle.
All that was done within our view was the leading forward of Schenck
's brigade a few hundred rods on the open road.
But as many of us, lookers-on, had long before passed ahead to Bull Run
, and assured ourselves that the field was open for nearly a mile in advance, this was not regarded as of much importance.
From Bull Run
, the aspect of the field was truly appalling.
The enemy's dead lay strewn so thickly that they rested upon one another, the ground refusing space to many that had fallen.
Few of our men had suffered here, although it seemed that further on they lay in greater numbers.
But the attention of those who gazed was quickly turned from these awful results of the battle to the imminent hazard of its renewal.
Down towards our left, which had so long been exposed, a new line of troops moved with an alacrity that indicated entire freshness.
As they swept around to the very woods upon which the Second brigade rested, the artillery from the last intrenchments they held upon this field — that which should have been overrun betimes by our idle troops — opened with new vigor.
Grape and round shot, most accurately aimed, struck the ground before, behind, and each side of Gen. Schenck
and the group of officers about him. The Ohio
regiments were somewhat sheltered by a cleft in the road, but the New York 2d was more exposed.
was in great danger, to which, I am glad to say, he seemed perfectly insensible, riding always through the hottest of the fire as if nothing more serious than a shower of paper pellets threatened him. But more than this Gen. Schenck
Nevertheless, our work progressed.
, with the engineers, had completed a bridge across the run, over which our ambulances were to pass for the wounded, and by which our artillery could be planted in new positions.
Even then, although that stealthy column was winding, awkwardly for us, about our left, no person dreamed that the day was lost.
The men of the brigade, at least, were firm, although they began to suffer severely.
Horrible gaps and chasms appeared once or twice in the ranks of the New York 2d. Four men
were torn in pieces by a single round of grape shot, and their blood was flung in great splashes over all who stood near.
The carnage around seemed more terrific than it really was, so hideous was the nature of the wounds.
A few minutes later, and the great peril of our division, that which should have been foreseen and provided against, was upon us. The enemy appeared upon the left flank, between us and our way of retreat.
Why they failed, having once secured it, to pursue this enormous advantage, it is impossible to conjecture.
I am inclined to believe that the coolness and precision of Col. McCook
of the 1st Ohio regiment saved us from this disaster.
It is certain Col. McCook
displayed a firm resistance to the charge which menaced him, and that the enemy wavered, and then withdrew.
But, at this time, the first proofs of the panic which had stricken the army were disclosed.
From the distant hills, our troops, disorganized, scattered, pallid with a terror which had no just cause, came pouring in among us, trampling down some, and spreading the contagion of their fear among all. It was even then a whirlwind which nothing could resist.
The most reluctant of the officers were forced from the valley up the hill, in spite of themselves.
Whoever had stood would have been trodden under foot by his own men. Near the top of the hill a like commotion was visible, but from a different cause.
The rebel cavalry, having completely circumvented our left, had charged in among a crowd of wounded and stragglers, who surrounded a small building which had been used for our hospital.
Nothing but the unexpected courage of a considerable number of unorganized men, many of them civilians, who seized the readiest weapons and repelled the enemy, saved that point from being occupied.
If I could learn the names of that brave handful, I would be glad to set them down as shining lights amid a great and disastrous gloom; and I will say that if our flying army could have forgotten for a moment its affright, and paused to see what those true men could do, the nation might still have escaped the saddest disgrace which stains its history.
The secret of that panic will perhaps never be known.
All essay to explain it, and all fail.
Whether Gen. McDowell
did or did not give an order to retreat I cannot say of my own knowledge.
I am assured by one who was with him that he did; and by others that he also failed to preserve his self-control.
If this be so, we shall know of it in time, but all we can now be sure of is the afflicting fact of our utter and absolute rout.
How nearly one great object of the day had been accomplished may be understood when it is known that Gen. Tyler
and Gen. McDowell
had actually met. Many who came into the battle with Col. Heintzelman
and Col. Hunter
fled by the road over which Gen. Tyler
In the race from a fancied danger, all divisions and all regiments are mingled.
There was not even an attempt to cover the retreat of Tyler
's it was better: Lieut. Drummond
's cavalry troop keeping firm line, and protecting the artillery until its abandonment was imperatively ordered.
The extent of the disorder was unlimited.
Regulars and volunteers shared it alike.
A mere fraction of our artillery was saved.
Whole batteries were left upon the field, and the cutting off of others was ordered when the guns had already been brought two miles or more from the battle-ground, and were as safe as they would be in New York at this moment.
A perfect frenzy was upon almost every man. Some cried piteously to be lifted behind those who rode on horses, and others sought to clamber into wagons, the occupants resisting them with bayonets.
All sense of manhood seemed to be forgotten.
I hope, and I am sure, there were exceptions, but I am speaking of the rule with the mass.
Drivers of heavy wagons dashed down the steep road, reckless of the lives they endangered on the way. Even the sentiment of shame had gone.
Some of the better men tried to withstand the rush, and cried out against the flying groups, calling them “cowards, poltroons, brutes,” and reviling them for so degrading themselves, especially when no enemy was near.
Insensible to the epithets, the runaways only looked relieved, and sought renewed assurance that their imagined pursuers were not upon them.
Every impediment to flight was cast aside.
Rifles, bayonets, pistols, haversacks, cartridge-boxes, canteens, blankets, belts, and overcoats lined the road.
The provisions from the wagons were thrown out, and the tops broken away.
All was lost to that American army, even its honor.
The agony of this overwhelming disgrace can never be expressed in words, or understood by those who only hear the tale repeated.
I believe there were men upon that field who turned their faces to the enemy, and marched to certain death, lest they should share the infamy which their fellows had invited and embraced.
The suffering of a hundred deaths would have been as nothing compared with the torture under which the few brave soldiers writhed, who were swept along by that maniac hurricane of terror.
But suddenly their spirits were revived by a sight which so long as God lets them live, they will never cease to remember with pride and joy. Stretching far across the road, long before the hoped — for refuge of Centreville
was reached, was a firm, unswerving line of men, to whom the sight of the thousands who dashed by them was only a wonder or a scorn.
This was the German rifle regiment, and to see the manly bearing of their general, and feel the inspiration which his presence gave at that moment, was like relief to those who perish in a desert.
At least, then, all was not lost, and we knew that, let our destiny turn that night as it should, there was one man who would hold and keep the fame of the nation unsullied to the end.
I need not speak much in praise of the action of Blenker
and the officers who served him so
The events speak for them.
Steady and watchful, he held his line throughout the evening, advancing his skirmishers at every token of attack, and spreading a sure protection over the multitudes who fled disordered through his columns.
With three regiments he stood to fight against an outnumbering enemy already flashed with victory, and eager to complete its triumph.
As the darkness increased his post became more perilous and more honorable.
At 11 o'clock the attack came upon the advance company of Col. Stahel
's Rifles, not in force, but from a body of cavalry whose successful passage would have been followed by a full force, and the consequent destruction of our broken host.
The rebel cavalry was driven back, and never returned, and at 2 in the morning, the great body of our troops having passed and found their road to safety, the command was given to retreat in order, and the brigade fell slowly and regularly back, with the same precision as if on parade, and as thoroughly at the will of their leader as if no danger had ever come near them.
Over and over again Blenker
begged permission to maintain his post, or even to advance.
said he to McDowell
's messenger; “bring me the word to go on, sir!” --but the command was peremptory, and he was left no alternative.
Notwithstanding all that I had seen, it seemed incredible that our whole army should melt away in a night, and so I remained at Centreville
, trusting that by the morning a sort of reorganization should have taken place, and that our front should still oppose the enemy.
At 7 o'clock I started towards the battle-field, but, on reaching a considerable acclivity, was amazed to find that no vestige of our troops remained, excepting a score or two of straggling fugitives who followed the tracks of those who had gone before.
While returning to Centreville
a group of rebel cavalry passed, who looked inquiringly, but did not question.
Their conversation turned upon the chances of cutting off the retreat at Fairfax Court House.
After seeking Mr. Waud
, an artist of New York, who also lingered, I went straight to Fairfax
As we passed the church used as a hospital, the doctors came out, and finding what was the condition of affairs, walked rapidly away.
I do not wish to say that they deserted the wounded.
They may have returned for aught that I know.
The road leading from Centreville
was filled with marks of the ruinous retreat.
At the outskirts of the village thousands of dollars' worth of property lay wrecked and abandoned.
In one field a quantity of powder had been thrown.
A woman of apparently humble condition stopped us and asked us if we meant to leave it for the use of the enemy.
We explained that we could not well take it with us, upon which she vehemently insisted that it should be blown up before we left.
But the experiment of blowing up a thousand pounds of powder was not an agreeable task to set ourselves, and we trusted rather to the rain, which fell heavily, for its destruction.
Another woman stood by the roadside with the tears running down her brown cheeks, asking all who passed if they were hungry, and offering them food.
“God help you all,” she said, as some of the wounded limped by her. We passed now and then groups of disabled men, who had forgotten their injuries in their fear, and had striven to drag themselves along by their companions.
Some of them still streamed with blood, and yet would wrench themselves forward with all the power they could command.
The destruction of property seemed to have increased at every mile.
Baggage wagons were overturned, ambulances broken in pieces, weapons of every kind cast off. Horses lay dead and dying.
Food was heaped about the wayside.
Bags of corn and oats were trodden into the ground.
Piles of clothing were scattered at all sides.
In many places the discarded goods and equipments were ranged breast high, and stood like monuments erected by our own hands to our own shame.
I had hoped to find a rallying place, and could hardly believe that the flight had gone even beyond this.
But the village was deserted, excepting by native prowlers, who were ransacking the emptied contents of our baggage wagons, and who scowled savagely enough at the fugitives who sought among them a temporary shelter from the storm.
the marks of destruction were less frequent, though the stream of the retreat grew even stronger.
Along the main road the flying kept their way in something like a continuous line, dividing only at the turnpike which leads to Arlington
, into which some diverged, while others moved on to Alexandria
Three miles from the Long Bridge
I came upon the rear of Blenker
's brigade, Stahel
's German Rifles still holding the hindmost position, and the other two regiments, Steinwehr
's and the Garibaldi Guard, moving in order before them.
Still in advance of these was the DeKalb
regiment, also intact.
But beyond all was tumult again, and even to the city itself the wretched disorder and confusion had reached.
I was told that a few regiments, beside the three faithful ones of Blenker
's brigade, had come in in fair order; and that they were the 2d and 3d Michigan, and the Massachusetts 1st, of Richardson
I should be glad if it were so. The Massachusetts
men won more honor on Thursday than should have been recklessly sacrificed so soon after.
But this is their own statement.
I did not see them arrayed upon the field to resist the tempest that swept through our ranks, and I am still unaware that any part of the army evaded that dreadful panic, excepting the three regiments whose honest claims to the gratitude of the country I have endeavored to assert.
Apart from the panic, we lost the battle in a perfectly legitimate way. In numbers and
in tactics the enemy proved themselves our superiors.
The majority of our generals were ignorant of their duty, and incapable of performing it even when it was laid down before them.
Who can hope that we win battles under conditions like these?
Another, and a remarkable fact to be considered is, that the enemy seemed perfectly acquainted with our plans.
The feint of Col. Richardson
availed nothing, since the rebel force had nearly all been drawn from that position.
Our combined attack was thoroughly met, and at the very points where partial surprises had been anticipated.
The number of our killed and wounded is still a serious question here.
I cannot believe that it exceeds five hundred.
The number of missing is of course much greater, and if it be true that parties of our fugitives have been taken prisoners, I am afraid that many must be added to the list of killed.
You have heard from other sources of the atrocities and cruelties trustworthily reported to have been practised by the Southern
The battle of Bull Run
is a bitter adversity.
Shall we not take the lesson to our hearts, and out of so much evil bring some good?--N. Y. Tribune
, July 26.