Notes taken on the battle-field.
Bull Run, Sunday Morning, July 21--10 o'clock.It seemed to be conceded that this was to be the day of trial for which we have been working for many months past, and, in common with the immense mass of men assembled here, I have taken my position upon Bull Run, to share the fortunes of the contest. The scene a moment since, and yet, is unutterably sublime. Upon the hill, just one and a third mile off, the enemy are placing their artillery. We see them plunging down the Centreville road to the apex of the eminence above Mitchell's ford, and deploying, to the right and left. Dark masses are drifting on with the power of fate in the road. We see the columns moving, and, as they deploy through the forests, we see the cloud of dust floating over them, to mark their course. When the dust ceases we are sure that they have taken their position. The firing now commences from two batteries to the right and left of the road. It is constant, and another has been opened about a mile lower down. That, however, has been firing for an hour past. The guns are served with great rapidity and precision, and, as we are within range, and uncertain, therefore, when they will favor us, there is quite an interest in the position. Our own troops are in the dense forest that lies below us on Bull Run. They are still, not a gun has yet been fired, and there would seem to be nothing to indicate their presence. Of their presence and their readiness the enemy is advised, however, and is making all the headway he can. Of the precise position, however, they are still unadvised; and in every clump of trees, and all along the line, they are plunging shots. So far, however, none have told. Our own batteries are in reserve, ready for a spring to any point that may come to be available. The hospital is again the object for their fire; and the battery I mentioned as a mile below the ford, having heavier guns than mere fieldpieces, and one at least rifled, is now playing upon it. The object, however, of the most intense interest is a line of dust that begins to rise above the mass of forest lying for miles away to the right of the enemy. That it is a moving column is evident, but whether of our own or the enemy is the principal question. If ours, we are taking the enemy in flank; if theirs, they outflank us. It moves towards the enemy, and a courier that joins us reports that it is the brigade of General Cocke. On it goes. There is no corresponding column of the enemy. The movement promises success. The enemy may have stationed a force in anticipation, but if not we fall upon their flank.
Half-past 10 o'clock, A. M.There is firing on our flanking column. The enemy have opened their battery upon it halfway. The column responds. The firing becomes rapid — musketry — rapid. Gens. Beauregard, Johnston, and Bonham have just come to the hill where I have been standing. The whole scene is before us — a grand moving diorama. The enemy have sent a ball from their rifled cannon at us. Another. They pass over us with a sound that makes our flesh crawl. All have left the spot but Gens. Beauregard, Bonham, and Johnston, and their aids. The firing has ceased at the head of our flanking column. It is renewed again, nearer, I think, to the enemy. Another ball exactly over our heads. A very sustaining force follows our flanking column. The enemy, firing at our generals, has dropped a shot among the wagons in the edge of the woods below, and they dash off. Another shot follows them as they fly, and plunges in the ground but a few feet behind one of them.
11 o'clock.The firing has been awful. The heads of the flanking and resisting columns are distinctly visible from the smoke that rises above them, and they stand stationary for a long time; but at last the enemy's column goes back — a column of dust arises in their rear — a shout rises that roars loud as the artillery from our men — the enemy's fire slackens — our reserves advance — the dust rises on to the position lately occupied by the enemy — we triumph, we triumph, thank God! The dust still rises in the rear of the enemy, as though they were retreating rapidly.
Quarter before twelve o'clock.The enemy make another stand. Again, there is the roar of musketry, long like the roar of distant and protracted thunder. Again the roar, but always at the head of the enemy's column. A column of dust rises to the left of our forces and passes to the enemy's right. It must be intended to flank them. It is fearful to think how many heart strings are wrung by the work that now goes on — how many brave men must be mangled and in anguish. Again the enemy has fallen back to another point, half a mile in the rear; and the spirals of the smoke curl up the side of the mountain in the background. The whole scene is in the Piedmont valley, which I have often noticed to have slept so sweetly to the west of Centreville, and sweeping on down to the south. It is nearly level, or seems so, and the Blue Ridge rises to form the dark background of a most magnificent picture.
Twelve o'clock, Noon.The batteries first opening have been silent for half an hour, and the whole extended valley is now the thick of the fight. Where the enemy last took his stand retreating, the fight is fearful; the dust is denser than the smoke. It is awful. They have been repulsed three times — so it is reported by a courier — and now they have taken their bloodiest and final stand.
Half-past 12 o'clock.The firing now is at its height. Never, until now, have I dreamed of such a spectacle; for one long mile the whole valley is a boiling crater of dust and smoke.