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[118] fighting from about 10 a. m. until 4 p. m. on a hot, dusty day in July. McDowell, in person, reached Centreville before sunset, and found there Miles' division, with Richardson's brigade and three regiments of Runyon's division, and Hunt's. Tidball's, Ayres' and Greene's batteries and one or two fragments of batteries, making about 20 guns. It was a formidable force, but there was a lack of food and the mass of the army was completely demoralized. Beauregard had about an equal force which had not been in the fight, consisting of Ewell's, Jones' and Longstreet's brigades and some troops of other brigades. McDowell consulted the division and brigade commanders who were at hand upon the question of making a stand or retreating. The verdict was in favor of the latter, but a decision of officers one way or the other was of no moment; the men had already decided for themselves, and were streaming away to the rear in spite of all that could be done. They had no interest or treasure in Centreville, and their hearts were not there. Their tents, provisions, baggage and letters from home were upon the banks of the Potomac, and no power could have stopped them short of the camps they had left less than a week before. As before stated, most of them were sovereigns in uniform, not soldiers. McDowell accepted the situation, detailed Richardson's and Blenker's brigades to cover the retreat, and the army, a disorganized mass, with some creditable exceptions, drifted as the men pleased away from the scene of action. There was no pursuit, and the march from Centreville was as barren of opportunities for the rear guard as the withdrawal from the field of battle had been. [Fry might have added that several regiments of three months men, whose time had expired, refused to stay longer.]

From Centreville, at 5:45 p. m. of the 21st, while the sun was yet an hour and a half high, McDowell telegraphed to Scott:

We passed Bull run. Engaged the enemy, who, it seems, had just been reinforced by General Johnston. We drove them for several hours, and finally routed them. They rallied and repulsed us, but only to give us again the victory, which seemed complete. But our men, exhausted with fatigue and thirst and confused by firing into each other, were attacked by the enemy's reserves, and driven from the position we had gained, overlooking Manassas. After this the men could not be rallied, but slowly left the field. In the meantime the enemy outflanked Richardson at Blackburn's ford, and we have now to hold Centreville till our men can get behind it. Miles' division is holding the town.

Later, from Fairfax Court House, he telegraphed:

The men having thrown away their haversacks in the battle and left them behind, they are without food; have eaten nothing since breakfast We are without artillery ammunition. The larger part of the men are a confused mob, entirely demoralized. It was the opinion of all of the commanders that no stand could be made this side of the Potomac. We will, however, make the attempt at Fairfax Court House. From a prisoner we learn that 20,000 from Johnston joined last night, and they march on us to-night.

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