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Chapter 41:

  • August twelfth to thirty-first.
  • -- Pope, still in force, watches Jackson on the Rapidan -- the rapid concentration of Confederate forces there -- retreat of Pope to the Rappahannock, who establishes his Headquarters at Catlett's station -- Stuart makes an effort to capture that General, but arriving too late, seizes all his wearing apparel, books, papers, plans, private and official correspondence -- successful flank movement of Jackson round Pope's right and rear -- he captures and destroys immense stores at Manassas Junction, and disperses a brigade sent from Alexandria to protect them -- sudden retreat of Pope's army towards Manassas -- Engages Jackson with superior forces, but without results -- advance of Longstreet through Thoroughfare Gap, who soundly thrashes General Reno, stationed there to dispute the passage -- Longstreet forms a Junction with Jackson on the latter's right -- arrival of General Lee -- heavy reenforcements pour into Pope's army -- Second battle of Manassas -- rout of the enemy -- scenes on the battle-field.

We had not remained many days south of the Rapidan before we received large reenforcements, and the activity of couriers and quartermasters betokened an early movement. Many of our scouts had been out several days, but we could glean little from them except that Pope was still in front, and that firing was of daily occurrence across the river. On the sixteenth we learned that a change of position had taken place among the enemy, and that Sigel's corps was acting in our immediate front: next day it was ascertained that their whole army was moving, but very slowly.

Although opposed by powerful artillery, a part. of our infantry crossed the river and took up the pursuit; Stuart's cavalry and flying artillery, as usual, being the first to exchange shots with Sigel's rear-guard, causing it much damage. From the eighteenth to the twentieth heavy firing was maintained almost without intermission. Yet so well did Sigel handle his men, that they were able to cross the Rappahannock on the twentieth, almost without loss. Not only so, but they defied our attempts to cross in pursuit; indeed, such was the strength of their artillery, it would have been madness to hazard such an undertaking. [435] Demonstrations were made at various fords, but as the river was broad, and we had no pontoons, it was easy for Pope to hold us in check.

Detachments of cavalry, however, passed the river daily, and made spirited dashes among the enemy, frequently capturing both prisoners and stores. On one occasion Stuart personally led a few squadrons, and making a sudden rush upon Pope's Headquarters, (situated at Catlett's Railway Station,, nearly succeeded in capturing that pompous commander, who was warned of his danger by some traitor, and barely escaped for the second time. Four companies of rifles were stationed near the house, but at the first volley from our men they ran to the woods, leaving the house and all its treasures an easy prey. The cavalry were much incensed at losing Pope; and, dividing into small parties, galloped down every road with the hope of overtaking him, while others remained behind to secure the spoil.

Among the articles found by our troopers were Pope's public and private papers, including plans, maps, estimates, and returns of forces, promises of reenforcements, with statements of their strength, the possible time and place of junction, and the amount of stores at various depots. Much clothing was found, including new full-dress suits for General Pope and his staff, also a quantity of private baggage, wines, and liquors. Doubtless it was dangerous work for those gallant troopers to penetrate so far within the enemy's lines, yet such was the antipathy and disgust felt by all for the vain-glorious and silly man commanding the enemy, that they would willingly have undertaken any enterprise which promised his capture.

While General Lee was making the demonstrations to which I have alluded at various points of the river, Jackson's forces, some twenty-five thousand strong, left the main body on the twenty-fifth and proceeded towards the head-waters of the Rappahannock. As usual, he was unencumbered with baggage or other impediments to a rapid march through the mountains, save a sufficient quantity of spare ammunition and the necessary guns. Passing through the delightful region of Mount Washington, he pushed forward rapidly towards Salem, and turning the head of his column, proceeded eastward parallel [436] with the Manassas Gap Railroad, until he reached the village of Gainesville. All this section of country was minutely known to every soldier in his command, and when the head of the column was filed to the right at Salem, no one doubted but that the true object of the expedition was to get in the rear of Pope's army, and destroy his communications and stores. Yet it must be confessed that many complained of the supposed imprudence, if not madness, of the adventure. “Look facts fully in the face,” said one; “here we are marching in the rear of an enemy more powerful than ourselves, far from all supports, liable to be broken up by superior numbers from Washington on the one hand, or to be literally annihilated should Pope face about and cooperate.”

“'Tis just like him,” said another; “no one can imagine what he's about; it was always so in the Valley and elsewhere-plenty of marching and fighting, and mighty little to eat, except what we chanced to capture.”

“As to rations,” said a third, “I know not what we shall do; we are on half allowance now, and to-morrow we shall have to fast and fight as usual. I heard that the Commissary General spoke to Jackson upon this point, but he simply answered: ‘Don't trouble yourself; the enemy have a superabundance-their depots are not far in advance!’ ”

That this was possibly true, all would admit; yet the more prudent looked upon the expedition as “rash,” while they stoically observed: “If Jackson isn't afraid of his carcase surely we need not be so particular!” The event justified their confidence, for upon the arrival of our troopers at Bristow, the first railroad station connecting with Pope's rear, large quantities of stores were discovered. The guards at the station decamped expeditiously upon the first appearance of our advance squadron, and, running towards Manassas, spread the alarm. The commandant of that post could not or would not believe the story; he imagined it to be simply a small marauding party approaching, yet telegraphed the rumor to Pope and to the commandant of Alexandria.

The station-master at Manassas was very much mistaken, for our forces suddenly surrounding the Junction, captured every thing without a blow. A brigade, we were informed, was approaching from Alexandria, but it was surprised by an ambush [437] and dispersed, the commander being killed. The amount of stores that here fell into our hands was astonishing. Among the more important items were nine cannons; seven trains heavily laden with stores; ten first-class locomotives; fifty thousand pounds of bacon; one thousand barrels of beef; two thousand barrels of pork; five thousand barrels of superfine flour; vast quantities of hay, oats, and corn; thirty thousand ready-made loaves; and an immense amount of hard bread, ammunition, etc. The telegraph-office was found intact, and the advance had not been many minutes at the station ere the operator was compelled to transmit a message to Alexandria, calling for an immediate supply of artillery and wagon-harness together with many other things of which we stood greatly in need. Thanks to the business-like despatch of those at Alexandria, a train soon appeared bringing the supplies; the distance was not great, and to insure its safety, no sooner had it crossed Bull Run Bridge than the rails were torn up, so that it was impossible to return again, even had the engineer discovered the trick. Of eatables and drinkables there was no end; clothes, arms, military and sutler's stores, powder, shot, shell, cartridges-every thing, in fine, was found here which a needy, ragged, hungry, and travel-stained army might desire, either as necessities or superfluities. In truth, our hungry troops had a perfect feast, and what could not be of use was immediately destroyed. Many hours had not elapsed since our arrival ere the station, locomotives, out-houses, store-houses, and superfluous stores were in a blaze, sending forth vast columns of smoke, which must have been discernible over an area of many miles.

But this sort of thing could not be done with impunity. When couriers, hot and dusty, galloped up to Headquarters at the Junction, and reported firing in the direction of Bristow, it was evident that the truth had now become fully known to Pope, and that, having hurriedly broken up encampments around Warrenton, he was swooping down upon us with his whole force! This news was matter for serious consideration; and many said: “Suppose they drop upon us on the other side from Alexandria? if so, we are gone chickens, and old ‘ Stonewall ’ is played out!”

Jackson, however, had not been neglectful of chance combinations when revolving his plan, and knew upon what amount [438] of cooperation he could himself rely. Yet upon the first news of Pope's advance, he drew his corps together, and did not seem to heed the heavy skirmishing and occasional cannonading going on with his rear-guard and the enemy's advance. Although fully aware of the immense odds approaching against him, he seemed determined to hold them in check, and was bold enough to place his corps in a naturally strong position which was parallel with the enemy's line of retreat along the roads to Centreville, his right being stretched in the direction of Thoroughfare Gap to keep open communication with the main army, which we surmised was not more than two marches behind.

Meantime, facts became known which made those in the secret look gloomy enough on the evening of the twenty-seventh. An inevitable fight on the morrow began to be mysteriously spoken of around the camp-fires. The enemy were massing in our front. “If we are not soundly whipped,” said one, “it is a mercy of Providence.” “True,” said another, “we are overmatched, yet our position is a strong one, and if there was any positive prospect of being thrashed, Jackson is the last man in the world to be caught in such a trap.” “Yet ‘ trap’ it seems to be,” observed one, very emphatically; “we are outnumbered three to one in front: reports have come in of troops on the move from Alexandria and Washington.” “Yes, but then our army is advancing from Thoroughfare Gap.” “Are they? not at all! the Federals are strongly posted there, and hold it with many cannon!” This announcement elicited a long whistle from many, while others buried their chagrin in cups of coffee and smoked in silence. “Who told you?” one ventured to ask. “Wilkinson; he was sent off with orders, and could not get through — an entire division holds the place!” “Well, say no more about it,” said a fat old major of foot; “any thing for a change. I'd rather fight any time than be eternally marching; I suppose Jackson knows more about these things than we do-at all events, he puts a bold face upon matters, and instead of running away as a scarey general would, he plants himself firmly along their line of march and defies them! 'Tis evidently a fight or a foot-race with somebody, so throw a few [439] sticks on the fire, Captain, and let's take a nap — some of us may be hit or cut before to-morrow evening!”

Word was brought during the night that the enemy were moving across our front, but massing on our right; so that when picket-firing began at dawn in the latter direction, the enemy's plans were very clearly developed — they desired to cut us off from communication with troops rumored to be marching to our relief. Ambrose Hill, however, who was said to be in command of our right, handled his men with more than usual ability, and prevented this design being executed. Prisoners captured informed us of the commands they severally belonged to; from whom it appeared that Heintzelman was moving against our left under Ewell near Centreville; Sigel was operating against the centre under Jackson; and Porter, with his regulars and powerful artillery, was opposed to Hill, McDowell being in reserve. Banks was not mentioned, and his position was unknown. This news confirmed our former suspicions that McClellan was reenforcing Pope as rapidly as possible, his various corps being despatched from Alexandria as speedily as they arrived there!

Firing now became regular with the infantry, and booming of cannon resounded among the hills with a long rolling sound like the echo of thunder. Light lines of smoke ascending over the landscape, and the long crackling sound of rifles as regiments delivered volleys, made the whole scene exciting and sublime. Long black lines of men advancing in columns, or wheeling when deployed, moving in all directions across the light, green landscape, the explosion of shell among them causing death and disorder; the hurried motion of field officers, and furious galloping of orderlies and couriers; the meeting of regiments, their mutual volleys, and advance or retreat, with active batteries rushing here and there, unlimbering and firing, or limbering and hurriedly retiring-these were the constant sights presented by the enemy and ourselves in the vain endeavors of the former to turn our flanks. Loud above the general din was heard the roar of the regular cannonade maintained by both sides, as shell screamed through the air on their mission of death, and, tearing through the trees, exploded with an awful crash. [440] Hour after hour was this fearful and unequal contest continued. Again and again would the enemy pause and re-form; attack succeeded attack, and charge followed upon charge. Each time the foe seemed to throw himself upon us with redoubled fury, each time to be baffled, dispirited, and broken, until it seemed impossible that even Jackson himself could withstand the repeated shocks The greatest efforts of the enemy seemed to be concentrated against our right, under the immediate command of Jackson, as if it were the desire of Pope to crush or isolate him before the possible arrival of Longstreet and Lee. Whatever the object in view, Pope signally failed in turning the right, and although we slowly and cautiously gave ground, and punished his ill-timed advances with immense slaughter, night was gradually approaching, and couriers from Longstreet brought the joyful news that he had successfully beaten the enemy at Thoroughfare Gap,1 and would form a junction with us in a few hours.

Although still hard pressed by the heavy forces of the enemy, and obliged to give ground from physical weakness alone, this news was passed from brigade to brigade, and from regiment to regiment, with such rapidity that, although completely exhausted, they rent the air with such an outburst of enthusiasm as to drown almost the fearful din of battle. Until night did this unequal contest last; but although we were forced to fall back some distance, this was effected with so much order and precision, that the movement appeared like a grand review. When the sun sank upon the scene, all was over; the enemy did not dare to pursue. Longstreet's approach was perhaps known to them, and they were unwilling to encounter our combined forces without receiving reenforcements, or making proper dispositions for that eventuality.

The position assumed by Jackson at sunset was, if possible, stronger than that previously held. Feeling positive that no new attack was contemplated, and that Longstreet had formed [441] on our right wing, our men stacked arms, pickets were thrown out in front, some few fires were lit, and our wearied men betook themselves to sleep. Having several friends acting under Longstreet, I rode over to his position, and after much annoyance at the challenges of numerous sentinels, posted in out-of-the-way places, and many mistakes in picking my way in the dark, at last found the regiments and the individuals I desired to see.

Chatting round the camp-fire, of that day's events, I ascertained that the enemy might have made a stout resistance at Thoroughfare Gap, but fled at the first fire. Longstreet's forces had travelled rapidly towards us; for the firing being audible, they were naturally impatient to rush to our assistance. On approaching the Gap no enemy was visible, but as the Seventh and Eighth Georgia were pushing forward in advance, the enemy suddenly opened several field-pieces, and commenced to sweep the road. “Oh! They are there, are they?” said Longstreet, laughing. “Well, we'll soon dislodge them, boys,” and immediately ordered up several pieces of artillery, which, galloping forward, opened upon the enemy so furiously and with such accuracy, as to shelter our infantry and clear the summit of the road. This was quickly accomplished, but our artillery were not content — they rushed up the rise and began to shell the foe, who hastily retreated into open grounds beyond. Their infantry then finding themselves unsupported, fell back in disorder.

The arrival of Longstreet was hailed with loud applause, not unmingled with regret that Lee was still absent, it being certain that hostilities would recommence on the morrow. In what direction the blow might fall was uncertain; but the best disposition was made to meet it when our reenforcements took up a position which threatened the enemy's flank. Signal-rockets were continually ascending along the Federal front, and from the number of camp-fires, and the amount of noise within their lines, it was shrewdly conjectured that heavy forces were arriving and taking up positions during the night. The incessant passing and re-passing of pickets, in addition to other noises, effectually banished sleep. Exhausted, sick, hungry, and annoyed, I rolled about, until a sergeant slapped me upon the [442] back, when I jumped to my feet, and proceeding to a cottage near by, found several secretaries hard at work, and was ordered off on business many miles to the rear.

Shaking myself together, so to speak, I rinsed my face and hands, watered my horse in a brook, and quickly saddled; strapped on a small bundle of fodder, in case of need, buttoned my old overcoat to the throat, lit my pipe, and slowly picked my way through long lines of recumbent troops, until I was far to the rear, journeying alone over a deserted country, without guide or compass, save the dark and rugged outline of distant mountains, or the bright constellations studding a light blue sky.

As I slowly trotted forward along the well-beaten road, I occasionally came upon some small party of fatigued and exhausted stragglers, who, to the number of four or half-a-dozen, had lit fires, and were for the most part asleep; yet, as soon as my horse's hoofs were heard approaching, some one of the group would jump to his feet and “halt” me. I did not wonder at the stragglers I thus met, for their marches had been long and rapid, and were their numbers greater I could have excused it, for ill-fed, wretchedly clothed and shod as they generally were, they must have been made of steel to withstand the hardships and privations of the past few days. Even I, who was in the saddle on a march, was perfectly exhausted, and for humanity's sake would not force my poor horse to more than a trot, except necessity compelled it. Yet such was the pride of these poor weary fellows, that to my cheerful remarks they would always answer: “We didn't fall out of ranks scared of the Yanks, lieutenant, but our feet are all in blisters and cut with hard marching-we'll soon catch up with the boys to-morrow!”

As I progressed still farther on my journey, the large number of smouldering camp-fires dotted right and left of the main road, told me I had fallen in with whole brigades marching to the front; and the number of “halts” to which I was subjected by the guards, and the numerous questions put to me by half-sleepy and yawning “officers of the guard,” were, to one in my position, vexatious in the extreme. Sometimes the cracking of whips and loud oaths of teamsters told me of [443] wagon-trains fast in the ruts or mire; occasionally I passed a battery unable to move farther from the exhaustion of the animals, while artillerymen at the heads of sweating, snorting, and foaming horses, or at the wheels, greasing the axles, or pulling with ropes, evinced the anxiety which possessed all to be pushing to the front. Here and there camp utensils, blankets, and knapsacks; had been thrown upon the road side to lighten the wagons, more than one of which vehicles was upset by the road-side, and the horses, tethered or hobbled, were enjoying themselves in the high grass. Quartermasters, commissaries, and wagon-masters would occasionally pass at a swinging gallop, searching for stray teams or superintending occasional mishaps, fretting and swearing as those important officials are often wont to do. All the roads were well watched, however, and occasional bonfires on the hills told me that the signal-corps was wide awake, for occasionally their burning brands were rapidly at work, repeating or transmitting telegrams from point to point.

A few hours' ride brought me to my destination soon after sunrise, and having despatched my business, all I could do was to wait for further orders. My horse having been first cared for,_ I hung my saddle in a tree, near the door of a smalls cottage to which I had been directed, threw myself full length upon a bench, and was soon fast asleep.

I know not how long I had slept, but was awakened by voices at the door: “Lord a mercy, what a noise them cannons do make to be sure-they're fightin‘ agin at Manassas, I know. Just listen!” said an old housewife. I started up and stepped to the door; the loud and regular discharge of ordnance fully told me that some part of our lines was being furiously attacked. The heavy “thuds” which occasionally caught the ear were undoubtedly from howitzers, while the sharp, ringing sounds which could be occasionally heard, indicated rifled ordnance. An action of some sort was certainly going on, and I felt uneasy at my own inactivity. “Don't be impatient, my boy,” said an old officer; “you are as much on duty here as elsewhere-besides, I don't think it is a general action, for I understand Lee has not passed here many hours, and he would surely be on hand if aught of that kind was anticipated. They [444] are making a devil of a smoke, though,” continued the Major as he mounted a hill close by to observe. “Here, take the glass and look for yourself — it doesn't seem to be much more than ten miles in a direct line.”

I took the glass and distinctly observed light clouds of white smoke wafting over trees in the eastern landscape, but at that distance nothing definite could be made out. “Oh! Don't trouble yourself,” said the major; “I'm sure you're no field-marshal-Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson can get along pretty well without you for a few hours. As to the boys, they can take care of themselves at any time-so let your horse alone, and sit down; I think I've got a few cigars and a drop of good Bourbon somewhere-there, drink away, and smoke till you're tired — they cost me nothing, I got them from Dan Sickles's stores, which our boys captured at Savage Station.” I tried the articles and found them to be good.

Dan seems to be no bad judge of whiskey and cigars, does he? but, Lord! how mad he must have been to lose all his plate, private papers; and fine clothes, at Savage's, ell?” and as, the Major's nose became redder at every additional glass, he took an extra bumper to raise steam, threw his heels upon the writing-table, and launched forth into a very long-winded story of his personal prowess, until I began mentally to inquire “where he generally buried his dead.”

Although in appearance very friendly to the Major, I could not but loathe him in my very heart, for he was one of a class of brigade and divisional quartermasters who were the greatest hypocrites and rogues left unhung. He seemed to be totally absorbed in self; his personal baggage was large and miscellaneous; beds, bedsteads, chairs, tables, a full and large equipment of mess furniture, washing apparatus, and I know not what besides; the traps of his clerks and assistants demanded far more transportation than was allowed even to two full companies of foot; upon a march it is pretty certain the poor privates could not find room for the stowage of a coffee-pot or frying-pan, while his own wagons had the finest horses, and were always in front. If any of the wagons required an additional horse or two to pull up a hill, he would always order them to be “lightened,” so that many a poor lad's extra [445] wearing apparel was thrown upon the roadside, together with pots and pans without number, and to all remonstrances he would gruffly answer,, “Wagon-master, push ahead,” not caring a jot if the whole regiment or brigade had not a single pot in which to cook their rations.

Like others of his stamp, the Major found time to speculate in horses or mules, and as such things could not be done without “go-betweens,” there were understrappers in his department, who realized hundreds of dollars per month through such purchases. He would keep in hand for months at a time, thousands, I might say hundreds of thousands of dollars, which should have been paid away to the troops, and if spoken to he would answer: “Pay? oh! certainly, I'd have paid the men long ago, but the pay-rolls were incorrect, and I had to return them to be re-written.” Many of our brigade quartermasters, particularly if on detached service, were of this worthless character — in truth many were an encumbrance to the army; and had fiery Longstreet or Jackson hung a few of them as Napoleon is said to have done on more than one occasion, the whole army would have been the better for it.

The firing towards Manassas continued throughout the day, but it was not till sunset that I received orders to return to the army. Glad enough I had mounted and faced “homewards” again; I started towards Manassas at a rattling pace, feeling certain if Lee arrived there would be “lively times” in the morning. I had not proceeded many miles along my circuitous route, ere I fell in with cavalry patrols and pickets, who were extremely vigilant; and although custom has made me sharp-sighted at night, I confess they frequently halted me ere I had the slightest notion of being within many miles of their vicinity. To add to my misery and delay, I had not the “countersign,” and was marched off to the nearest guard-post to account for myself.

“ Can't help it, comrade,” said the cavalry-man: “I believe your words, and think I have frequently seen you before; but orders are orders, you know, and we must obey.” I was handed over to the next picket, and so on, until I reached the central picket station, where the captain commanding examined me rigorously, and upon presenting papers of identity, he [446] politely gave me the countersign, saying: “It was well, perhaps, you fell in with our men, for the road you were taking must have led you nearer the present lines of the enemy than you care about finding yourself, I know: the countersign I have given you is good among the outer pickets; when you retch the infantry, be careful how you act, for they have another one, and are particularly wakeful to-night, and thick as flies!”

Acting upon this advice, I plunged forward boldly, and was in high spirits, singing right heartily, for our numerous encampments were visible for many miles around. “Halt I halt I” was the challenge suddenly given by half-a-dozen; and from their guns levelled at me, I saw there was no fun about them. “Who goes there?” “Officer without the countersign!” “Advance, officer!” and I did so very meekly, for could they have seen me even wink improperly, I should have been instantly riddled with half-a-dozen shots. I here went through the operation of being handed over from one to another, until fairly out of patience. The corporal of the guard would do no more than hand me to the sergeant, the latter to the lieutenant of the guard; the last to the officer of the night, and he to the officer of the day; so that, from being handed from one to another, it got rumored abroad among some idle soldiers that I was a “spy,” and soon there was a large crowd at my heels, bestowing upon me all manner of uncomplimentary epithets. The rumor spread among the regiments through which I was then passing; and while in the tent of the officer of the day making explanations, I heard one loquacious gentleman, who was peeping through a rent in the tent, exclaim: “The captain's got him-he's a spy, and they've got the papers on him! I hope they'll detail me as one of the firing party; won't I let him have it good!”

After a few moments of explanation, I remounted again; and my sudden transformation into a good and true Southerner seemed to have caused infinite disgust to many, but particularly to the ragged gentleman who was so anxious to make one of the “firing party.” 2 [447]

I had yet a long and weary journey before me, through miles of camps; and as I picked my way through long lines of stacked arms, glistening in the fire-light, I could not but smile at the stoical indifference evinced by nine tenths of the men for the dreadful work in store for them on the morrow. Some were oiling the locks of their guns; others, in shirt-sleeves, were ramming with wipers to cleanse the barrels of their pieces. Hats, caps, coats, stockings, accoutrements, and the like, were suspended from branches overhead, while orderly sergeants were busy with ammunition-boxes, issuing extra rounds. Some were asleep near the fire, others frying bacon or making coffee; while round such a fortunate youth were sure to be some half-dozen epicures shouting out, “I'll take the grounds after you!” “After you,” said one. “Next after you,” shouted another; so that it seemed the coffee-grounds had to do service half-a-dozen times round. I passed through several artillery camps — the ringing or clanking of chains, and the disposition of harness for instant use, proved the instinct which all felt regarding the event of the next day.

All this I observed on the extreme wing of our army; but when I proceeded farther, I saw long lines of wounded being conveyed away, and afterwards counted hundreds of dead. There had been a desperate fight, I was told, principally in Longstreet's wing, and rumor said he had been obliged to give ground. I could learn nothing definite regarding the engagement; but the cavalry captain's remark to me, that “I was on [448] the road to the enemy's lines,” seemed to indicate that Longstreet had been obliged to fall back some distance. The fighting was represented to me as having been awful: the enemy had been reenforced by nearly all of McClellan's Peninsula force, and suddenly hurled against our right. No loss, in cannon or general officers, was reported; but it was said that, acting strictly on the defensive, we had inflicted terrible punishment upon them with our artillery as they advanced in masses against us. The position occupied by both was almost identical with the ground in the first Battle of Manassas, except that we were on the north and they on the south side of the Run.

Very little notice seems to have been taken of this engagement in official circles. I learned, however, that the true object of the Federal attack was to extricate their left somewhat, and to push their right into Centreville, so as to keep open communication with Washington and Alexandria for the receipt of reenforcements and supplies; of which they stood greatly in need, since Jackson's visit to the Junction on the twenty-seventh. Reconnoitring parties were sent out during the night, who reported that the enemy had drawn in their left wing considerably, thus shortening, but perhaps strengthening, their line. Be that as it may, preparations were busily going on among us to open the battle on the morrow; and the determination of all seemed to be to push Pope harder on this occasion than ever before, and to give him a clear, unclouded view of men whose faces he pretended never to have seen.

Couriers, orderlies, and colonels were moving about all night; and although the army seemed to rest in peace, one half the men were wide awake, revolving the chances of the morrow and wishing the affair were over. Part of Longstreet's corps was on the move early in the morning, and seemed to be cautiously taking up positions nearer the enemy's left. As this movement was continued, sharp skirmishing occurred in his immediate front, and soon after, extended rapidly along the whole line. Nothing of moment occurred, however, between the two armies for many hours in the morning; indeed, it was past noon when the action really commenced.

The advance of our right seemed greatly to annoy the enemy's left, which it evidently outflanked, and they determined [449] to open upon us suddenly, and with great fury, hoping to annihilate it before the arrival of reenforcements. Contrary to custom, therefore, the enemy did not cover their advance with skirmishers, but came forward in regular battle line, and would have taken our sharpshooters by surprise; but the latter had been in service too long to be imposed upon by any such Yankee notion, and, instantly retreating, gave the alarm that the enemy were approaching in serried lines, one being within easy supporting distance behind the other. “So they are the attacking party, are they?” said an old brigadier as he sat upon his horse smoking a cigar. “Forward, boys! we also are advancing, so there must be music of some sort shortly.”

He had proceeded but a few hundred yards through the fields and woods, when the enemy's approaching line was revealed by the glitter of their bayonets. A volley was fired and returned; then our men moved forward again, and continued this mode of proceeding throughout the engagement: but every time the enemy gave ground, our active batteries would gallop to the front and give them such a vigorous shelling, as completely broke the order of their retrograde movement. From such information as I could glean, while passing from point to point, it appeared that our advance was almost in the form of two sides of a square, the enemy's left being the particular object of our main attack.

The general advance was a beautiful sight. As far as the eye could range, two parallel lines of glittering bayonets were flashing in the sun; now the Federal lines halted suddenly, a gleam of sunlight told that their rifles had been brought to the “ready,” and a moment had not elapsed ere a long flash was seen, light curls of smoke arose, and the rattling echo of their volleys was carried on the wind. A yell arose, and was borne from wing to wing with the quickness of light, when quickly a rapid irregular fire was returned, and the clatter continued as fast as our men could load. Onward they went-now the long line could be observed passing through open fields, skirmishers in front popping away at the retiring foe. The line again would disappear in the woods. A brief pause would ensue, followed by the clatter of our artillery riding to the front, and [450] the awful roar of the guns. Then, again, a shout, telling that our men had resumed the advance.

Cannonading was terrific along our whole front, but on the right Fitz-John Porter's and Longstreet's artillery literally shook the earth. Their left giving way, a sudden attack was made on their centre, commanded by McDowell and Sigel. The assault was neither long nor doubtful, for the enemy retired at the first volley, and such was their evident confusion, that it at one time seemed as if their whole army was giving way to panic; yet, through the exertions of Sigel, the gap in their centre was quickly filled up, and the fight maintained there with obstinacy and generalship. An attempt made to turn our left signally failed. The flanking force was soon discovered approaching, and allowed to come within a reasonable distance, when a powerful artillery force opened at the head of the column, and literally smashed it. Thus, on the right and centre, our forces were rapidly dispossessing the enemy of his position, and no one doubted the issue of the conflict. Along the whole line, clouds of dust and smoke, the booming of artillery and rattle of small arms, told of the unflinching courage and pertinacity of our men; while long lines of ambulances and stretchers, proceeding to the rear, fully proved that although victory was evidently ours, we had dearly paid for it. Fiery Longstreet, with his impatient and gallant corps, was rapidly pushing our right, while shot and shell ploughed the ground in all directions around him. Lee in the centre, calm and collected, moved from point to point among his troops, smiling good-humoredly with the consciousness that he was gradually pressing hard on the masses of the foe; while old “Stonewall,” as usual, was in a very tempest of shot and shell, and smoke and dust, holding on like grim death to his position on our left, and punishing the enemy frightfully with his well-disposed artillery. Thus, in truth, all our generals were hotly engaged at different points of the line. The impetuous Ambrose Hill was with Ewell and others under Jackson, and had enough to do to keep time with the rapid movements of their chief. The satirical; stoical D. H. Hill was there, cold as ice, and firm as a rock. Evans, Stuart, McLaws, Maxey Gregg, Jenkins, Barksdale, Whiting, Archer, Pickett, Field, Walton, Pendleton, and a host of other [451] historical heroes, were in command to-day, and each seemed to rival the other in prudence and valor; while Hood and his Texans far outshone all their previous deeds by their present acts of daring.

Over all the field the battle was going favorably for us, and no complaint was uttered on any hand-all seemed to desire to get as close to Pope as possible, and to show their powder-blackened faces to him. I believe there was not a single man in the whole army but would have swam through rivers of blood to have caught that mendacious hero alive; not all the wealth of Peru would have been half so acceptable to our enraged men as the capture of that vain and pompous leader, whose rule in Virginia had been marked with such wanton waste of property, such tyranny over the inhabitants, and so many instances of petty revenge. Such a fortune, however, did not fall to our lot, for John Pope, the self-created hero, took great pains to keep from the front, and never allowed himself to ride within two miles of the actual battle. Several of the Federal generals, however, chiefly brigadiers, boldly rode to the front, and cheered on their men. Sickles and Meagher were singled out and disabled.3 Wherever I rode along our extended and ever-changing front, prisoners of all grades, cannon, flags, and other trophies were passing to the rear; while every patch of timber was converted into a temporary hospital, where surgeons in blood-stained garments were busily plying the knife. Moans, groans, and death-cries arose on every hand, mingling with the distant roar and rush of battle; while the wounded, both friend and foe, forgetful of all enmity, dragged themselves to the same spring to quench their thirst. Headless or limbless bodies were seen at every turn; stray shot and shell from the enemy ploughed up the ground, or exploded among the wounded; while riderless horses, foaming and frightened, rushed to and fro, in all directions, or limped and tottered till they fell. Still “Onward!” was the word from all. Ammunition wagons slowly followed the line of battle, while in wood and field, across creeks and brooks, the roar of battle [452] continued, and long lines of smoke curling over tree-tops were wafted away westward by the rising breeze of evening.

This was a terrible battle, truly — prisoners confessed that our artillery fire on their left and right had been truly appalling. From a comparison of names and positions we learned that, independent of Pope's own force, all, or nearly all, of McClellan's army had arrived in time to participate in the engagement, and that the severest fighting had been done by them. They had been force-marched, they said, to get up in time, and though exhausted, were thrust into the most dangerous positions, and oftentimes left without supports. The loss among their field officers had been great, and whole brigades were so 10th to engage, that they broke up on the instant of confronting us. McClellan's men, we were told, were heartily sick of the war — all their hopes and ambition had been completely broken in the campaign before Richmond, and they possessed little heart to engage us again so soon, particularly under the leadership of such a “granny” as Pope. “In fact,” said an officer to me, “this Manassas No. 2 bids fair to rival No. 1-the ground seems fatal to us-we have been led out by John Pope to-day for wholesale slaughter; unless McClellan comes to its instant relief with some additional corps, you may rely upon it, our retreat will turn into a perfect rout.”

Having orders to proceed from the centre to our right, I had to cross the Bull Run, and such a sight I never wish to witness again. The wounded and dying of both armies lined the banks in all manner of attitudes. Some, in the endeavor to drink, had tumbled in, and from weakness unable to extricate themselves, had been drowned; others in the water, clung to branches, and thus sustained themselves, but often let go their hold and disappeared. All the meadows were trodden down, and were brown, wet, and bloody, hundreds of bodies had been ridden over and crushed by artillery or cavalry, so that the remains of poor humanity were scattered and crushed in the most revolting manner. This was no time to philosophize, however; the battle still went on, and as I followed the line pursued by Longstreet, carnage and sickening sights met me at every turn. Now I came upon a spot where artillery had been hotly contending — the trees around were broken, riddled, or blown [453] down, caissons were upset, dead horses in scores lay scattered about, while the grass and sand were purpled with blood. Fences were gone, houses knocked into splinters or undistinguishable heaps of brick-small arms, cannon, and long lines of dead were on every hand, and yet the fight continued in the direction of Centreville very warmly. The enemy were simply fighting to secure their retreat, so that at evening when the firing slackened, and we had driven them a great distance, I was glad to think the battle was drawing to a close for that day. It seemed to me, however, that the enemy's new position on Centreville Heights was a formidable one, and I was not at all pleased to see indications of their camping or staying there.

Except a few occasional shot and shell, the battle was over the enemy were driven from all their positions, and our whole army was completely exhausted with their labors of the past few days. Of the numbers lost by us I could not form an estimate; we had suffered severely, it is true, but the punishment inflicted on the enemy was really awful. Our captures in prisoners had been very considerable, and great numbers were paroled and sent forward to the enemy's lines in the Valley or to Harper's Ferry. Pope had been unmercifully thrashed by Lee in this memorable battle, and every Southerner rejoiced, but was heartily amazed that the immortal John had not shown his face during the day, where thousands were on the lookout for him.

Much ammunition and many stores fell into our hands. This was grateful news to the men, for we needed both very much, and our transportation trains were inadequate to the duty of regularly supplying us. Jackson was vexed that so much of the enemy's baggage had escaped, and the battle had not been over many hours ere he was preparing to sally forth and get on their flanks, with a view to further captures; for myself, I could not help thinking that Manassas was glory enough for one day, and felt heartily glad I was not one in his marching division. Truly, Jackson was the most restless leader the world ever saw, and he seemed to have very little consideration for the bones and sinews of his men, so that, when remonstrated with, he simply answered: “The men like it-we shall find plenty of provisions on the route, if the enemy have any.”

1 This was subsequently verified. We learned from some of General Reno's forces, after the second battle of Bull Run, that they were the troops intrusted with the defence of Thoroughfare Gap, but being hard pushed by the Confederates, had retired upon General Porter's corps, with which they had subsequently acted. Hooker was also with Pope.

2 The feverishness of our men regarding “spies” during these eventful days, was highly excited by the following incident: While Longstreet's corps was hurrying forward to Jackson's relief on the twenty-eighth, several brigades in advance on different roads were observed to halt, thereby stopping all further progress of the corps. Very angry at this, Longstreet trotted to the front, and was informed that a courier had brought orders from General Lee to that effect! “From General Lee?” said he, his eyes glowing with rage. “Where is that courier?” he asked. “There he goes now, General, galloping down the road.” “Keep your eyes on him, overtake him, and bring him here.” This was soon accomplished. “By whose orders did you halt my brigade?” asked a brigadier. “As I have already told you- by General Lee's! I have orders for Longstreet, and must be off to the rear!” “Here is Longstreet,” said that General, moving forward. “Where are your orders!” The spy was caught! He turned red and pale, his lip quivered-he was self-condemned. “Give this man ten minutes, and hang him! Let the columns push forward immediately.” In fifteen minutes the spy was lifeless, hanging from a tree by the roadside; but before death, confessed that although a Virginian and a Confederate soldier, he had been in communication with the enemy over ten months, and was then acting for General Pope.

3 Among hundreds of line officers who fell was Colonel Fletcher Webster, Twelfth Massachusetts Volunteers, eldest and sole surviving son of the great American orator and statesman, Hon. Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts.

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