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Chapter 11: capture of Manassas Junction.

On the same morning I had crossed the river, Stuart, with a portion of his cavalry, after crossing the river above, had made a raid to Catlett's Station and upon Pope's headquarters at Warrenton Junction, and among other things had captured Pope's dispatch book.

The captured correspondence showed that Pope was being reinforced from the Kanawha Valley and also from McClellan's army, and General Lee determined to send General Jackson to the enemy's rear, to cut the railroad, so as to destroy his communications and bring on a general engagement before the whole of the approaching reinforcements could arrive.

Jackson's wing of the army was put in motion early on the morning of the 25th, with no wagons but the ordnance and medical wagons, and with three days rations in haversacks, for a “cavalry raid with infantry.” Moving with Ewell's division in front, we crossed the river at Hinson's Mill above Waterloo bridge, and marched by a small place called Orleans to Salem, near which place we bivouacked after a very long day's march. On the morning of the 26th, we moved, with Ewell's division still in front, past White Plains, through Thoroughfare Gap in Bull Mountain to Gainesville on the Warrenton Pike, and there turned off to the right towards Bristow Station on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. At Haymarket, before reaching Gainesville, we halted two or three hours to wait for Stuart to come up with his cavalry, which had started that morning to follow us, and did join us at Gainesville. Hays' brigade, under General Forno, was in the advance of the division on this day, and it arrived at Bristow Station a little before sunset, just as several trains were approaching from the direction of Warrenton Junction. [115]

There was but a small force of cavalry at Bristow, which Colonel Forno soon dispersed, and he then arrested and captured two trains of empty cars with their engines, the first train which approached having made its escape towards Manassas before the road could be sufficiently obstructed, and other trains in the rear running back, on hearing the alarm, towards Warrenton Junction. General Trimble was sent, soon after dark, with two of his regiments, to capture Manassas Junction, and in conjunction with General Stuart succeeded in taking the place and securing eight pieces of artillery, a considerable number of prisoners and horses, a long train of loaded cars, and a very large amount of stores of all kinds. As soon as the remainder of Ewell's division arrived at Bristow, it was placed in position to prevent a surprise by the enemy during the night.

Very early on the morning of the 27th, Hays' brigade and one regiment of Lawton's with a piece of artillery were moved towards Kettle Run in the direction of Warrenton Junction on a reconnaissance, and a train of cars was seen re-embarking a regiment which had been sent to drive off the “raiding party,” but, on finding the strength of our force, was about retiring. A shot from one piece of artillery sent the train off in a hurry, and one regiment of Hays' brigade was left on picket and another regiment to tear up the railroad, with orders to fall back skirmishing towards the main body, on the approach of the enemy in force.

Trimble's other regiment, and the 12th Georgia, which was now transferred from my brigade to his, were sent to him at Manassas Junction this morning, and the two other divisions of Jackson's command were ordered to the same place. General Ewell had been ordered by General Jackson to remain at Bristow with his three remaining brigades to check any advance from Pope's army along the railroad, but, if the enemy appeared in heavy force, to retire upon the Junction, as he did not desire a general engagement at this time. General Ewell [116] accordingly disposed his command across the railroad and facing towards Warrenton Junction as follows: my brigade on the right, Lawton's on the left and Hays' in the centre, the main body being posted on a slight ridge covering the station. The 49th Virginia Regiment of my brigade was moved to a ridge on my right, on the road leading to and past Greenwich, and a regiment of Lawton's brigade (the 60th Georgia), with one piece of artillery, was advanced on the left of the railroad so as to support Forno's two regiments which were in front, while the batteries were posted so as to command the approaches on our front and flanks.

In the afternoon indications were seen of the approach of the enemy from the direction of Warrenton Junction, and the wagons were ordered to Manassas. In a short time the enemy advanced in force with infantry and artillery, and the 6th and 8th Louisiana Regiments which had been left in front fell back to a woods about three hundred yards in front of the remainder of the brigade. As soon as the enemy got within range, our batteries opened on him from their various positions, and the 6th and 8th Louisiana, and 60th Georgia Regiments received him with well directed volleys, by which two columns of not less than a brigade each were sent back. The 5th Louisiana was sent to reinforce the 6th and 8th, but by this time fresh columns of the enemy were seen advancing, and it was apparent that his force was larger than ours. As the position we occupied was a weak one, and the enemy could very easily have turned our flank by moving a force on the ridge to our right, which he appeared to be doing, General Ewell determined to retire in accordance with General Jackson's instructions. The order for the withdrawal across Broad Run was given, and I was directed to cover it with my brigade.

At this time the Louisiana regiments in front were actively engaged, and a heavy column of the enemy was moving against them. Lawton's brigade was first drawn back across the ford at the railroad bridge over Broad [117] Run, and took position on the northern bank. Hays' brigade then followed, the regiments engaged in front having retired in good order. My own brigade had been withdrawn from a pine woods in which it was posted, and covered the movements of the others by forming successive lines of battle back to the ford, and was then crossed over by regiments successively. All the artillery was successfully withdrawn, a part crossing at Milford several hundred yards above the bridge, at which point the 49th Virginia also crossed.

In the meantime, the enemy had been advancing in line of battle on both sides of the railroad, preceded by skirmishers, and keeping up a constant artillery fire. The 13th Virginia had been deployed as skirmishers to keep those of the enemy in check, and kept them from advancing beyond the station until all the rest of our force had crossed the Run, when it also retired. Lawton's brigade had been formed in line on the north bank of the Run, and some batteries put in position. Hays' brigade was ordered to proceed to Manassas Junction as soon as it crossed, and my brigade was moved back about three-fourths of a mile and formed in line on a hill commanding the road to the Junction, and in full view of the enemy, who had halted on the ridges near Bristow Station.

In a short time afterwards, General Ewell with Lawton's brigade passed through my line, which was across the road, and ordered me to remain in position until further orders should be sent me. He left a battery with me and directed that one or two regiments should be so moved and manceuvred as to present the appearance of the arrival of reinforcements to my assistance. This was done, and a small party of the enemy which had crossed the Run, and was moving along the railroad, was driven back by a few shots from the artillery, but the enemy's main force, which consisted of the advance division of Pope's army under Hooker, did not come further than the station. [118]

Shortly after dark, under orders from General Ewell, I retired to the Junction, where my men filled their haversacks with rations of hard bread and salt meat from the stores captured from the enemy, but this was all of the plunder obtained at that place which they could get.

Our loss in this affair was comparatively slight and was confined almost entirely to the 5th, 6th and 8th Louisiana, and the 60th Georgia Regiments, which were the only troops who drew trigger on our side, except the 13th Virginia when deployed as skirmishers to cover our withdrawal. The enemy reported his loss at 300.

The two captured trains had been burned in the early part of the day, and the railroad bridge across Broad Run had been destroyed. A brigade of the enemy which advanced towards Manassas, after having been landed from a train coming from Alexandria, had been met by a party of our troops moving out from the Junction and routed, its commanding officer being killed.

As soon as Ewell's division had rested and broiled a little meat, it moved from the Junction towards Blackburn's Ford on Bull Run, and the brigades became separated and bivouacked at different places, mine lying down in the open field.

The other divisions had previously moved, and Stuart proceeded to burn the trains, and such stores as had not been carried off.

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Richard S. Ewell (9)
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