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[119]

Chapter 12: the affair at Groveton.

It having become evident that Pope had found it necessary to look after his “lines of retreat,” and was moving his whole army back for the purpose of falling upon General Jackson's comparatively small force, the latter determined to move to the left so as to be in a position to unite with the right wing of General Lee's army under Longstreet. Jackson's division, under Brigadier General W. S. Taliaferro, had therefore been moved on the night of the 27th to the vicinity of the battlefield of the 21st of July, 1861, and A. P. Hill's to Centreville, with orders to Ewell to move up, by the northern bank of Bull Run, to the same locality with Taliaferro early on the morning of the 28th. At dawn on that morning, my brigade resumed the march, moving across Bull Run at Blackburn's Ford and then up the north bank to Stone Bridge, followed by Trimble's brigade. We crossed at a ford just below Stone Bridge, and moved across the Warrenton Pike and through the fields between the Carter house and the Stone Tavern, where the battle of the 21st of July had begun, to the Sudley road, near where Jackson's division was already in position.

Lawton's and Hays' brigades had by mistake taken the road to Centreville, but had now rejoined the rest of the division, and the whole of the brigades were placed under cover in the woods, north of the Warrenton Pike, through which the Sudley road ran. Hill's division came up from Centreville subsequently. In the meantime Pope's whole army had been moving by various roads upon Manassas Junction, with the expectation of finding Jackson's force there, but in the afternoon the corps of McDowell's en route for Manassas had been ordered to move to Centreville, and a portion of it marched along [120] the Warrenton Pike. Very late in the afternoon, Jackson's division under Taliaferro was moved along parallel to the pike, under cover of the woods, across the track which had been graded for a railroad, until it passed the small village of Groveton on our left. Ewell's division followed Jackson's until the whole had crossed the railroad track, and the two divisions were then halted and formed in line facing the pike. General Ewell ordered me to take command of my own brigade and Hays' and form a double line in the edge of a piece of woods, with my left resting on the railroad, and to await orders; and he moved to the right with Lawton's and Trimble's brigades.

My line was formed as directed, with my own brigade in front and Hays' in rear of it, and as thus formed we were on the left and rear of Starke's brigade of Jackson's division, whose line was advanced farther towards the pike. About sunset a column of the enemy commenced moving past our position, and Jackson's division and the two brigades with General Ewell moved forward to attack him, when a fierce and sanguinary engagement took place. While it was raging, and just before dark, I received an order from General Jackson, through one of his staff officers, to advance to the front, which I complied with at once, my own brigade in line of battle being followed by that of Hays.

While advancing, I received an order to send two regiments to the right to General Jackson, and I detached the 44th and 49th Virginia under Colonel Smith for that purpose. On reaching the railroad cut in my forward movement, I found it so deep that it was impossible to cross it, and I had therefore to move to the right by flank until I found a place where I could cross. This proved to be a ravine with embankments on both sides for a bridge or culvert, and I had here to pass through by flank and form by file into line in front of a marsh beyond. This brought me near the left of the position to which Trimble's brigade had advanced, and I [121] had passed a part of Starke's brigade on the railroad track. While my brigade was forming in line it was exposed to a galling fire of canister and shrapnel, and before it was ready to advance the enemy had begun to retreat and it had become so dark that it was impossible to tell whether we should encounter friend or foe. I therefore advanced no farther and Hays' brigade was halted on the railroad; and in this position the two brigades lay on their arms all night.

A short distance from me General Ewell was found very severely wounded by a ball through the knee, which he had received while leading one of the regiments on foot, and I had him carried to the hospital, after having great difficulty in persuading him to go, as he insisted upon having his leg amputated before he left the ground.

Lawton's and Trimble's brigades lay on their arms a short distance to my right, near the points where they were at the close of the action, and both had suffered heavily. The enemy had retired from our immediate front, and we could hear the rumbling of his artillery as he was moving off in the distance.

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Harry T. Hays (5)
Richard S. Ewell (5)
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