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Chapter 5: operations along Bull Run.

Immediately after the battle of the 21st a portion of our troops were moved across Bull Run and the former line north of that stream was re-occupied. The army at that time was known as the “Army of the Potomac,” and General Beauregard's command was reorganized as the 1st corps of that army, with the same brigade commanders as before. I was promoted to the rank of brigadier general to date from the 21st of July, and was assigned to the command of a brigade composed of the 24th Virginia Regiment, the 5th North Carolina State Troops, Colonel Duncan K. McRae, and the 13th North Carolina Volunteers (subsequently designated the 23rd North Carolina Regiment), Colonel John Hoke. The greater part of the army was moved to the north of Bull Run, but I resumed my position on the right of the Junction at my former camps, and remained there until the latter part of August, when I moved to the north of the Occoquon, in front of Wolf Run Shoals, below the mouth of Bull Run. Our line was extended from this point by Langster's cross-roads and Fairfax Station through Fairfax Court-House. Hampton's Legion was composed of a battalion of infantry, a battalion of cavalry, and a battery of artillery, and remained south of the Occoquon on the right, and watched the lower fords of that stream and the landings on the Potomac immediately below Occoquon. Evans had occupied Leesburg.

Captain W. W. Thornton's company of cavalry had been again attached to my command and subsequently, in the month of September, a battery of Virginia artillery under Captain Holman reported to me. In the latter part of August, General Longstreet, who had command of the advanced forces at Fairfax Court-House, [48] threw forward a small force of infantry and cavalry and established strong pickets at Mason's and Munson's Hills, in close proximity to the enemy's main line on the south of the Potomac.

McClellan had succeeded McDowell, in command of the Federal Army opposed to us, and that army was being greatly augmented by new levies.

A few days after I reached my camp in front of Wolf Run Shoals, my brigade was ordered to Fairfax Station, for the purpose of supporting Longstreet, if necessary. After being there a day, I was ordered by General Longstreet to move with two of my regiments to Mason's Hill, to relieve one of his on duty at that place. I took with me the 24th Virginia and 5th North Carolina Regiments, and my movement was so timed as to reach Mason's Hill in the night. I arrived there before light on the morning of the 31st of August, and relieved the 17th Regiment, Colonel Corse. About light on that morning, one of Colonel Corse's companies, which was on picket one mile from the main force in the direction of Alexandria, was attacked by a detachment from a New Jersey regiment, under its colonel, and after a very sharp fight, repulsed the enemy and inflicted a severe punishment on him.

This advanced line at Mason's and Munson's Hills was about twelve or fifteen miles in front of Fairfax Court-House, and was a mere picket line held ordinarily by two infantry regiments with a few pieces of artillery, while a small force of cavalry watched the flanks. From it there were in full view the dome of the Capitol at Washington and a part of the enemy's line on the heights south and west of Alexandria. The two main positions were in sight of each other and about a mile apart. From them smaller pickets were thrown out in front and up to within a very short distance of large bodies of the enemy, those from Mason's Hill being in some cases more than a mile from the main body. The pickets were constantly skirmishing with those of the [49] enemy, and it was very evident that he was much alarmed at this demonstration in his immediate front, as Professor Lowe, who now made his appearance with his balloons, kept one of them up almost constantly, and large parties were seen working very energetically at the line of fortifications in our front. Contemporaneous accounts given by the enemy represent this movement on our part as a very serious one, and he was evidently impressed with the idea that the greater part of our army was immediately confronting him, whereas, if it had not been for his excessive caution and want of enterprise, he might have moved out and captured the whole of our advance force without the possibility of its escape.

After my pickets had relieved those of Corse, it was reported to me that a flag of truce had appeared at the outside picket, where the fight had taken place in the early morning, and I rode to a house in the vicinity of that point and had the person bearing the flag brought to me blindfolded. He proved to be a Dr. Coxe, surgeon of the New Jersey regiment, a detachment of which had been engaged in the above named affair. He stated that he came on the part of Colonel Tyler of the 3rd New Jersey to get the bodies of several men who were missing, and that he was informed that General Kearney, who commanded on that part of the line, had directed Colonel Tyler to send the party with the flag.

I informed him of the irregularity of the proceeding, but after some conversation in which I endeavored to leave him under the impression that we had a large force in the vicinity, I gave him permission to carry off the dead bodies, two of which he had picked up outside of my picket, and two others having been brought in to the picket before his arrival. We remained at Mason's Hill three or four days, and I was then relieved by Colonel Smith in command of the 20th Georgia Regiment. My pickets had been constantly skirmishing with small parties of the enemy, and there had been one or [50] two false alarms of an approach against us, but the enemy made no serious demonstration. This advanced line of pickets was subsequently abandoned, after having been maintained for several weeks, but I did not again return to it.

After leaving Mason's Hill, I moved back to my camp in front of Wolf Run Shoals, again occupying the right of our line. I remained on this flank until the fore part of October, and my regiments picketed at Springfield on the line of the railroad, alternating with those of Ewell's brigade at Langster's cross-roads. On the 4th of October Major General Earl Van Dorn joined our army and was assigned to the command of a division composed of Ewell's brigade and mine. This was the first division organized in the Army of the Potomac (Confederate) and I think in the entire Confederate army. In a day or two afterwards my brigade was moved to a position between Fairfax Station and Fairfax Court-House, and remained there until the army was moved back to the line which it occupied for the winter, my regiment picketing at Burke's Station on the railroad in the meantime.

Soon after the organization of the division, Captain Green's company of cavalry, for which Thornton's had been exchanged, was relieved from duty with me and attached to General Van Dorn's headquarters. On the 7th of October, the 20tli Georgia Regiment, Colonel W. D. Smith, was attached to my brigade, and joined me in a day or two thereafter. On the 15th of October the whole of our army moved back from the line passing through Fairfax Court-House to me, extending from Union Mills on the right, through Centreville, to Stone Bridge on the left. At the new position Van Dorn's division was on the right, with Ewell's brigade at Union Mills and mine on its left above that point. We proceeded at once to fortify the whole line from right to left.

McClellan's report shows that the troops under his [51] command in and about Washington, including those on the Maryland shore of the Potomac above and below Washington and the troops with Dix at Baltimore, on the 15th day of October, the day before our retrograde movement, amounted to 133,201 present for duty, and an aggregate present of 143,647. The mass of this force was south of the Potomac, and nearly the whole of it available for an advance. The whole force under General Johnston's command did not exceed one-third of McClellan's, though the latter has estimated our force “on the Potomac” in the month of October at not less than 150,000.

After the occupation of the line at Centreville, the infantry of our army at and near that place was organized into four divisions of three brigades each and two corps. Bonham's brigade was attached to Van Dorn's division, and the command of the other divisions was given to Major Generals G. W. Smith, Longstreet, and E. Kirby Smith, respectively. Van Dorn's and Longstreet's divisions constituted the first corps under General Beauregard, and the other two divisions constituted the second corps under the temporary command of Major General G. W. Smith.

About the same time, General Jackson, with the rank of Major General, was sent to the valley with his old brigade, and the 22nd of October an order was issued from the Adjutant General's office at Richmond, establishing the Department of Northern Virginia, composed of the Valley district, the Potomac district, and the Aquia district, under the command of General Johnston; the districts being assigned to the command of Major General Jafkson, GeneraMl Beauregard, and Major General Holmes, in the order in which they are named. Colonel Robert E. Rodes of the 5th Alabama Regiment had been made brigadier general and assigned to the command of Ewell's brigade, Ewell being temporarily assigned to a brigade in Longstreet's division, and subsequently made major general and transferred [52] to the command of E. K. Smith's division, when the latter officer was sent to Tennessee.

The affair of Evans' command with the enemy at Ball's Bluff occurred on the 21st of October, and Stuart's affair with the enemy at Drainesville occurred on the 20th of December. These are the only conflicts of the Army of the Potomac with the enemy of any consequence, during the fall and winter, after the occupation of the line of Centreville. Our front was covered by a line of pickets some distance in front, extending from left to right, and all under command of Brigadier General J. E. B. Stuart of the cavalry, who was especially assigned to that duty, details by regiments being made from the infantry to report to him.

Rodes' brigade was moved to the south of Bull Run to go into winter quarters, leaving my brigade on the right of our line, which was now contracted so as to merely cover McLean's Ford on that flank. About the middle of January, 1862, Major General Van Dorn was relieved from duty with the Army of the Potomac and ordered to the Trans-Mississippi Department, General Bonham succeeding to the command of the division as senior brigadier general. On the 30th of January, General Beauregard took leave of the “Army of the Potomac,” he having been ordered to Kentucky; and after this time there was no distinction of corps in the “Army of the Potomac,” but all division commanders reported directly to General Johnston.

After the 1st of February General Bonham relinquished the command of the division, having resigned his commission to take his seat in Congress, and I succeeded to the command of the division as next in rank --Colonel Kershaw, who was appointed brigadier general, succeeding Bonham in the command of his brigade. My brigade had gone into temporary winter quarters at the point to which it had moved, when we fell back from the line of Fairfax Court-House for the purpose of continuing the construction of the works on our right, [53] which were rendered necessary by the change in the line before mentioned; and it was engaged in building new winter quarters south of Bull Run, and completing the earthworks covering McLean's Ford when the line of Bull Run was abandoned.

About two weeks before the evacuation took place, division commanders were confidentially informed of the probability of that event, and ordered to prepare their commands for it in a quiet way. Up to that time there had been no apparent preparation for such a movement, but an immense amount of stores of all kinds and private baggage of officers and men had been permitted to accumulate. Preparations, however, were commenced at once for sending the stores and baggage to the rear. Owing to the fact that our army had remained stationary so long, and the inexperience in campaigning of our troops, there had been a vast accumulation of private baggage by both officers and men; and when it became necessary to change a camp it was the work of two or three days. I had endeavored to inculcate proper ideas on this subject into the minds of the officers of my own immediate command, but with very indifferent success, and it was very provoking to see with what tenacity young lieutenants held on to baggage enough to answer all their purposes at a fashionable watering place in time of peace.

After the confidential instructions for the evacuation were given, I tried to persuade all my officers to send all their baggage not capable of being easily transported and for which they did not have immediate necessary use, on the railroad to some place in the rear out of all danger, but the most that I could accomplish was to get them to send it to Manassas Junction. This was generally the case with the whole army, and the consequence was that a vast amount of trunks and other private baggage was accumulated at the Junction at the last moment, for which it was impossible to find any transportation. This evil, however, was finally and [54] completely remedied by the burning which took place when the Junction itself was evacuated, and we never had any great reason subsequently to complain of a plethoric condition of the baggage.

Besides this trouble in regard to private baggage, there was another which incommoded us to some extent, and that resulted from the presence of the wives of a number of officers in and near camp. These would listen to no mild appeals or gentle remonstrances, but held on with a pertinacity worthy of a better cause, and I was myself compelled, as a final resort, to issue a peremptory order for some of them to leave my camp.

The order was finally given for the movement to the rear on the 8th of March and early on that morning I broke up my camps and moved with my brigade and that of Kershaw towards the Junction. We were delayed, however, waiting for the movement of the other troops, and did not arrive at the Junction until in the afternoon. A portion of Ewell's division was to move in front of us along the railroad, while the remainder of it, with Rodes' brigade, was to move on a road east of the railroad. Our wagon trains had been previously sent forward on the roads west of the railroad. We waited at the Junction until the troops that were to precede us had passed on, and the last of the trains of cars could be gotten off. Finally at a late hour of the night after the last available train of cars had left, we moved along the railroad past Bristow Station, and bivouacked for the night, my brigade bringing up the rear of our infantry on that route.

A very large amount of stores and provisions had been abandoned for want of transportation, and among the stores was a quantity of clothing, blankets, etc., which had been provided by the States south of Virginia for their own troops. The pile of trunks along the railroad was appalling to behold. All these stores, clothing, trunks, etc., were consigned to the flames by a portion of our cavalry left to carry out the work of their destruction. [55]

The loss of stores at this point, and at White Plains, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, where a large amount of meat had been salted and stored, was a very serious one to us, and embarrassed us for the remainder of the war, as it put us at once on a running stock.

The movement back from the line of Bull Run was in itself a very wise one in a strategic point of view, if it was not one of absolute necessity, but the loss of stores was very much to be regretted. I do not pretend to attach censure to any one of our officials for this loss, especially not to General Johnston. I know that he was exceedingly anxious to get off all the stores, and made extraordinary exertions to accomplish that object. My own opinion was that the failure to carry them off was mainly owing to inefficient management by the railroad officials, as I always found their movements slow and little to be depended on, beginning with the transportation of the troops sent by me from Lynchburg in May and June, 1861.

McClellan in his report assumes that the evacuation of the line of Bull Run, was in consequence of his projected movement to the Peninsula having become known to the Confederate commander, but such was not the fact. Our withdrawal from that line was owing to the fact that our force was too small to enable us to hold so long a line against the immense force which it was known had been concentrated at and near Washington. McClellan's statement of his own force shows that his troops, including those in Maryland and Delaware, numbered on the 1st of January, 1862, 191,840 for duty; on the 1st of February, 190,806 for duty; and on the 1st of March, 193,142 for duty. Of this force he carried into the field in his campaign in the Peninsula considerably over 100,000 men, after having left over 40,000 men to protect Washington. He could have thrown against General Johnston's army, at and near Manassas, a force of more than four times the strength of that army. I have before stated that Johnston's [56] army was composed of four divisions of infantry besides the cavalry and artillery.

The division commanded by me was fully an average one, and that division, including three batteries of artillery and a company of cavalry attached to it, as shown by my field returns now before me, numbered on the 1st of February, 1862, 6,965 effective total present, and an aggregate present of 8,703; and on the 1st of March, 5,775 effective total present, and an aggregate present of 7,154. At both periods a very large number present were on the sick list. The aggregate present and absent on the 1st of March amounted to 10,008, there being at that time twenty-four officers and 962 enlisted men absent sick and 61 officers and 1,442 enlisted men absent on furlough — the rest of the absentees being on detached service and without leave. This will give a very good idea of General Johnston's entire strength, and will show the immense superiority of the enemy's force to his.

The evacuation of Manassas and the line of Bull Run was therefore a movement rendered absolutely necessary by the inability of our army to cope with the enemy's so near to his base, and had been delayed fully as long as it was prudent to do so.

Moving back over the routes designated, Ewell's division and mine crossed the Rappahannock on the 10th of March and took position on the south bank. We remained there several days, when my division was moved to the Rapidan and crossed over to the south bank, Ewell being left to guard the crossing of the Rappahannock. G. W. Smith's and Longstreet's divisions had moved by the roads west of the railroad, and were concentrated near Orange Court-House.

I remained near the Rapidan until the 4th of April, when I received orders to move up to Orange CourtHouse to take the cars for Richmond and report to General Lee, who was then entrusted with the general direction of military operations, under the President. I [57] marched to the court-house next day, but found difficulty in getting cars enough to transport my division. Rodes was first sent off, then Kershaw, and my own brigade was finally put on board on the 7th. Going with the rear of this last brigade, I reached Richmond on the morning of the 8th of April, after much delay on the road, and found that Rodes and Kershaw had been sent to General Magruder on the Peninsula, to which point I was also ordered with my own brigade, part going by the way of York River, and the rest by the way of James River in vessels towed by tugs. My trains and artillery moved by land from Orange CourtHouse.

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