Bull Run is an insignificant creek, the banks of which are sufficiently high and steep at this spot to suit it for service as a ditch to artificial embankments. It is concealed from view, excepting upon a near approach, by thickets and underbrush. The peculiar chasm through which it runs was perhaps the cause of its selection as a part of Beauregard's long line of fortifications. In other ways, the position is naturally strong. Long ranges of hills rise behind it, with frequent level platforms, like terraces, which appear excellently suited for batteries of any dimensions. The woods reach almost to the top of the eminence, and, excepting in one or two openings, completely hide all operations that may be carried on. The principal road — that upon which we were advancing — takes a sudden turn just at the edge of these woods, and is thereafter almost indistinguishable. On the side where we now found ourselves, the elevation, though considerable, is inferior, and is wholly unsheltered. The hill descends smoothly, without an undulation or a single tree for some hundreds of rods at each side of the road. Upon its summit, to the left, a small country-house, barn, and other buildings stand, surrounded by a few trees. To the right is an open wheat-field, with trees at its rear. By this house Gen. Tyler advanced and made his observations. The skirmishers had rested half way down the hill, having detected pickets near them, which were suddenly withdrawn at their approach. For a short time it was hard to discover indications of the enemy's presence, but presently in the open spaces among the woods, bodies of cavalry were discerned, some in motion, and some at rest and evidently encamped. Higher up, there were lines of infantry in motion, and toward the summit tents were visible. No batteries of any kind were in sight. It did not appear, while the examination was going on, that any of our party knew we had arrived at Bull Run, although it had long been understood that the rebels had at that place established some of their strongest intrenchments. A house and barn a little beyond the centre of the valley suddenly swarmed with soldiers. Their appearance was probably an inadvertence, for they withdrew themselves immediately, and were afterward only imperfectly seen. This was the nearest point at which we had observed the enemy. It was barely half a mile distant upon the main road, and was apparently unsupported. Gen. Tyler said: “What can you do with them, Capt. Brackett?” and Capt. Brackett answered: “If they have batteries, they'll pick a good many of my men off while we go down; but if you say the word, I'll take them.” Gen. Tyler then sent orders back for the advance of the artillery and the leading brigade. Capt. Brackett showed that his concern respecting the batteries was not a personal one by riding down entirely alone some distance beyond where the enemy's pickets had first been seen, and approaching the barn sufficiently near to find that it communicated by sentinels with a force somewhere behind the trees. This intelligence assured us that at last the rebels had found the strong position they had been retreating to, and that now the chances of a conflict were nearer than ever before. Our cavalry was withdrawn from the brow of the hill, and dispersed among the woods at the rear, where they were secluded from the enemy. Gen. Tyler returned to meet the artillery, which was rapidly coming up. For a few minutes Capt. Brackett, with two or three others, remained to keep watch of movements on the opposite side. Nothing, however, was changed during the General's brief absence. The few bayonets flitted at the sides of the barn, and the open ground on the hill-side was still filled with picketed cavalry. These last were the most prominent objects to be seen. The battery arrived in good time, but alone, having distanced the infantry by the rapidity of its advance. As it entered the wheat-field, at the right of the road, the cavalry followed, offering the rather unusual spectacle of horse-men supporting artillery. Orders were given for immediate cannonading. The first rifle cannon was sighted by Lieut. Upton, Gen. Tyler's aid, and the shell fell plump amid the principal group of rebel cavalry, scattering them in an instant, so that not a man of them was to be seen when the smoke cleared away. Successive shots were directed toward the barn, and among the most suspicious-looking parts of the woods behind it. Some produced much commotion, others seemed wholly disregarded. After silently receiving twelve or fifteen shot and shell, the enemy suddenly burst out with four or five rounds from rifled cannon. Their first shot dug the ground a rod or two below the gunners. The second flew higher, and went through our cavalry, who dispersed in a great hurry, and took up their proper position, a little in the rear. Two men of Lieut. Drummond's company were wounded, but not seriously. The brief fire of the enemy was admirably directed, and seemed to prove that the range had been studied before. The fire did not cease until a hundred rounds or so had been discharged. Just after the enemy had spoken, Capt. Ayres' battery came up, and entered the inclosure to the left. Taking position near the deserted dwelling-house, it also opened fire, and blazed vigorously until the arrival of the infantry brigade, under Col. Richardson, of Michigan. But after the first four guns no sound of response came from the enemy. Their intention probably was, since they found their position was undoubtedly discovered, to offer what should appear a feeble opposition — a sort of peevish, powdery remonstrance — in order to lead us rapidly on in the belief that their resources were few, and their preparations insufficient. As soon as the brigade arrived, skirmishers were sent forward to explore the woods, which, apart from the warlike indications
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Battle of Bull Run .
Doc . 4 .- N. Y. Tribune narrative.
Doc . 59 : a Virginian who is not a traitor: response of Lieut. Mayo , U. S. N. , to the proclamation of Gov. Letcher .
Doc . 65 -speech of Galusha A. Grow , on taking the Chair of the House of Representatives of the United States , July 4 .
Doc . 135 .- Virginia ordinance, prohibiting citizens of Virginia from holding office under the United States , passed July , 1861 .
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.