leaves at 2 1/2 on Monday, and so I put my horse into a trot, keeping in the fields alongside the roads as much as I could, to avoid the fugitives, till I came once more on the rear of the baggage and store carts, and the pressure of the crowd, who, conscious of the aid which the vehicles would afford them against a cavalry charge, and fearful, nevertheless, of their proximity, clamored and shouted like madmen as they ran. The road was now literally covered with baggage. It seemed to me as if the men inside were throwing the things out purposely. “Stop,” cried I to the driver of one of the carts, “every thing is falling out.” “----you,” shouted a fellow inside, “if you stop him, I'll blow your brains out.” My attempts to save Uncle Sam's property were then and there discontinued. On approaching Centreville, a body of German infantry of the reserve came marching down, and stemmed the current in some degree; they were followed by a brigade of guns and another battalion of fresh troops. I turned up on the hill half a mile beyond. The vehicles had all left but two--my buggy was gone. A battery of field-guns was in position where we had been standing. The men looked well. As yet there was nothing to indicate more than a retreat, and some ill-behavior among the wagoners and the riff-raff of different regiments. Centreville was not a bad position properly occupied, and I saw no reason why it should not be held if it was meant to renew the attack, nor any reason why the attack should not be renewed, if there had been any why it should have been made. I swept the field once more. The clouds of dust were denser and nearer. That was all. There was no firing — no musketry. I turned my horse's head and rode away through the village, and after I got out upon the road the same confusion seemed to prevail. Suddenly the guns on the hill opened, and at the same time came the thuds of artillery from the wood on the right rear. The stampede then became general. What occurred at the hill I cannot say, but all the road from Centreville for miles presented such a sight as can only be witnessed in the track of the runaways of an utterly demoralized army. Drivers flogged, lashed, spurred, and beat their horses, or leaped down and abandoned their teams, and ran by the side of the road; mounted men, servants, and men in uniform, vehicles of all sorts, commissariat wagons, thronged the narrow ways. At every shot a convulsion, as it were, seized upon the morbid mass of bones, sinew, wood, and iron, and thrilled through it, giving new energy and action to its desperate efforts to get free from itself. Again the cry of “Cavalry” arose. “What are you afraid of?” said I to a man who was running beside me. “I'm not afraid of you!” replied the ruffian, levelling his piece at me, and pulling the trigger. It was not loaded, or the cap was not on, for the gun did not go off. I was unarmed, and I did go off as fast I could, resolved to keep my own counsel for the second time that day. And so the flight went on. At one time a whole mass of infantry, with fixed bayonets, ran down the bank of the road, and some falling as they ran, must have killed and wounded those among whom they fell. As I knew the road would soon become impassable or blocked up, I put my horse to a gallop and passed on toward the front. But mounted men still rode faster, shouting out, “Cavalry are coming.” Again I ventured to speak to some officers whom I overtook, and said, “If these runaways are not stopped, the whole of the posts and pickets in Washington will fly also!” One of them, without saying a word, spurred his horse and dashed on in front. I do not know whether he ordered the movement or not, but the van of the fugitives was now suddenly checked, and, pressing on through the wood at the roadside, I saw a regiment of infantry blocking up the way, with their front towards Centreville. A musket was levelled at my head as I pushed to the front--“Stop, or I'll fire.” 1 At the same time the officers
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 .
1 As a commentary on the picture here presented, we quote part of an article in the Knickerbocker Magazine from an eye-witness of this part of the retreat, who met Mr. Russell at the very head of the stampede.--Editor.
We pushed on toward the field. Vehicles still passed moderately, but their occupants appeared unconscious of disaster or of haste. The first indication of disturbed nerves met us in the shape of a soldier, musketless and coatless, clinging to the bare back of a great bony, wagon-horse--sans reins, sans every thing. Man and beast came panting along, each looking exhausted, and just as they pass us, the horse tumbles down helpless in the road, and his rider tumbles off and hobbles away, leaving the horse to his own care and his own reflections. Still we pushed on.[Several visitors from the field, up to this time, had reported a complete victory of the Union troops.]
About half-past 4, possibly nearer five, Centreville was still (as it proved) a mile or so ahead of us. We reached the top of a moderate rise in the road, and as we plodded on down its slope, I turned a glance back along the road we had passed; a thousand bayonets were gleaming in the sunlight, and a full fresh regiment were overtaking us in double-quick step, having come up (as I soon after learned) from Vienna. They reached the top of the hill just as we began to pick our way across the brook which flooded the road in the little valley below. At this moment, looking up the ascent ahead of us, toward the battle, we saw army wagons, private vehicles, and some six or eight soldiers on horseback, rushing down the hill in front of us in exciting confusion, and a thick cloud of dust. The equestrian soldiers, it could be seen at a glance were only impromptu horsemen, and their steeds were all unused to this melting mode, most of them being barebacked. Their riders appeared to be in haste, for some reason best known to themselves. Among them, and rather leading the van, was a solitary horseman of different aspect: figure somewhat stout, face round and broad, gentlemanly in aspect, but somewhat flushed and impatient, not to say anxious, in expression. Under a broad-brimmed hat a silk handkerchief screened his neck like a Havelock. He rode a fine horse, still in good condition, and his motto seemed to be “onward” --whether in personal alarm or not, it would be impertinent to say. His identity was apparent at a glance. As his horse reached the spot where we “five” stood together, thus suddenly headed off by the stampede, the regiment behind us had reached the foot of the hill, and the colonel, a large and resolute-looking man, had dashed his horse ahead of his men, until he was face to face with the stampeders. “What are you doing here?” shouted the colonel in a tone that “meant something.” “Halt I” (to his men.) “Form across the road. Stop every one of them!” Then turning to the white-faced soldiers from the field, and brandishing his sword, “Back I back I the whole of ye! Back! I say,” and their horses in an instant are making a reverse movement up the hill, while the army wagons stand in statu quo: the thousand muskets of the regiment, in obedience rather to the action than to the word of the colonel, being all pointed at the group in front, in the midst of which we stand. All this and much more passed in much less time than it takes to tell it. “But, sir, if you will look at this paper,” thus spake our distinguished visitor in the advance to the determined and now excited colonel, “you will see that I am a civilian, a spectator merely, and that this is a special pass,” (here I half-imagined a doubt of the character of the regiment flashed in for a second,) “a pass from General Scott.” The manner and the tone indicated that the speaker and his errand were entitled to attention. “Pass this man up,” shouted the colonel somewhat bluntly and impatient of delay; and on galloped the representative of the Thunderer toward Washington. * * * * * * * * * * * * Now, the art of bragging and the habit of exaggeration are vices to which all we Americans are but too much addicted. But if I say that my friend T------and myself stood in the midst of this melee much more impressed with its ludicrous picturesqueness than with any idea of personal danger, my friend at least would agree that this was the simple truth. The brief parley of “Our correspondent” suggested merely the thought that it was a pity such a stranger should be annoyed by such a crowd; Pd better say: “Colonel, this is Mr. Russell of the London Times; pray don't detain him.” However, this all passed in a twinkling. Our two solder-friends and the surgeon had pushed on between the wagons toward the field; the distant firing bad ceased; the wagons quietly stood still; so T------and I passed up through the regiment, which they told us was the First or Second New Jersey, Col. Montgomery, from the camp at Vienna; and we sat down comfortably near a house at the top of the hill and waited to see “what next!” In less than twenty minutes the road was cleared and regulated; the army wagons halted, still in line, on one side of the road; the civilians were permitted to drive on as fast as they pleased toward Washington; the regiment deployed into a field on the opposite hill, and formed in line of battle commanding the road; a detachment was sent on to “clear the track” toward Centreville; and presently the regiment itself marched up the road in the direction of the field of conflict. It was now about half-past five. If we two were not “cowards on instinct,” we might still be indifferent to danger through mere ignorance. This is intended to be a simple and truthful narrative only of what we saw and did, not a philosophical analysis or an imaginative dissertation. The character, cause, extent, and duration of that strange panie have already become an historical problem. Therefore, I specially aim to avoid all inferences, guesses, and generalities, and to state with entire simplicity just what was done and said where we were. Of what passed on the battle-field, or anywhere else, this witness cannot testify: he can only tell, with reasonable accuracy, what passed before his eyes, or repeat what he heard directly from those who had just come singly from the fight or the panie; so much will go for what it is worth, and no more. The separate sketches from all the different points of view are needed for a complete picture, or for a conclusive answer to the question: “Did all our army run away?” For us, two individuals who had not seen the battle or the first of the panic, but only this tall-end of it, no discussion of the matter at the moment was thought of. We didn't ask each other, or anybody else, whether it was safe to stay there, or to go near the main army. But if the question had been asked, our reply, merely echoing our thoughts at the moment, would have been thus:-- “We have lost the day; our army, or a part of it, after a sturdy fight of nine hours against the great odds of a superior force, strongly intrenched behind masked batteries, and after an actual victory, have fallen back at the last moment, and a part of one wing, with the wagons and outsiders, have started from the field in a sudden and unaccountable panic. But so long as we still have forty thousand men between us and the enemy, more than half of them fresh, in reserve, at Centreville; so long as this, the only main read Potomac-wise from the field, is now quiet and clear, and ‘order reigns’ at Centreville, where our main body will rest; what is the use of being in a hurry? Let us rest awhile here, and then take our time and go on either South or North, as the appearance of things may warrant.” Briefly and distinctly, no worse view of the matter was indicated by any thing we saw or heard while waiting two hours in that very spot in the road where the panic was first stopped, [and two hours after Mr. Russell had galloped on to write the worst account of the disorder.]The writer of the above slept at Fairfax Court-House long after Mr. Russell was safe in Washington. As late as 11 P. M., the straggling soldiers from the field were stopped and turned back by platoons of the reserve at Fairfax; and this was done as late as 7 A. M. at Alexandria. In corroboration of the fact that all alarm and disorder had been checked immediately after Mr. Russell's heasty retreat, we quote the following from Mr. H. H. Tilley, of Bristol, R. I., dated at Washington, July 24.
Our two companions, Burnham and Young, after pushing ahead a little way on the track, repented of their temerity, and retraced their steps, as we did, to the station, and then took the road, also, to Fairfax Court-House; but on reaching the road leading to Centreville, they turned into that, and by thus cutting off the angle that we made, they were enabled to pass through that place, and even get quite near to the battle-field — full as near, in fact, as I think we should have cared to, for Burnham says that after they attacked the hospital, and the retreat commenced, they heard a cannon-ball whistle over their heads, which, I infer, contributed in a slight degree to an acceleration of their movements. They say they were at the place in the road when Colonel Montgomery (as I see it was by the papers) made that famous “halt!” of the light brigade, (Russell and Company,) soon after it occurred, and they stopped there, procuring tea and a lodging at a house near by. They started on their return tramp at about twelve, [eight hours after Mr. Russell's retreat,] and must have been only a little way behind us, all the way — reaching here in less than an hours after we did.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.