of the defences on the right bank of the river opposite to Washington. Men were engaged in working at the tete de pont, and letting the water of the river into the newly-dug ditch. It is probable the Long Bridge is mined, as no one is allowed to smoke upon it; but the carters, many of whom are negroes, do not pay much attention to the order when the sentries are not looking. Apropos of negroes, it is confidently asserted that a corps of them is employed by the Confederates for camp duty, if not for fighting, and that they were certainly employed to guard the prisoners, to the intense anger of the Federalists. One officer who came in says that he was actually in their custody. He escaped by a method not often resorted to by officers, for he pledged his word of honor he would not attempt to go away if he were allowed to go for a drink of water, and when he had done so, he made the best of his way to Washington, and told the anecdote in society, among whom was a member of the British legation. There is an increase of the camps on the heights up to Arlington, and there must now be a strong force of infantry there, though there is a deficiency in field-artillery. Of guns in position in the works there is the greatest abundance. The road up to Arlington House was dotted with men returning to the camps, few of whom were encumbered with firelocks. Gen. McDowell was sitting with some officers before his tent under the trees which shaded the place from the sun. He is a man in the prime of life, some 40 and odd years of age, very powerfully built, with a kindly, honest, soldierly expression in face and manners, and it was pleasant to see that though he was not proud of being “whipped,” there was no dejection other than that a man should feel who has been beaten by his enemy, but who knows he has done his duty. Originally he had proposed a series of operations different from those which were actually adopted, and his dispositions for the advance of his columns after the scheme of attack was decided upon were careful and elaborate. But he miscalculated somewhat the powers of regular troops. All his subsequent operations were vitiated by the impossibility of gaining the points fixed on for the first day's march, and Gen. Tyler, who engaged somewhat too seriously with the enemy on the left at Bull Run on the Thursday before the battle in making what was a mere reconnaissance, put them on the alert and hastened up Johnston. The General was kind enough to go over the plans of the attack with me, and to acquaint me with the dispositions he had made for carrying out the orders he had received to make it, and to my poor judgment they were judicious and clear. With the maps laid out on the table before his tent he traced the movements of the various columns from the commencement of offensive measures to the disastrous advance upon Manassas. It was evident that the Confederate Generals either were informed or divined the general object of his plan, which was, in fact, to effect a turning movement of his centre and right, while his left menaced their right on Bull Run, and to get round their left altogether; for they had, soon after he moved, advanced their columns to meet him, and brought on an engagement, which he was obliged to accept on ground and at a time where and when he had not contemplated fighting. The initial failure of the movement took place several days earlier, when his columns were late on the march, though ample time had been allowed to them, so that, instead of getting to Centreville and to the Run, he was obliged to halt at Fairfax Court House, and to lose another day in occupying the positions which ought to have been taken when he first advanced. By moving out to attack or meet him the enemy obliged him to abandon the design of turning them and getting round their left below Manassas, and when once they did so it became obvious that he had not much chance of succeeding, unless he could actually push back the enemy and “keep them moving” with such rapidity that they would fly into and out of their lines just as his own troops did from the field. The officers who were present were all agreed that the Federalists had advanced steadily on the right and centre, and that they had driven back the Confederates with considerable loss for a mile and a half when the panic took place in the regiments on the flank of the right, which necessitated the issue of an order for the retirement of the whole force, and the advance of the reserves to cover it. The volunteers who had broken could not be rallied, the movement, always dangerous with such materials, under such circumstances was misunderstood by the wagon-drivers and by other regiments, and the retreat became finally the shameful rout, which was only not utterly disastrous because of the ignorance and inactivity or the weakness of the enemy. Major Barry, an officer of the regular United States Artillery, told me he could not stop the runaways, who ought to have protected his guns, though the gunners stood by them till the enemy were fairly upon them, and that, as for the much-talked — of cavalry, two round shots which were pitched into them by his battery sent them to the right — about at once. The regular officers spoke in only one way of the conduct of the officers of the volunteers and of certain regiments. Indeed, what could be said of men who acted after and in action as others acted before it, and went away as fast as they could? Thus the men of a volunteer battery marched off, leaving their guns on the ground, the very morning of the engagement, because their three-months' term of service was up, and the Pennsylvania regiments exhibited a similar spirit. The 69th Irish volunteered to serve as long as they were required, and so did some other corps, I believe; but there must be something rotten in the system, military and political, which generates such sentiments and develops
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.