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Chapter 13: making ready for Manassas again.

Under the retrograde of the Union army, General Lee so modified his order of march as to meet the new conditions. On the 20th of August the march was made, the right wing to the vicinity of Kelly's Ford on the Rappahannock River, the left to the railroad bridge and fords above. At Kelly's Ford it seemed possible to force a crossing. As we were preparing for it, an order came reporting the upper crossings too well defended, and calling for the right wing to march to that point, while the left marched up in search of more favorable points. As we were leaving Kelly's the enemy made a dash to cross, and engaged some of the brigades in a sharp fight, intending to delay our movements, but the main column marched on, while this affair was still in progress. By mutual consent the fight subsided, both parties joined their proper commands and proceeded on their upward march, each on its own side of the stream. At Beverley's Ford, Stuart's cavalry under Rosser crossed and made a lodgement on the east bank, but the near approach of the enemy's column threatening, before the infantry could get up in support, made necessary the abandonment of the ground, and the left wing continued to feel along higher [164] up for a crossing. Passing up, Trimble's brigade was left at Beverley's as guard to Jackson's rear. The enemy, conceiving an opportunity, crossed at Freeman's Ford and attacked Trimble. Meanwhile, a detachment had been called for from the right wing. Hood, with his own and Whiting's brigade, was ordered, and was in time to join in Trimble's fight, which ended in repulse of the adventurous force.

The east banks of the Rappahannock lifted quite above those occupied by the Confederates, giving advantageous position to the Union artillery fire, and offering no point above Kelly's Ford to force a crossing.

When the left wing marched from Rappahannock Bridge, the enemy crossed a considerable force to the west bank, and covered it with a number of superior batteries well posted on the east side. To dislodge that force I put a number of batteries into action, including the Washington Artillery, and, later, part of the reserved battalion under Colonel S. D. Lee. The combat consumed much of the day of the 23d, when the enemy withdrew from that bank and burned some of the dwellings as he left.

Riding along the line of batteries during the combat, we passed a soldier-lad weeping over his brother, who had just been killed; just then a shell came screaming by, exploded, and dashed its fragments into the ground near enough to dust us a little. “Dad drat those Yankees!” he said; “if I had known that they were going to throw such things as that at a fellow, I would have stayed in Texas.” He had travelled a thousand miles to volunteer in the same company with his brother.

Assured of the transfer of McClellan's forces from the James, General Lee called up the divisions of Generals D. H. Hill, McLaws, the half division under J. G. Walker, and Hampton's cavalry from Richmond. Anderson's division was marching from Orange Court-House as our reserve force. [165]

On the 22d, Munford's cavalry reported the Warrenton road open as far as the vicinity of General Pope's headquarters. General Stuart was ordered over, with parts of his brigades, to investigate and make trouble in the enemy's rear. He crossed at Waterloo and Hunt's Mill with fifteen hundred troopers and Pelham's horse artillery, and rode to Warrenton. Passing through, he directed his ride towards Catlett's Station to first burn the bridge over Cedar Creek.

Before reaching Catlett's a severe storm burst upon him, bogging the roads and flooding the streams behind him. The heavy roads delayed his artillery so that it was after night when he approached Catlett's. He caught a picket-guard and got into a camp about General Pope's Headquarters, took a number of prisoners, some camp property, and, meeting an old acquaintance and friend in a colored man, who conducted him to General Pope's tents, he found one of the general's uniform coats, a hat, a number of official despatches, a large amount of United States currency, much of the general's personal equipments, and one of the members of his staff, Major Goulding. He made several attempts to fire the bridge near Catlett's, but the heavy rains put out all fires that could be started, when he sought axes to cut it away. By this time the troops about the camps rallied and opened severe fire against him, but with little damage. The heavy rainfall admonished him to forego further operations and return to the army while yet there was a chance to cross Cedar Creek and the Rappahannock before the tides came down. On the night of the 23d he reached Sulphur Springs, where he met General Jackson's troops trying to make comfortable lodgement on the east bank, passed over, and resumed position outside General Lee's left. The despatch-book of General Pope gave information of his troops and his anxiety for reinforcements, besides mention of those that had joined him, but General [166] Stuart's especial pleasure and pride were manifested over the possession of the uniform coat and hat of General Pope. Stuart rode along the line showing them, and proclaiming that he was satisfied with the exchange that made even his loss at Verdierville before the march; but the despatch lost at Verdierville was the tremendous blow that could not be overestimated.

All of the 23d was spent in severe artillery combat. General Jackson had gained the east bank at Warrenton (Sulphur Springs) crossing, and there seemed a fair prospect of making a permanent lodgement, but the tides from the severe storm of the day and night previous were coming down in torrents, threatening floods at all of the fords.

On the 22d, Pope had formed a plan of concentrating his forces to cross and attack Lee's right by the lower fords, but the freshet had shut him off in that quarter; so he turned to the detachment of Jackson, on the east side, just cut off from support. Marching up the river bank, Jackson succeeded in so reinforcing his detachment as to defend it to an upper crossing till it found safe footing on the west bank. The high water cut off all operations by direct moves on the 24th. Meanwhile, General Pope had received the divisions of Kearny and Reynolds from McClellan's army, forty-five hundred and twenty-five hundred respectively.

About this time a letter came to Headquarters of the right wing from General Toombs, expressing regret at his unfortunate mistake in relieving his troops from picket service, and asking to be released from arrest, that he might have the opportunity to show in the approaching conflicts his deep interest in the cause. The adjutant-general was instructed to say in reply that the chief of corps was pleased to know that the malefeasance was from want of experience, not intentional breach of authority, and that he would be more than welcome back by the general and the troops of his brigade. [167]

On the 25th, Jackson was ordered to pull away from our main force with the left wing, march by the crossings of the upper tributaries through Thoroughfare Gap, and strike the railway in the enemy's rear at Manassas Junction, his supply depot. Stuart's cavalry was ordered to follow during the night.

By a rapid march Jackson crossed the fords of the upper streams and made his bivouac near Salem. Forcing his march on the 26th, he passed Thoroughfare Gap to Gainesville, where Stuart joined him with all of his cavalry. From Gainesville he inclined to the right for Bristoe Station, the cavalry holding the curtain between his column and Pope's. A little after sunset he reached the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, a march of thirty miles. Approaching the station, trains were heard on the rails. General Ewell divided his force and took two points on the rails, so as to cut off the trains. Munford's cavalry assisted in the job. Two trains and a number of prisoners were taken, the greater part of the detachment at the station making safe retreat. His plans against General Lee's right cut off by the high water, General Pope extended his right, under Sigel, Banks, and Reno, in search of Jackson up the river, who meanwhile had spirited himself away looking towards Pope's rear. I was left on the river bank in front, the reserve infantry, R. H. Anderson's division, and artillery near at hand.

Although the night of the 26th was very dark, and his troops were severely worn, to be sure of his opportunity, Jackson sent a detachment to Manassas Junction (seven miles). The gallant Trimble, with five hundred of his men, volunteered for the service, and set out at once on the march. Stuart was afterwards ordered to join Trimble with his cavalry, and as ranking officer to command the operations of the entire force. The infantry advanced and attacked the enemy as soon as it could be formed for work, captured [168] three hundred prisoners, an eight-gun battery complete, and immense quantities of army supplies.

Feeling the main force of his adversary in his front awaiting opportunity, General Pope became anxious about his left and rear, and was further hampered by instructions from the Washington authorities to hold his Fredericksburg connections and “fight like the devil.” (It may have been fortunate for the Confederates that he was not instructed to fight like Jackson.) On the 23d he was informed of strong reinforcements to reach him at Warrenton Junction on the next day, and that larger forces would be shipped him on the 24th, to join him on the 25th.

Nevertheless, he began to realize, as he felt Jackson's march to his right, that he must abandon the line of the Rappahannock and attend on the movements of that command gone astray by the mountains. He concentrated the Army of Virginia, to which Reynolds's division had been assigned, at and near Warrenton under McDowell; Reno east of Warrenton about three miles, on the turnpike; Porter's (Fifth) corps near Bealton, ordered to join Reno, and Heintzelman's (Third) corps, ten thousand strong, at Warrenton Junction. The Sixth (Franklin's) Corps, ten thousand strong, Army of the Potomac, was at Alexandria awaiting transportation, as were the divisions of Sturgis, ten thousand, and Cox, seven thousand,--the latter from West Virginia. General Pope asked to have Franklin's corps march by the Warrenton turnpike to join him, and sent instructions to different parties to see that the guards in his rear were strengthened; that at Manassas Junction by a division.

Under assurances from Washington of the prompt arrival of forces from that quarter, he looked for the approach of Franklin as far as Gainesville, marching by the Warrenton turnpike, and a division to reinforce the command at Manassas Junction, so that when Jackson cut in [169] on his rear and captured the detachment at the Junction, he was not a little surprised. He was in position for grand tactics, however, midway between the right and left wings of his adversary's forces, that in his rear worn by severe marches and some fighting, that in his front behind a river, the crossings of which were difficult, and the lines of march to bring the distant wings to co-operation over routes that could be defended by small commands.

Communication with Washington being severed, the forces at and near Alexandria were thrown in the dark. To move by rail they were liable to run into the wrong camps, and the rapid change by water to the new position left them short of land transportation.

Pope stood on the evening of the 27th: McDowell's corps, including Reynolds's division, 15,500; Sigel's corps, 9000; Banks's, 5000; Reno's, 7000; Heintzelman's and Porter's corps, 18,000,--in all 54,500 men, with 4000 cavalry; Platt's brigade, Sturgis's division, which joined him on the 26th, not included. In his rear was Jackson, 20,000; in front on the Rappahannock was my 25,000; R. H. Anderson's reserve division, 5000; total, 50,000, with 3000 of cavalry under Stuart.

On the 26th I moved up to and crossed at Hinson's Mill Ford, leaving Anderson's division on the Warrenton Sulphur Springs route.

On the 27th, Jackson marched at daylight to Manassas Junction with his own division, under Taliaferro, and A. P. Hill's, leaving Ewell's at Bristoe Station, with orders to withdraw if severely pressed. Approaching the Junction, a cavalry regiment came in, threatening attack, and was driven off by Colonel Baylor's regiment. A field battery came from the direction of Centreville, and tried to make trouble at long range, but was driven off by superior numbers. Then a brigade of infantry under General Taylor, of New Jersey, just landed from the cars from Alexandria, advanced and made a desperate effort [170] to recover the lost position and equipage at Manassas Junction. Field's, Archer's, Pender's, and Thomas's brigades, moving towards the railroad bridge, met Taylor's command and engaged it, at the same time moving towards its rear, threatening to cut off its retreat. It was driven back after a fierce struggle, General Taylor, commanding, mortally wounded. Part of the Kanawha division under General Scammon was ordered to its support, but was only in time to assist in its retreat. Reporting this affair, General Jackson said,--

The advance was made with great spirit and determination, and under a leader worthy of a better cause.

The spoils were then quietly divided, such as could be consumed or hauled off, and the balance given to the torch.

I marched from the Rappahannock, following on Jackson's trail, and camped at White Plains. The march during the day was delayed about an hour by a large force of cavalry which showed itself on my right front. As I had no cavalry, a little time was spent in learning of its import and following.

General Pope ordered McDowell, with his own corps, including Reynolds's division and Sigel's corps, to march so as to be at Gainesville at nightfall; Reno's corps and Kearny's division of the Third to Greenwich to support McDowell. He rode with Hooker's division of the Third along the route by the railroad for Bristoe Station, ordered Porter's Fifth Corps to remain at Warrenton Junction till relieved by Banks's corps, then to push on towards Gainesville, Banks to follow by the railroad route.

In the afternoon, Hooker encountered Ewell at Bristoe Station, where the divisions engaged in a severe fight, which was handsomely maintained till after night. Ewell, under his orders, withdrew to join Jackson. The conduct of the affair was about equally creditable to the commands. [171]

After this affair, General Pope so far modified his order of the day as to call Porter to him by direct route, to march at one A. M. and join him at daylight. Kearny's division was ordered for Bristoe Station, Reno's corps for Manassas Junction, and McDowell, from Gainesville, was ordered to swing around to his right and march, guided by the Manassas Gap Railroad, to Manassas Junction.

Ewell made his way along the railroad to Jackson in time to refresh his men on the good things of the captures and for several hours of sleep. Fitzhugh Lee, with three regiments of cavalry, was ordered on to Fairfax Court-House and along the railroad towards Alexandria to cut off rail connection.

General McClellan reached Alexandria, Virginia, on the 27th. On the 28th, Jackson was first to move at 12.20 A. M. He applied the torch to the stores of provisions, and marched with his division, under Taliaferro, by the New Market Sudley Springs road across the Warrenton turnpike, and pitched bivouac on a line from near Groveton, towards Sudley Mills, on the field of first Manassas, at daylight.

At one A. M., A. P. Hill marched from Manassas Junction, crossed Bull Run, and halted at Centreville. Ewell followed at daylight towards Centreville, crossed Bull Run, marched up some distance, recrossed, and joined Jackson, forming on Taliaferro's left. After the morning fires of the bivouac burned out, Jackson's position could not be seen except upon near approach. He was hid away under the cuts and embankments of an unfinished railroad.

The road upon which Porter marched was crowded during the night, so that he and his officers thought that they would make better time and be in better condition by marching at three A. M. He reached Bristoe at ten A. M., Kearny at eight, and Reno in due season. But it was late in the morning when McDowell was ready to march, [172] and later in the day when his left swung out on the march to the Junction.

At twelve o'clock, General Pope reached Manassas Junction. Misled by the movements of A. P. Hill and Ewell, he ordered Reno's corps and Kearny's and Hooker's divisions of the Third to Centreville, in search of Jackson, while the latter was little more than a league from him, resting quietly in his hiding-place, and his detached divisions had doubled on their courses and were marching to join him. McDowell, having information of my approach, delayed his march, detaching Ricketts's division to hold me in check at Thoroughfare Gap.

The first passage at arms of the day was between part of Stuart's cavalry, supported by B. T. Johnson's infantry, and Meade's brigade of McDowell's command. As the latter swung around for his march to the Junction, the brigade approached Jackson's right. A detachment was pushed out against Meade, and some artillery practice followed. The Confederates retired, but reported no loss. Under the impression that the force encountered was some cavalry rear-guard or reconnoitring party, McDowell resumed his march “as soon as the killed and wounded were cared for.”

The noise made by this affair caused Sigel to countermarch his corps, and otherwise delayed the march of McDowell's entire forces, while it gave no inconvenience to the Confederates further than a change of front of part of Jackson's command to receive battle, not intended, by his adversary. Jackson changed his front, but finding the direction of the enemy changed so as to march away from him, he took the move for a general retreat, made report of it to A. P. Hill, who was yet north of Bull Run, and ordered him to intercept the retreat by manning the lower fords of Bull Run. The order was received at ten A. M., but General Hill had intercepted despatches of General Pope giving notice of his preparation for battle at [173] Manassas the next day, and thought it better to march on and join Jackson. He filed into line on Jackson's left about noon.

General Jackson was right. If General Hill had moved as ordered, he would have met detachments ordered by General Pope to Centreville, and held them back to the south side until Jackson could join him to hold the line. The natural sequence of Confederate operations was position to intercept General Pope's return to Washington. The scenes were shifting and inviting of adventure, and the marches should have followed them. General Hill was justified by the circumstances that influenced his march.

When General Pope reached the Junction with Heintzelman's and Reno's corps, the game was on other fields. As the last of the Confederate columns had hied away towards Centreville, he ordered thither those corps, and called up the Fifth to join him. He then changed the orders of McDowell's column, directing it towards Centreville, to mass his cavalry, and find Jackson, and presently (at two P. M.) so far modified these as to direct McDowell to use his own judgment, and give him the benefit of his views, as he knew the country better, but ordered that he should not go farther towards Manassas Junction. These instructions were urgent, with assurances that McDowell's moves should be supported by other columns. Had these been promptly executed, McDowell's entire force should have encountered Jackson before four o'clock, but McDowell did not find Jackson. As his division, under King, marched along the turnpike a little before night, Jackson saw and engaged it in battle, as we shall see.

The head of my column reached Thoroughfare Gap early in the afternoon. Reports from General Jackson were that he was resting quietly on the flank of the enemy, and between him and Washington. Parties from the Gap reported it clear, and the Confederate commander called a rest for the night, but D. R. Jones's division was ordered on to occupy the Gap. [174]

As we approached it, officers riding to the front returned reporting the enemy coming in heavy columns on the other side. Jones was ordered to halt his division till he could advance his skirmishers. The Ninth Georgia Regiment, G. T. Anderson's brigade, was sent and followed at proper distance by the division. The skirmishers met the enemy's pickets in the Gap, drove them off, and followed till they in turn were met by a strong force and pushed back. The enemy's leading brigade reached the plateau running along the eastern side of the mountain, which, with his batteries and infantry, gave him command at that end. Anderson reinforced his Ninth by the First, then by his other regiments on the mountain-side, to the left of the Gap, and advanced till arrested by the impenetrable tangle of the mountain undergrowth.

The Gap is a pass cut through Bull Run Mountain for the flow of a streamlet, through Occoquan Creek, to the waters of the Potomac. Its mean width is eighty yards. Its faces of basaltic rock rise in vertical ascent from one hundred to three hundred feet, relieved hither and thither by wild ivy, creeping through their fissures and from the tops of boulders in picturesque drapery. It was in the midst of this bold and beautiful scenery, in this narrow gorge where the Indians had doubtless often contested ages ago, that the seasoned soldiers of our civilized armies now battled for right of way.

Finding his passage over the mountain by the left side of the Gap blocked by the mountain tangle, Jones called up Toombs's brigade, under command of Colonel Benning, and ordered it over the mountain obstacle by the south side. Drayton's brigade was held in rear. By the time the troops were so disposed, Ricketts's division was well deployed along the plateau on the east.

Benning put Major Waddell, with the Twentieth Georgia, on the mountain-side as skirmishers, and strengthened it by another under Colonel Holmes, in double time, to [175] gain the crest on that side. The Twentieth gained the crest while the Federals were yet about eighty yards below on their side. The Georgians knew how to maintain their advantage, and their fire arrested farther advance of the enemy, when, after a spirited fusillade, reinforcements joined them in good season, and extended the line and held it, driving back the second assaulting force and following down the eastern slope.

As soon as the fire of the Federal batteries opened, Hood was ordered with his two brigades to cross the mountain on the north side of the Gap away by a cattle-trail, and three other brigades were despatched under General Wilcox to Hopewell Pass, about three miles north of Thoroughfare Gap.

Advancing his men, selected for their long-range rifles, Benning drove off a battery seeking position to play upon the mountain slope and eastern end of the gorge, and moved forward under cover of a ravine until he gained a flank fire upon the enemy's batteries. This, with the march of Wilcox through Hopewell Pass and the crossing of one of Hood's brigades, gave the Confederates commanding position, and Ricketts withdrew in time to escape disaster.

About six o'clock McDowell put his troops on the countermarch, Sigel's corps and Reynolds's division back by the New Market road for its crossing of the Warrenton turnpike, and King's division of his own corps down the turnpike. A. P. Hill's and Ewell's divisions, returning from the north of Bull Run, hardly had time for rest, when the march of King's division was reported. About the same time the divisions that had been ordered by Pope to Centreville reached that point, driving off some Confederate cavalry loitering along the way.

As King's division was marching by, Jackson thought to come out from his lurking-place to learn the meaning of the march. The direction of the move again impressed [176] him that Pope was retreating, and that his escape to the north side of Bull Run would put his army in a position of safety before General Lee could join him. It was late, the sun had set, but Jackson was moved to prompt action, as the only means of arresting and holding Pope for General Lee's arrival. He was in plain view of the white smoke of the rifles of my infantry as they climbed over Bull Run Mountain, seven miles away, and in hearing of our artillery as the boom of the big guns, resounding along the rock-faced cliffs, gathered volume to offer salutations and greetings for the union of comrades and commands. He changed the front of his right division, and, noting the movement of Sigel's troops along the New Market road, called out Ewell with his brigades under Lawton and Trimble, and in addition to the artillery of these commands used the horse artillery under Pelham. As formed, this new line was broadside against the turnpike, his left a little way from Groveton.

The ground upon which the action occurred had been passed an hour before by the division commander, General Hatch, who saw no indication of the presence of a foe. As the division marched, the column was made up of the brigades of Hatch, Gibbon, Doubleday, and Patrick. The action fell against the brigade commanded by General Gibbon, who, taking it for a cavalry annoyance to cover retreat, opened against it, and essayed aggressive fight, till he found himself engaged against a formidable force of infantry and artillery. He was assisted by part of Doubleday's brigade, and asked for other assistance, which failed to reach him, till night came and ended the contest. His fight was desperate and courageous against odds, but he held it and his line till dark. His loss was seven hundred and fifty-one, including Colonel O'Connor and Major May, mortally wounded, with many other officers with lighter hurts.1 [177]

General Doubleday joined the fight with his brigade, and reported his loss nearly half of the troops engaged. General Gibbon called it “a surprise.” 2 And well he might, after his division commander had just passed over the route and failed to find any indication of the lurking foe.

General Jackson reported, “The conflict here was firm and sanguinary.” He fails to give his number lost, but acknowledges his severe loss in the division commanders, General Ewell losing a leg, and Taliaferro severely wounded.

During the night the Federal commander reported to his subordinates that McDowell had “intercepted the retreat of Jackson, and ordered concentration of the army against him,” 3 whereas it was, of course, Jackson who had intercepted McDowell's march. He seems to have been under the impression that he was about to capture Jackson, and inclined to lead his subordinates to the same opinion.

Of the time, Major Edward Pye reported,--

We were sent forward towards evening to pursue the enemy, who were said to be retreating. Found the enemy, but did not see them retreat. A deadly fire from three sides welcomed and drove us back.4
After night Gibbon held his front by a line of skirmishers, and withdrew his command to a place of rest. At one A. M. the division was withdrawn and marched back to Manassas. Ricketts, finding himself in isolated position at Gainesville, left at daylight and marched to Bristoe. Jackson moved his forces at daylight, and reestablished his line behind the unfinished railroad, his own division under General Stark, Ewell's under General Lawton, with A. P. Hill on his left. [178]

General Pope's orders for the night directed the march of Kearny's division from Centreville by the turnpike at one A. M., to reinforce the troops against Jackson; the other division of Heintzelman's corps (Hooker's) to march by the same route at daylight, and to be followed by the corps under Reno. These orders were urgent, and directed that the commands should move promptly, leaving fragments behind if all could not be got together in time; Kearny to attack at daylight, to be supported by Hooker.

McDowell's operations of the afternoon left Sigel's corps and Reynolds's division in the vicinity of the field of King's fight. General Pope's orders were given under the impression that King's division was still occupying the ground of the late conflict, and that Ricketts's division was not far away; but these divisions had been removed to points before mentioned, though special instructions had been sent McDowell and King to hold the position “at all hazards, to prevent the retreat of Jackson,” with assurances that at daylight in the morning the entire force from Centreville and Manassas Junction should be up and in prompt co-operation.

But McDowell had probably learned that Jackson had no thought of retreating, and King had found that his ground was not tenable. The order intended for King failed to reach him.

Before he was advised of the withdrawal of King's division, General Pope sent orders to General Porter directing movements for the 29th, informing him of the orders of Kearny and Hooker, and directing Porter to move at daylight towards Centreville, for position in co-operation of the projected battle, and ordering Reno to march for the battle by the Warrenton turnpike. Under the orders, Porter marched towards Centreville, and Reno towards the field for battle. Kearny deferred his march till daylight, and was followed by Hooker's division at convenient [179] marching distance. Reno's column followed the march of the latter.

As soon as advised of the withdrawal of King's division from the ground of the 28th, General Pope sent as substitutes for his orders of the early morning that General Porter should push forward with his corps and King's division of McDowell's command to Gainesville, to co-operate with his movements along the Warrenton turnpike.5 This order was received by Porter at 9.30 A. M.,6 but General McDowell joined this column, and as ranking officer objected to the transfer of his division under King to other authority, which brought out the joint order to McDowell and Porter to have their joint commands execute the move towards Gainesville.

1 Rebellion Record, vol. XII. part II. p. 378.

2 Rebellion Record, vol. XII. part II. p. 381.

3 Ibid., pp. 74, 75.

4 Ibid., p. 371.

5 Rebellion Record, vol. XII. part II. p. 518.

6 Ibid., p. 520.

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