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Chapter 25: the battle of Bull's Run,

  • Composition of the opposing armies, 584.--585.
  • -- movements of the National troops on Fairfax Court House, 586. -- the troops at Centreville, 587. -- skirmish at Blackburn's Ford, 588. -- plans of attack by each party, 590. -- Beauregard re-enforced by Johnston, 591. -- the forward movement, 592. -- the battle of Bull's Run in the morning, 593. -- battle in the afternoon, 598. -- the Confederates re-enforced, 601. -- flight of the National Army, 603. -- the retreat to the defenses of Washington, 606. -- the immediate result, of the battle, 607.

The long-desired forward movement of the greater portion of the National Army that lay in the vicinity of the Capital, full fifty thousand in number, began on the afternoon of Tuesday, the 16th of July,
leaving about fifteen thousand, under General Mansfield, to guard the seat of Government. The advancing troops consisted chiefly of volunteers from New England, New York, and New Jersey, and some from Western States. A greater portion of them had enlisted for only three months, and their terms of service were nearly ended. The remainder were chiefly recent volunteers for “three years or the war,” who were almost wholly undisciplined; and when the army moved, some of the regiments were not even brigaded. There were also seven or eight hundred regular troops (the fragments of regiments), and a small cavalry force, and several light batteries. With the exception of the regulars, the only troops on whom McDowell might rely were the three-months men. He had only seven companies of regular cavalry in his army, and two of these were left for the defense of Washington City.1

McDowell's forces were organized in five divisions,2 commanded respectively [585] by Brigadier-Generals Daniel Tyler and Theodore Runyon, and Colonels David Hunter, Samuel P. Heintzelman, and Dixon S. Miles. The Confederate force against which this army was to move was distributed along Bull's Run,4 from Union Mill, where the Orange and Alexandria Railway crosses that stream, to the Stone Bridge of the Warrenton Turnpike, the interval being about eight miles.5 The run formed an admirable line of defense. Its steep, rocky, and wooded banks, and its deep bed, formed an almost impassable barrier to troops, excepting at the fords, which were a mile or two apart. They had reserves at Camp Pickens, near Manassas Junction, a dreary hamlet before the war, on a high, bleak plain, and composed of an indifferent railway station-house and place of refreshments and a few scattered cottages. Near there,

Daniel Tyler.

at Weir's house, at the junction of the Centreville and Union Mill roads, Beauregard had his Headquarters. The Confederates had an outpost, with fortifications, at Centreville, and strong pickets and slight fortifications at Fairfax Court House, a village, ten miles from the main army, in the direction of Washington City. General Johnston, as we have observed, was strongly intrenched at Winchester, in the Shenandoah [586] Valley; and General Patterson was at Martinsburg, a few miles below him, charged with the duty of keeping Johnston from re-enforcing Beauregard at Bull's Run. The subjoined map indicates the theater of operations on which the four armies were about to perform.

Orders for the advance were given on the 15th,

July, 1861.
and at half-past 2 o'clock in the afternoon of the next day, Tyler's column, forming the right wing, went forward to Vienna, and encamped for the night. At sunrise the next morning,
July 17.
the whole army moved in four columns. The men were in light marching order, with cooked provisions for three days in their knapsacks. The village of Fairfax Court House was their destination, where, it was expected, the Confederates would offer battle.

Beauregard's Headquarters at Manassas.

Tyler, with the right wing, moved along the Georgetown Road. Hunter, with the center, advanced by the Leesburg and Centreville Road; and a portion of the left wing, under Heintzelman, went out from near Alexandria, along the Little River Turnpike. Another portion, under Miles, proceeded by the old “Braddock road,” that passes through Fairfax Court House and Centreville, where it becomes the Warrenton Turnpike. They found the roads obstructed by felled trees near Fairfax Court House, but no opposing troops. These had fallen back to Centreville. The impediments were soon removed. At noon, the National Army occupied the deserted village, and the National flag, raised by some of Burnside's Rhode Islanders, soon occupied the place of a Confederate one found flying over the Court House. The Commanding General and Tyler's division moved on two miles farther to the

The field of operations.

little village of Germantown, where it encamped. The conquest had been so easy, that the troops, in high spirits, and under the inspiration of a belief that the march to Richmond was to be like a pleasure excursion, committed some excesses, which the commander promptly rebuked. He reminded them that they were there “to fight the [587] enemies of the country, not to judge or punish the unarmed and defenseless, however guilty they may be.” The excesses were not repeated.6

General McDowell, pretty well informed concerning the strong position of the Confederate force; intended to turn its right flank at Manassas by a sudden movement to his left, crossing the Occoquan River below the mouth of Bull's Run, and, seizing the railway in the rear of his foe, compel both Beauregard and Johnston to fall back from their positions, so menacing to the National Capital. With this view, he made a reconnoissance on the morning of the 18th, while Tyler moved forward with his division, and at nine o'clock marched through Centreville without any opposition, and halted in a little valley between it and Bull's Run. This movement was intended as a feint, but ended in a sharp engagement.

Centreville was a small village on the west side of a ridge running nearly parallel with the general course of Bull's Run, which was west of it five or six miles, and near it the Confederates had erected strong earthworks. These were occupied by a brigade of South Carolinians under General Bonham, who fled, at the approach of Tyler, to the wooded banks of bull's Run. Several roads, public and private, led to that stream from Centreville.

The Stone Bridge.7

One was the Warrenton Turnpike, that crossed at the Stone Bridge, a structure of a single arch that spanned the Run; another led to Mitchel]s Ford, midway between Centreville and Manassas Junction; and still another led to Blackburn's Ford, over which General James Longstreet was watching.

Toward noon, Tyler went out on a reconnaissance toward Blackburn's [588]

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