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Chapter 8:

  • Mr. Lincoln's remark about the wolf.
  • -- his designs upon Virginia. -- Federal occupation of Alexandria. -- tragedy at the Marshall House. -- Jackson, the martyr. -- the affair of great Bethel. -- easy victory of the Confederates. -- exaggerations of Southern newspapers. -- apparent lull of hostilities. -- New demonstrations of public opinion in the North. -- financial difficulties at Washington. -- popular clamour against President Lincoln and Gen. Scott. -- Early indications of the real objects of the war. -- the rights of humanity. -- Virginia the great theatre of the war. -- the grand army of the North. -- consultation of President Davis and Beauregard and Lee. -- Beauregard's line of defence in Northern Virginia. -- sketch of General Beauregard. -- his person and manners. -- his opinion of the Yankee. -- the army of the Potomac and the army of the Shenandoah. -- Gen. Johnson's evacuation of Harper's Ferry. -- “StonewallJackson's first affair with the enemy. -- Johnston amusing the enemy. -- affair of Rich Mountain. -- McClellan's march into Northwestern Virginia. -- Rosecrans' capture of the Confederate force on Rich Mountain. -- retreat of the, Confederates from Laurel Hill. -- death of Gen. Garnett. -- extent of the disaster to the Confederates. -- the “grand army” advancing on Manassas. -- Johnston's movement to Beauregard's line. -- the battle of Manassas. -- the affair of 18th July. -- Longstreet's gallant defence. -- theatre of the great battle. -- Beauregard's change of purpose, and his plan of battle. -- the Stone Bridge. -- the “Big forest.” -- the Confederates flanked. -- the day apparently lost for them. -- the scene at the Henry House. -- timely arrival of Jackson. -- Gen. Beauregard disconcerted. -- ride from the Hill to the Henry House. -- the battle restored. -- the bloody plateau. -- three stages in the battle. -- the last effort of the enemy. -- the strange flag. -- arrival of Kirby Smith. -- the grand and final charge. -- rout and panic of the enemy. -- the fearful race to the Potomac. -- scenes of the retreat. -- failure of the Confederates to pursue, or to advance upon Washington. -- a lost opportunity

Some weeks after the secession of Virginia, Mr. Lincoln is said to have remarked that he “would soon get the wolf by the ears.” He probably meant in this figure of the backwoodsman that he would soon secure the two important passages into Virginia: that along the Orange and Alexandria and Central Railroads towards Richmond, and that along the water avenue of the James. [135]

On the 24th of May Alexandria was occupied by the Federals, the Virginia forces evacuating the town, and falling back towards Manassas Junction. The invasion was accomplished under the cover of night. It was attended by an incident which gave a lesson to the enemy of the spirit he was to encounter, and furnished the first instance of individual martyrdom in the war. On one of the hotels of the town, the Marshall House, there was a Confederate flag flying. The proprietor of the hotel, Mr. Jackson, captain of an artillery company in his town, had deliberately declared that under any circumstances he would defend that flag with his life, and had been deaf to the advice of his neighbours not to make his house, by this display, a sign for the enemy's attack. The flag could be seen from a window of the White House in Washington. As a company of Fire Zouaves, at the head of which was Col. Ellsworth, a protege of Mr. Lincoln, entered the town in the gray of the morning, their commander swore that he would have the flag as his especial prize. He was attended in his adventure by a squad of his men. Having found his way into the hotel, he got through a trap-door to its top, where he secured the obnoxious ensign; but descending the ladder he found facing him a single man in his shirt sleeves, with a double-barrel gun in his hands. “Here is my trophy,” exclaimed Ellsworth, displaying the flag on his arm. “And you are mine,” replied Jackson, as he quickly raised his gun, and discharged its contents into the breast of the exultant Federal. Another moment and the brave Virginian was stretched by the side of his antagonist a lifeless corpse; for one of Ellsworth's men had sped a bullet through his brain, and another had thrust a bayonet into his breast as he was in the act of falling.

In the low country of Virginia, in the vicinity of Fortress Monroe, an affair occurred on the 10th of June, which, though it is not to be ranked as a decisive engagement, was certainly a serious and well-timed check to the enemy in this direction. A Federal column, exceeding four thousand men, moved out from Fortress Monroe in the direction of Great Bethel, a church which stood about nine miles on the road leading south from Hampton. The position here had been entrenched by Gen. J. B. Magruder, who had in his command about eighteen hundred men. It was designed by the enemy to attack the Confederates in their front, while another portion of the column should cross the creek, which ran here, some distance below, and attempt to get into the Confederate work through a gorge which was supposed to be open. The attack in front was easily repulsed, as the Federals never dared to advance from the woods which obscured their position; and when the 1st North Carolina Regiment was ordered forward, the enemy actually broke before this small force got within sixty yards of their position. The column that had crossed the creek advanced with cheers, supposing that they had turned the Confedrate [136] position; but a volley of musketry put them to flight, and the officer who led them, Major Winthrop, was killed by the bullet of a North Carolina rifleman, as he in vain attempted to rally his men to the charge. The loss of the Confederates in this affair was one man killed and seven wounded; that of the enemy, by their own acknowledgment, was thirty killed and more than one hundred wounded. In the little experience of war on both sides the action of Bethel was rated as a famous battle, and was paraded through many columns of the newspapers. The contemporary estimate of its importance is ludicrous enough in the light of subsequent events, and in comparison with those monuments of carnage, which were hereafter to appear on the fields of Virginia.

The comparative pause of warlike excitement after the affair of Bethel, and the apparent lull of hostilities, while, in fact, both Governments were making active preparations for the contest, was marked by some interesting demonstrations of public opinion in the North. It might have been noticed in this time, that public attention in the North was measurably turned from military movements to the financial aspects of the war, and to the provisions which the Northern Congress was so soon to be called upon to make, in order to meet present exigencies. A considerable portion of the Northern press appeared to show the same diversion of attention; and their tone might have been noticed to have become decidedly more healthy and prudent in leaving for a time the grosser excitements of war to ponder the vital concerns of the debts, taxes, burdens, and losses consequent upon hostilities.

Some time ago, an ominous growl from Wall street had reached the car of the Government at Washington. The discontent had since slowly and steadily manifested itself. Combinations were spoken of among Northern capitalists to terminate the war; to grant no more loans or aids to the Government; and to overrule the programme of the politicians at Washington by the superiour power of their money and their commercial interest. The estimates of the Government had indeed become frightful. The cost of the war was rated at ten million dollars a week. Besides this, Congress was to be called upon to make a current annual appropriation for ordinary expenditures and interest on the debt, of at least one hundred and fifty millions of dollars, which indispensable estimate-however the war might be pushed for a time on credit — there could be no possible way of meeting unless by modes of direct taxation, in income taxes, excises, etc.

The Northern Government had the most serious reasons to distrust the Wall street combination, and to put itself out of the power of capitalists, who were plainly aggrieved by the prospect, that was now being steadily developed, of a long and expensive war. A Cabinet council was called, and Mr. Secretary Chase proposed a new plan of national loan. It was to make a direct appeal to the people to provide means for the [137] prosecution of the war. Outside of the Cabinet, at whose board the plan was reported to have been well received, it met with the most strenuous objections.

In these distresses and embarrassments of the Government, the bellicose elements of the North, resenting all prospects of peace, became more exacting than ever, and even accusatory of the authorities at Washington. The more violent New York papers demanded a vigorous military movement on the part of the Government before the meeting of Congress. They accused the Administration of supineness of policy and uncertainty of purpose; and they, even, did not hesitate to charge that the President and his Cabinet were conniving with “the rebels,” and had consented to become parties to a negotiation for peace. These heated and ungenerous expressions did not stop here. Personalities were freely indulged in. The President was vilely abused for not having recalled Mr. Harvey, the minister to Portugal, because he had corresponded with the South Carolina authorities during Mr. Buchanan's administration; and Gen. Scott, who was sacrificing for the Northern objects of the war, all that remained to him of the years and honours of a long life, was not spared from an atrocious libel charging him with having offered premiums to “treason” in procuring the restoration to the United States service and the promotion to a lieutenant-colonelcy of Major Emory, a Marylander, who had formerly resigned his command on the Indian frontier.

These dissatisfied utterances, although they may have been but little annoying, personally, to the Government, were significant of other most serious troubles to be apprehended in the conduct of the war. They gave evidence of a sentiment in the North, at once fanatical and formidable, resolved to push the war beyond the avowed objects of the Government, and to resist any termination of it short of the excision or abolition of slavery in the South. This sentiment had, in fact, already become clamorous and exacting. A war short of the abolition of slavery was denounced as a farce, and its mission of defending the Union was openly exchanged in the mouths of fanatics for that of achieving “the rights of humanity.”

In the mean time indications were obvious enough of the common intention of the belligerents to make the first great battles of the war in Virginia. Here was to open the first great chapter of Carnage — on a theatre at once wide and brilliant;--filled with the array of armies of two powerful peoples, which brought from their wealth and long seasons of prosperity all that could invest war with destructive power and dramatic display ;--occupying a territory noble and inspired in historical memories --the name of which, “Virginia,” had ever been a word of magic pride throughout the breadth and length of a continent ;--and engaging in the Issues of its imposing drama the liberties, or, at least, the independence of more than eight millions of men. [138]

On the lines of the Potomac, Gen. Scott had gathered one of the largest armies that had ever been seen in America. Nothing was left undone to complete its preparations; in numbers it was all that was desired; and it was provided with the best artillery in the world. All the regulars east of the Rocky Mountains, to the number of several thousand, collected since February, in the city of Washington, from Jefferson Barracks, from St. Louis, and from Fortress Monroe, were added to the immense force of volunteers that had been brought down to the lines of the Potomac. The following is the estimate of the force of this army at this time, obtained from official sources: Fifty-five regiments of volunteers, eight companies of regular infantry, four of marines, nine of regular cavalry, and twelve batteries, forty-nine guns. It was placed at the command of Gen. McDowell, who came to this important post of action with the reputation of the greatest and most scientific general in the North, but who was to run, indeed, a very short career of Yankee popularity.

On the Confederate side, preparations for the coming contest were quite as busy, if not so extensive. At the beginning of June, Gen. Beauregard was in consultation with President Davis and Gen. Lee, at Richmond, while, by means of couriers, they held frequent communication with Gen. Johnston, then in command near Harper's Ferry. The result was, that a military campaign was decided upon, embracing defensive operations in North Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, and the concentration of an army, under Beauregard, at the Manassas Gap railroad junction, and in the immediate locality. The position taken by Gen. Beauregard was one of great strength; and probably no better for defensive purpose could be found in the whole State of Virginia. It was about midway between the eastern spur of the Blue Ridge and the Potomac below Alexandria; the right wing stretched off towards the waters of the Occoquan through a wooded country; the left was a rolling table-land readily commanded from the successive elevations until it broke into a rough and intricate country that no army could pass without the greatest difficulty. The intervening country was commanded by Beauregard's army so perfectly that there was scarcely a possibility of its being turned. A small stream, called Bull Run, ran in this locality, nearly from west to east, to its confluence with the Occoquan River, about twelve miles from the Potomac, and draining a considerable scope of country, from its source in Bull Run Mountain, to within a short distance of the Potomac at Occoquan. At Mitchell's Ford, the stream was about equi-distant between Centreville and Manassas, some six miles apart. There were a number of other fords; but the banks of the stream were rocky and steep.

Gen. Beauregard was fresh from the glories of Sumter. A brief account of this man, who was, indeed, the central figure in the early period of the war, will be interesting here. He was now forty-five years [139] old. His family was of French extraction, and had settled in Louisiana in the reign of Louis XV. In 1838, he was graduated at West Point, taking the second honours in a class of forty-five. He entered the Mexican war as a lieutenant, obtained two brevets in it, the last that of major; and was subsequently placed by the Government in charge of the construction of some public buildings at New Orleans, as well as the fortifications on and near the mouth of the Mississippi. About the beginning of the year 1861, he was appointed superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point; but the appointment was revoked within forty-eight hours by President Buchanan, for the spiteful reason, as is alleged, that Senator Slidell of Louisiana, the brother-in-law of the nominee, had given offence by a secession speech at Washington. Subsequently, Major Beauregard resigned his commission in the service of the United States, and was appointed by Gov. Moore of Louisiana, Colonel of Engineers in the Provisional Army of the South; from which position, as we have seen, he was called by President Davis to the defence of Charleston.

Gen. Beauregard was singularly impassioned in defence of the cause which he served. He hated and despised “the Yankee;” and it must be confessed was the author of some silly letters in the early part of the war, deriding the power of the enemy. That the South would easily whip the North was his constant assertion, even if the first “had for arms only pitch-forks and flint-lock muskets.” Of the army which Gen. Scott was marshalling on the borders of Virginia, he wrote that the enemies of the South were “little more than an armed rabble, gathered together hastily on a false pretence, and for an unholy purpose, with an octogenarian at its head!”

Beauregard's personal appearance could scarcely escape notice. He1 was a small, brown, thin man, with features wearing a dead expression, and hair prematurely whitened. His manners were distinguished and severe, but not cold ; they forbade intimacy; they had the abruptness without the vivacity of the Frenchman; but they expressed no conceit, and were not repulsive. He had ardour, a ceaseless activity, and an indomitable power of will. His notions of chivalry were somewhat stilted, and he had fought his first battle with an interchange of courtesies that induced a Frenchman to exclaim in Paris: “Quelle idee chevalresque! On voit que vous avez profit, vous autres Americains, de l'exemple”

It is not to be wondered that Gen. Beauregard, with the eclat of the first victory of the war, and the attractions of a foreign name and manners, should have been the ladies' favourite among the early Southern generals. He was constantly receiving attentions from them, in letters, in flags, and in hundreds of pretty missives. His camp-table was often adorned with presents of rare flowers, which flanked his maps and plans, and a bouquet [140] frequently served him for a paper weight. There was perhaps a little tawdriness about these displays in a military camp; but Gen. Beauregard had too much force of character to be spoiled by hero-worship, or by that part of popular admiration, the most dangerous to men intent on great and grave purposes — the flattery and pursuit of women.

Beauregard's army in Northern Virginia was then known as the Army of the Potomac. In the latter part of July, its effective force was enumerated as 21,833 men and twenty-nine guns. But there was within reach of it the Army of the Shenandoah, numbering little less than nine thousand men.

This latter force was commanded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, a native of Virginia, who had distinguished himself in the Mexican war, and at the commencement of the present hostilities was at the head of the quartermaster's department in the United States Army with the rank of brigadier-general. Of the operations of his army in the Shenandoah Valley it is necessary to make a brief sketch, as these operations were a necessary part of the early campaign of the Potomac, and an obvious prelude to the great battle of the 21st July we are proceeding to relate.

In the latter part of May, Gen. Johnston assumed command of the Army of the Shenandoah, and, after a complete reconnoissance of Harper's Ferry and environs, he decided that the place was untenable, and, therefore, determined to withdraw his troops to Winchester. At this time Gen. Patterson was advancing, with a strong force, from Pennsylvania and Maryland into Virginia, and it was supposed that an attempt would be made by that general to form a junction in the Shenandoah Valley with Gen. McClellan, then advancing towards Winchester from the western parts of Virginia. To prevent this junction Gen. Johnston abandoned Harper's Ferry, on the 13th of June, after first burning the railroad bridge and such buildings as were likely to prove most useful to the enemy.

The Confederates retired to Winchester, but had scarcely arrived there when information was obtained that the Federals were still advancing; and Gen. Jackson-afterwards known as the immortal “StonewallJackson — with his brigade, was sent to the neighbourhood of Martinsburg, to aid Stuart's cavalry in destroying what they could of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad stock, and thus check the enemy's movements. On the 2d of July, however, Patterson succeeded in crossing the Potomac at Williamsport; the river being scarcely waist-deep there. Jackson fell back to Falling Waters, on the main road to Martinsburg, a running fire being kept up. A detachment of Federal troops was then sent forward to reconnoitre, and Jackson was encountered in a position where he had formed his men in line of battle, with four guns directly on the turnpike along which the enemy was advancing. For half an hour Jackson succeeded in maintaining his ground; but, at last, was compelled to fall back [141] slowly, and finally to retire, when about to be outflanked, scarcely losing a man, and bringing off forty-five prisoners.

Jackson having rejoined the main army under Johnston, at Winchester, Patterson fell back towards the river. The design of this Federal commander appears to have been little more than a series of feints to detain Johnston in the Valley of the Shenandoah, and to prevent the union of his forces with those of Beauregard, then strongly encamped on the plains of Manassas. But the design was transparent to Johnston, and, indeed, was turned upon the enemy, for the more skilfully executed feint movement of Johnston completely deceived the enemy to the last moment.

But while Johnston was thus keeping in check Patterson's column at the head of the Shenandoah Valley, an important event, and one of no little disaster to the Confederate cause, was to occur in Northwestern Virginia--as was designated that portion of the State beyond the western ridges of the Allegheny Mountains. It was designed by the Federal Government not only to secure this region, but to use it as a base from which to project columns of invasion into the Valley of Virginia and the rich counties of the Southwest.

The affair of Rich Mountain.

An army under Gen. George B. McClellan was to be used for this purpose. Its advanced regiments had already penetrated far in upon the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; had driven a small force from Philippi; had occupied that town and Grafton, and had pushed forward, by country roads, from Wheeling and the Ohio River to Buckhannon, in Upshur County. The movements of McClellan were now directed towards Beverley, with the object of getting to the rear of Gen. Garnett, who had been appointed to the command of the Confederate forces in Northwestern Virginia, and was occupying a strong position at Rich Mountain, in Randolph County.

But the unskilful distribution of the Confederate forces and their inadequate numbers contributed to the success of the enemy. The strength of Gen. Garnett's command was less than five thousand infantry, with ten pieces of artillery, and four companies of cavalry. The disposition of these forces was in the immediate vicinity of Rich Mountain. Col. Pegram occupied the mountain with a force of about sixteen hundred men and some pieces of artillery. On the slopes of Laurel Hill, Gen. Garnett was intrenched with a force of three thousand infantry, six pieces of artillery and three companies of cavalry.

The plans of the enemy promised a complete success. Gen. Rosecrans, with a Federal column of about three thousand men, was to gain, [142] by a difficult march through the mountain, Pegram's left and rear, while McClellan attacked in front with five thousand men, and a number of pieces of artillery. On the 11th of July, before daybreak, Rosecrans' column was in motion. The path up the mountain was rugged and perplexed beyond all expectation; the weather was uncertain; often heavy showers of rain poured down for hours, and when the clouds broke, the sun appeared and filled the air with heat. Through the laurel thickets, clambering up ravines, slipping from stones dislodged and earth moistened by the rain, the Federals toiled up the mountain. As they advanced through the forest, the Confederate artillery posted on the top of the mountain, opened upon them, but with little effect, as their lines were concealed by the trees and brushwood. After some sharp skirmishing, Rosecrans threw out his men on either flank, with the view of surrounding the small Confederate force. Finding himself with three thousand of the enemy in his rear, and five thousand in his front, Col. Pegram endeavored to escape with his command after a small loss in action. Six companies of infantry succeeded in escaping; the other part of the command was surrendered as prisoners of war.

As soon as Gen. Garnett heard of the result of the engagement at Rich Mountain, he determined to evacuate Laurel Hill, and retire to Huttonsville by the way of Beverley. But this plan was disconcerted by a failure to block the road from Rich Mountain to Beverley; and Gen. Garnett was compelled to retreat by a mountain road into Hardy County. The retreat was a painful one, and attended with great suffering; the pursuing enemy fell upon the rear of the distressed little army at every opportunity; and at one of the fords on Little Cheat River four companies of a Georgia regiment were cut off, and Gen. Garnett himself was killed by one of the enemy's sharpshooters.

The results of the engagements on the mountain and of the pursuit of the retreating army was not very considerable in killed and wounded-probably not a hundred on the side of the Confederates. But they had lost nearly all of their artillery, more than a thousand prisoners, and almost the entire baggage of the command, portions of which had been used in blocking the road against the enemy's artillery.

But this early disaster to the Confederate cause was soon to be more than retrieved on a broader and more interesting theatre, and by one of the most decisive and dramatic victories of the war; and to the direction of these important operations our narrative now takes us in the regular succession of events.

On the 18th of July, a despatch reached Gen. Johnston at Winchester, that the great Northern army was advancing on Manassas. He was immediately ordered to form a junction of his army with that of Beauregard, should the movement in his judgment be deemed advisable. [143]

The “Grand army,” as the Northern newspapers entitled it, was at last ready to move, and only after a period of impatience on the part of the Northern people, that was clamorous and insolent with the assurance of victory. “On to Richmond” had been the cry of Northern newspapers for weeks; extreme parties in the Federal Congress urged an immediate advance; and it was thought to be so easy an enterprise to press forward and plant the stars and stripes in the Capitol Square of Richmond, that men wondered why Gen. Scott, who directed the military movements from Washington, did not at once grasp the prize within his reach, complete his reputation, and despatch the war. At last it was given out in Washington that the Grand Army was ready to move; and that Richmond would be occupied probably in ten days. It was an occasion of peculiar hilarity, and the prospect of a triumphal entry of the Federal arms into Richmond was entertained with every variety of public joy. Politicians prepared carriage-loads of champagne for festal celebration of the victory that was to be won; tickets were printed and distributed for a grand ball in Richmond; a stream of visitors to the battle-field set out from Washington, thronged with gay women and strumpets going to attend “the Manassas Races;” and soon in the rear of McDowell's army was collected an indecent and bedizened rabble to watch the battle from afar. Such an exhibition of morbid curiosity or of exultant hate has seldom been witnessed in the history of the civilized world.

The battle of Manassas.

The great contest of arms was to be preceded by an affair which, however intended, proved of some importance. On the 18th of July, the enemy made a demonstration with artillery in front of Gen. Bonham's brigade, which held the approaches to Mitchell's Ford. Meanwhile, he was advancing in strong columns of infantry, with artillery and cavalry on .Blackburn's Ford, which was covered by Gen. Longstreet's brigade. Before advancing his infantry, the enemy maintained a fire of rifle artillery for half an hour; then he pushed forward a column of over three thousand infantry to the assault. Twice the enemy was foiled and driven back by the Confederate skirmishers and Longstreet's reserve companies. As he returned to the contest, Longstreet, who commanded only twelve hundred bayonets, had been reinforced with two regiments of infantry and two pieces of artillery. Unable to effect a passage of the stream, the enemy's fire of musketry was soon silenced, and the affair became one of artillery. Gradually his fire slackened, and his forces were drawn off in evident confusion. Sixty of his dead were found on the field. The Confederate casualties were unimportant-fifteen killed and fifty-three wounded. [144]

Whatever the significance of this affair-whether or not it was intended as a mere “reconnoissance in force,” according to the enemy's account — it was considered as a prelude to an important battle, and, in the artillery duel, which it had brought on, had given the Con federates great confidence in this unexpectedly brilliant arm of their service. Two days passed without any military event. But on the night of the 20th of July it was evident that the enemy was in motion. As the lights around Centreville seemed to die out about midnight, low murmuring noises reached the Confederate out-posts, as if large bodies of men were marching towards the Stone Bridge, where the extreme left of Beauregard's army rested. The bumping of heavy wagons and artillery was distinctly audible, and words of command could be faintly heard in the still night.

The sun of the 21st of July rose with more than usual splendour. It was a calm Sabbath morning. The measured sounds of artillery told that both armies were on the alert. Smoke curling away from the cannon's mouth rose slowly into the air; glistening masses of troops could be seen on the distant landscape, and far away in the west rose the dark outline of the Blue Ridge, which enclosed, as an amphitheatre, the woods and hollows, the streams and open spaces of Manassas Plain.

The night before the battle Gen. Beauregard had decided to take the offensive. Gen. Johnston had arrived during the day, but only with a portion of the Army of the Shenandoah; five thousand of his men having been detained on the railroad for want of transportation. It was determined that the two forces, less than thirty thousand effective men of all arms, should be united within the lines of Bull Run, and thence advance to the attack of the enemy, before Patterson's junction with McDowell, which was daily expected. But a battle was to ensue, different in place and circumstances from any previous plan on the Confederate side.

The Confederate army was divided into eight brigades, stretching for eight or ten miles along the defensive line of Bull Run. The right of the line was much stronger than the left, in position and numbers; the extreme left at Stone Bridge being held by Colonel Evans with only a regiment and battalion. It had been arranged by McDowell, the Federal commander, that the first division of his army, commanded by Gen. Tyler, should take position at Stone Bridge, and feign an attack upon that point, while the second and third divisions were, by routes unobserved by the Confederates, to cross the run, and thus effect a junction of three formidable divisions of the grand army, to be thrown upon a force scattered along the stream for eight miles, and so situated as to render a concerted movement on their part impracticable.

A little after sunrise the enemy opened a light cannonade upon Col [145] Evans' position at Stone Bridge. This continued for an hour, while the main body of the enemy was marching to cross Bull Run, some two miles above the Confederate left. Discovering, to his amazement, that the enemy had crossed the stream above him, Col. Evans fell back. As the masses of the enemy drew near, military science pronounced the day lost for the Confederates. They had been flanked by numbers apparently overwhelming. That usually fatal and terrible word in military parlance--“flanked” --may be repeated with emphasis.

It is true that Col. Evans, who had held the position at Stone Bridge, where the enemy's feint was made, had discovered the nature of that demonstration in time to form a new line of battle, as the main body of the enemy emerged from the “Big forest,” where it had worked its way along the tortuous, narrow track of a rarely-used road. But the column that crossed Bull Run numbered over sixteen thousand men of all arms. Col. Evans had eleven companies and two field-pieces. Gen. Bee, with some Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi troops, moved up to his support. The joint force was now about five regiments and six field-pieces. That thin line was all that stood between sixteen thousand Federals and victory. It is wonderful that this small force of Confederates should have, for the space of an hour, breasted the unremitting battle-storm, and maintained for that time odds almost incredible. But they did it. It was frequently said afterwards by military men in Richmond, that the Confederates had been whipped, but that the men, in the novelty of their experience of a battle-field, “did not know it.”

But at last the blended commands of Bee and Evans gave way before the surging masses of the enemy. The order for retreat was given by General Bee. The Confederates fell back sullenly. Their ranks were fast losing cohesion; but there was no disorder; and, at every step of their retreat, they stayed, by their hard skirmishing, the flanking columns of the enemy. There were more than five-fold odds against them. The enemy now caught the idea that he had won the day; the news of a victory was carried to the rear; the telegraph flashed it to all the cities in the North, and before noon threw Washington into exultations.

General Bee had a soldier's eye and recognition of the situation. The conviction shot through his heart that the day was lost. As he was pressed back in rear of the Robinson House, he found Gen. Jackson's brigade of five regiments ready to support him. It was the timely arrival of a man who, since that day, never failed to be on the front of a battle's crisis, and to seize the decisive moments that make victories. Gen. Bee rushed to the strange figure of the Virginia commander, who sat his horse like marble, only twisting his head in a high black stock, as he gave his orders with stern distinctness. “General,” he pathetically exclaimed, “they are beating us back.” “Then, [146] sir,” replied Jackson, “we'll give them the bayonet.” The words were as a new inspiration. Gen. Bee turned to his over-tasked troops, exclaiming, “There are Jackson and his Virginians standing like a stone-wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer.”

In the meantime, where were the Confederate Generals-Beauregard and Johnston? They were four miles away. Gen. Beauregard had become involved in a series of blunders and mishaps, such as had been seldom crowded into a single battle-field. In ignorance of the enemy's plan of attack, he had kept his army posted along Bull Run for more than eight miles, waiting for his wily adversary to develop his purpose to him. He had, at an early hour of the morning, determined to attack with his right wing and centre on the enemy's flank and rear at Centreville, with precautions against the advance of his reserves from the direction of Washington. Even after his left flank had been so terribly engaged, he supposed that this movement would relieve it; and in his official report of the action, he writes: “by such a movement, I confidently expected to achieve a complete victory for my country by 12 o'clock, ~M.”

It was half-past 10 in the morning, when Gen. Beauregard learned that his orders for an advance on Centreville had miscarried. He and Gen. Johnston had taken position on a commanding hill, about half a mile in the rear of Mitchell's Ford, to watch the movements of the enemy. While they were anxiously listening there for sounds of conflict from the Confederate front at Centreville, the battle was bursting and expending its fury upon their left flank. From the hill could be witnessed the grand diorama of the conflict. The roar of artillery reached there like protracted thunder. The whole valley was a boiling crater of dust and smoke. The enemy's design could be no longer in doubt; the violent firing on the left showed, at last, where the crisis of the battle was; and now immense clouds of dust plainly denoted the march of a large body of troops from the Federal centre.

Not a moment was now to be lost, It was instantly necessary to make new combinations, and these the most rapid, to meet the enemy on the field upon which he had chosen to give battle. It was evident that the left flank of the Confederates was being overpowered. Dashing on at a headlong gallop, Gens. Beauregard and Johnston reached the field of action, in the rear of the Robinson House, just as the commands of Bee and Evans had taken shelter in a wooded ravine, and Jackson's brigade had moved up to their left, to withstand the pressure of the enemy's attack. It was a thrilling moment. Gen. Johnston seized the colours of the 4th Alabama regiment, and offered to lead the attack. Gen. Beauregard leaped from his horse, and turning his face to his troops, exclaimed: “I have come here to die with you.” [147]

In the meantime the Confederate reserves were rapidly moving up to support the left flank. The movement of the right and centre, begun by Jones and Longstreet, was countermanded. Holmes' two regiments and a battery of artillery of six guns, Early's brigade and two regiments from Bonham's brigade, with Kemper's four six-pounders were ordered up to support the left flank. The battle was re-established ; but the aspect of affairs was yet desperate in the extreme. Confronting the enemy's attack Gen. Beauregard had as yet not more than sixty-five hundred infantry and artillerists, with but thirteen pieces of artillery, and two companies of cavalry. Gens. Ewell, Jones (D. R.), Longstreet and Bonham had been directed to make a demonstration to their several fronts, to retain and engross the enemy's reserves and forces on their flank, and at and around Centreville. Gen. Johnston had left the immediate conduct of the field to Beauregard, and had gone in the direction of the Lewis House, to urge reinforcements forward.

The battle was now to rage long and fiercely on the plateau designated by the two wooden houses — the Henry and Robinson House-which stood upon it. Gen. Beauregard determined to repossess himself of the position, and formed his line for an assault; his right rushed to the charge, while his centre, under Jackson, pierced that of the enemy. The plateau was won, together with several guns; but the enemy threw forward a heavy force of infantry, and again dispossessed the Confederates. It was evident that the latter were being slowly overpowered by the weight of numbers. A force, estimated at twenty thousand infantry, seven companies of cavalry, and twenty-four pieces of artillery were bearing hotly and confidently down on their position, while perilous and heavy reserves of infantry and artillery hung in the distance.

It was now about two o'clock in the afternoon. Fortunately the reinforcements pushed forward, and directed by Gen. Johnston to the required quarter, were at hand just as Gen. Beauregard had ordered forward a second effort for the recovery of the disputed plateau. The brigade of Holmes and another were put in the line. Additional pieces of artillery came dashing up, and a new inspiration seemed to be caught by the Confederates. The line swept grandly forward; shouts ran along it; and steadily it penetrated the fire of the enemy's artillery. The whole open ground was again swept clear of the enemy; but it was strewn with the evidences of a terrible carnage. Gen. Bee had fallen near the Henry House, mortally wounded. A little further on, Col. Bartow, of Georgia had fallen, shot through the heart-and one of the bravest and most promising spirits of the South was there quenched in blood. But the tide of fortune had changed; the plateau was now firmly in our possession; and the enemy, driven across the turnpike and into the woods, was visibly disorganized. [148]

But there were to be three stages in the battle of Manassas. We have already described two: the enemy's flank movement and momentary victory, and the contest for the plateau. The third was now to occur; and the enemy was to make his last attempt to retrieve the fortune of the day.

His broken line was rapidly rallied. He had re-formed to renew the battle, extending his right with a still wider sweep to turn the Confederate left. It was a grand spectacle, as this crescent outline of battle developed itself, and threw forward on the broad, gentle slopes of the ridge occupied by it clouds of skirmishers; while as far as the eye could reach, masses of infantry and carefully-preserved cavalry stretched through the woods and fields.

But while the Federals rallied their broken line, under shelter of fresh brigades, and prepared for the renewal of the struggle, telegraph signals from the hills warned Gen. Beauregard to “look out for the enemy's advance on the left.” At the distance of more than a mile, a column of men was approaching. At their head was a flag which could not be distinguished; and, even with the aid of a strong glass, Gen. Beauregard was unable to determine whether it was the Federal flag, or the Confederate flag — that of the Stripes or that of the Bars. “At this moment,” said Gen. Beauregard, in speaking afterwards of the occurrence, “I must confess my heart failed me. I came, reluctantly, to the conclusion that, after all our efforts, we should at last be compelled to leave to the enemy the hard-fought and bloody-field. I again took the glass to examine the flag of the approaching column; but my anxious inquiry was unproductive of result — I could not tell to which army the waving banner belonged. At this time all the members of my staff were absent, having been despatched with orders to various points. The only person with me was the gallant officer who has recently distinguished himself by a brilliant feat of arms-General, then Colonel, Evans. To him I communicated my doubts and my fears. I told him that I feared the approaching force was in reality Patterson's division; that, if such was the case, I would be compelled to fall back upon our reserves, and postpone, until the next day, a continuation of the engagement.”

Turning to Col. Evans, the anxious commander directed him to proceed to Gen. Johnston, and request him to have his reserves collected in readiness to support and protect a retreat. Col. Evans had proceeded but a little way. Both officers fixed one final, intense gaze upon the advancing flag. A happy gust of wind shook out its folds, and Gen. Beauregard recognized the Stars and Bars of the Confederate banner! At this moment an orderly came dashing forward. “Col. Evans,” exclaimed Beauregard, his face lighting up, “ride forward, and order General Kirby Smith to hurry up his command, and strike them on the flank and rear!” [149]

It was the arrival of Kirby Smith with a portion of Johnston's army left in the Shenandoah Valley, which had been anxiously expected during the day; and now cheer after cheer from regiment to regiment announced his welcome. As the train approached Manassas with some two thousand infantry, mainly of Elzey's brigade, Gen. Smith knew, by the sounds of firing, that a great struggle was in progress, and, having stopped the engine, he had formed his men, and was advancing rapidly through the fields. He was directed to move on the Federal left and centre. At the same time, Early's brigade, which had just come up, was ordered to throw itself upon the right flank of the enemy. The two movements were made almost simultaneously, while Gen. Beauregard himself led the charge in front. The combined attack was too much for the enemy. The fact was that his troops had already been demoralized by the former experiences of the day; and his last grand and formidable array broke and crumbled into pieces under the first pressure of the assault. A momentary resistance was made on a rising ground in the vicinity of what was known as the China House. As the battle surged here, it looked like an island around which flames were gathering in all directions. The enemy was appalled. He had no fresh troops to rely on; his cannon were being taken at every turn; lines were no sooner formed than the Confederates broke them again; they gave way from the long-contested hill; the day was now plainly and irretrievably lost.

As the enemy was forced over the ridge or narrow plateau, his former array scattered into flight, spreading each moment, until the fields were soon covered with the black swarms of flying soldiers. But into this general and confused rout a singular panic penetrated, as by a stroke of lightning, and rifted the flying army into masses of mad and screaming fugitives. As the retreat approached Cub Run bridge, a shot from Kemper's battery took effect upon the horses of a team that was crossing; the wagon was overturned in the centre of the bridge, and the passage obstructed; and at once, at this point of confusion, the Confederates commenced to play their artillery upon the train carriages and artillery wagons, reducing them to ruins. Hundreds of flying soldiers were involved in the common heap of destruction; they dashed down the hill in heedless and headlong confusion; the main passage of retreat was choked; and for miles the panic spread, flying teams and wagons confusing and dismembering every corps, while hosts of troops, all detached from their regiments, were mingled in one disorderly rout. Vehicles tumbled against each other; riderless horses gallopped at random; the roar of the flight was heard for miles through clouds of dust; and as the black volume of fugitives became denser, new terrours would seize it, which called for agonizing efforts at extrication, in which horses trampled on men, and great wheels of artillery crushed out the lives of those who fell beneath them. [150]

It was not only at Cub Run bridge that the retreat had been choked. Fugitive thousands rushed across Bull Run by the various fords, and horse, foot, artillery, wagons, and ambulances were entangled in inextricable confusion. Clouds of smoke and dust marked the roads of retreat, and rolled over the dark green landscape in the distance. Where the roads were blocked, some of the troops took to the fields and woods, throwing away their arms and accoutrements; and from the black mass of the rout might be seen now and then a darting line of figures in which panic-stricken men and riderless horses separated from the larger bodies, and fled wildly through the country. Even the sick and wounded were dragged from ambulances; red-legged Zouaves took their places; men in uniform mounted horses cut out of carts and wagons. Never was there such a heterogeneous crowd on a race-course. Soldiers, in every style of costume; ladies, who hat come with opera-glasses to survey the battle; members of Congress and governors of States, who had come with champagne and after-dinner speeches to celebrate a Federal victory; editors, special correspondents, telegraph operators, surgeons, paymasters, parsons --all were running for dear life-disordered, dusty, powder-blackened, screaming or breathless in the almost mortal agonies of terrour.

For three miles stretched this terrible diorama of rout and confusion, actually without the pursuit or pressure of any enemy upon it! The Confederates had not attempted an active pursuit. The only demonstration of the kind consisted of a dash by a few of Stuart's and Beckham's cavalry, in the first stages of the retreat, and a few discharges of artillery at Centreville, where the Confederates had taken a gun in position. The cry of “cavalry” was raised, when not a Confederate horseman was within miles of the panic-stricken fugitives, who did not abate their mad struggle to escape from themselves, or cease their screams of rage and fright, even after they had passed Centreville, and were heading for the waters of the distant Potomac.

Over this route of retreat, now thronged with scenes of horrour, there had passed in the morning of the same day a grand army, flushed with the hopes of victory, with unstained banners in the wind, and with gay trappings and bright bayonets glistening through the green forests of Virginia. A few hours later, and it returns an indescribable rout — a shapeless, morbid mass of bones, sinews, wood and iron, throwing off here and there its nebula of fugitives, or choking roads, bridges, and every avenue of retreat; halting, struggling, and thrilling with convulsions at each beat of artillery that sounded in the far distance, and told to the calm mind that the Confederates had rested on their victory.

It was not until the sight of the Potomac greeted the fugitives that their terrours were at all moderated. Even then they were not fully assured of safety, or entirely dispossessed of panic. At Alexandria, the [151] rush of troops upon the decks of the river boats nearly sunk them. At Washington the railroad depot had to be put under strong guard to keep off the fugitives, who struggled to get on the Northern trains. They were yet anxious to put a greater distance between themselves and the terrible army, whose vanguard, flushed with victory and intent upon planting its flag on the Northern capitol, they already imagined on the banks of the Potomac, within sight of their prize, and within reach of their revenge.

But the Confederates did not advance. The victorious army did not move out of the defensive lines of Bull Run. It is true, that within the limits of the battle-field, they had accomplished a great success and accumulated the visible fruits of a brilliant victory. They had not only defeated the Grand Army of the North, but they had dispersed and demoralized it to such an extent, as to put it, as it were, out of existence. With an entire loss in killed and wounded of 1,852 men, they had inflicted a loss upon the enemy which Gen. Beauregard estimated at 4,500, in killed, wounded, and prisoners; they had taken twenty-eight pieces of artillery and five thousand small arms; and they had captured nearly all of the enemy's colours. But the Confederates showed no capacity to understand the extent of their fortunes, or to use the unparalleled opportunities they had so bravely won. At any time within two weeks after the battle, Washington might have fallen into their hands, and been taken almost as an unresisting prey. Patterson had only ten thousand men before the battle. His army, like the greater part of McDowell's, was composed of three months men, who refused to re-enlist, and left for their homes in thousands. The formidable hosts that had been assembled at Washington were fast melting away, some slain, many wounded, more by desertion, and yet more by the ending of their terms of enlistment and their persistent refusal to re-enter the service. On the Maryland side, Washington was then very inadequately defended by fortifications. The Potomac was fordable above Washington, and a way open to Georgetown heights, along which an army might have advanced without a prospect of successful resistance. It needed but a march of little more than twenty miles to crown the victory of Manassas with the glorious prize of the enemy's capital.

But the South was to have its first and severest lesson of lost opportunity. For months its victorious and largest army was to remain inactive, pluming itself on past success, and giving to the North not only time to repair its loss, but to put nearly half a million of new men in the field, to fit out four extensive armadas, to open new theatres of the war, to perfect its “Anaconda plan,” and to surround the Confederacy with armies and navies whose operations extended from the Atlantic border to the western tributaries of the Mississippi.

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