Battle of Bull Run

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Battle of Bull Run: Virginia and the Civil War

Union Army Report for Battle of Bull Run

Bull Run, Va., Aug. 30, 1862. Army of Virginia and Army of the
Potomac. In this battle, known as the second Bull run, is included the
action at Gainesville late on the afternoon of the 28th, and the battle of
Groveton on the 29th. Gen. Pope's forces at this time consisted of the
Army of Virginia and the Army of the Potomac. The former was made
up of three corps: the 1st, commanded by Maj.-Gen. Franz Sigel, in-
cluded the divisions of Schcnck, Von Steinwehr and Schurz, the inde-
pendent brigade of Gen. Robert H. Milroy, and the cavalry brigade of
Col. John Beardsley. The 2nd corps, under the command of Maj.-Gen.
N. P. Banks, was composed of the divisions of Williams and Greene,
and the cavalry brigade of Gen. John Buford. The 3d corps, commanded
by Maj.-Gen. Irvin McDowell, consisted of the two divisions of King
and Ricketts, the cavalry brigade of Gen. George D. Bayard, and the re-
serve corps under Brig.-Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis. Reynolds' division
was temporarily attached to this corps. In the Army of the Potomac
there were also three corps, the 3d, 5th and 9th. The 3d was com-
manded by Maj.-Gen. S. P. Heintzelman and consisted of the divisions of
Kearny and Hooker. The 5th was commanded by Maj.-Gen. Fitz John
Porter and embraced the divisions of Morell and Sykes. The 9th corps,
commanded by Maj.-Gen. Jesse L. Reno, included two divisions, the 1st
commanded by Maj.-Gen. Isaac Stevens, and the 2nd by Reno in person.
With this corps was also the 1st provisional brigade of the Kanawha divi-
sion, commanded by Col. E. P. Scammon. The 1st brigade, 1st division
of the 6th corps, Brig.-Gen. George W. Taylor, was engaged at Bull
run bridge toward the close of the battle, and there were some unat-
tached organizations.

The Confederate forces — known as the Army of Northern Virginia —
were under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and consisted of the
right and left wings. The former, commanded by Maj. Gen. James Long-
street, included the divisions of Anderson, D. R. Jones, Wilcox, Hood
and Kemper. The left wing, commanded by Maj.-Gen. Thomas J. Jack-
son, was composed of the divisions of Taliaferro, A. P. Hill, Ewell, and
the cavalry division of Stuart. Authorities differ as to the strength of the
two armies, but it is probable that Pope had about 63,000 men of all arms
and Lee 54.000.

By Stuart's dash upon Pope's headquarters at Catlett's station on the
night of Aug. 22, the despatch book of the Federal commander fell into
the hands of Lee, who learned from it the position and approximate
strength of the Union forces in his front, and determined to send part of
his army to the right and rear of Pope, with a view to capturing or de-
stroying his command, which was then in the vicinity of Rappahannock
Station at the point where the Orange & Alexandria railroad crosses the
Rappahannock river. On the 25th Jackson was sent via Thoroughfare gap
to strike Pope in the rear, while Longstreet kept up a show of force in
front. The next day the latter took up his march to join Jackson, and
Pope got wind of the movement. At sunset on the 26th his forces were
somewhat scattered. Reno, Kearny and Hooker were at Warrenton
Junction ; Sigel was at Warrenton ; McDowell was confronting Longstreet
at Waterloo bridge ; Banks was at Fayetteville ; Sykes" was south of Beale-
ton, and Morell was at Kelly's ford, below Rappahannock Station. Or-
ders were sent to the different commands to move toward Gainesville and
Manassas Junction, with a view to concentration. Jackson had by this
time gained the Federal rear and occupied the road from Gainesville to
Bristoe Station. Shortly after midnight Stuart's cavalry assaulted the
Union garrison at the junction and captured the place, together with the
commissary and quartermaster stores collected there. About 7 a. m. on
the 28th Taylor's brigade of the 6th corps came up from Alexandria and
made a gallant effort to recapture the stores. In the skirmish Taylor was
mortally wounded. Jackson was now in imminent danger of capture or
annihilation. In one respect, however, he had the advantage of his op-
ponent. He was aware of the positions of the various detachments of
the Union forces, and could at least hazard a shrewd guess at Pope's in-
tentions, while the latter was puzzled as to what Jackson might do. The
general opinion of the Federal officers seems to have been that Jackson
would move to the southward, fall on the wagon trains under Banks, then
near Warrenton Junction, and join Longstreet near Warrenton. To
unite with Longstreet was of paramount importance, and in order to do this
Jackson resolved to move northward to the old battle-field of 13 months
before, where he was well acquainted with the ground, and secure a strong
position where he could hold out until Longstreet's arrival. Accordingly
on the night of the 27th Taliaferro moved by the Sudley road and at day-
light on the 28th was north of the Warrenton pike. At i a. m. on the
28th A. P. Hill moved to Centerville, and at 10 o'clock joined Taliaferro.
Ewell crossed Bull run at Blackburn's ford, proceeded up the east side of
the stream to the stone bridge, where he recrossed and by noon the whole
command was together.

When Jackson began this movement McDowell and Sigel were in the
neighborhood of Gainesville, directly between the two wings of the Con-
federate army. As an evidence that Pope had no intimation of Jackson's
purpose, he sent an order to McDowell at 9 p. m. on the 27th to move
at daylight the next morning for Manassas. In this report he said:
"If you will move promptly and rapidly at the earliest dawn of day
upon Manassas Junction we shall bag the whole crowd." This order
caused McDowell and Sigel to waste the greater part of the 28th in a
useless march to Manassas under the impression that Jackson would
wait there to be surrounded. McDowell appears to have had better judg-
ment than Pope, for in his report he says: "I varied from your
orders to march with 'my whole force' only so far as concerned Gen.
Ricketts' division and the cavalry of Buford and Bayard. Knowing
that Longstreet would be coming through Thoroughfare, I sent early
in the morning Col. Wyndham's 1st New Jersey regiment of cavalry
to the gap, and sent up other cavalry as fast as I could get hold of
it, and on receiving word the enemy was coming through I detached
Ricketts' division to hold him in check. This departure from your
orders to move with 'my whole force' on Manassas I felt called upon
to make to carry out the spirit of your plan of crushing the enemy
at that place before his reinforcements, of whose position I had just
received positive intelligence, could join, as those reinforcements, I
thought, could be better held in check at the gap than this side
of it."

Before his advance reached Manassas, McDowell received another
despatch from headquarters, stating that the enemy was east of Bull
run, and directing him to march his command toward that place.
King's division, which had formed the rear in the march of the fore-
noon, now became the advance. As this division was marching east
on the Warrenton pike about 5 p. m. Jackson, thinking the Union
army was in retreat, sent Taliaferro's division and two brigades of
Ewell's against King. The latter met the attack bravely by throwing
forward a strong skirmish line, supported by the infantry in force,
while the batteries were placed where they could enfilade those of the
enemy, compelling them to change their position. For over two hours
the two lines doggedly held on amidst an incessant fire of artillery
and musketry, after which the fight waned somewhat, but was contin-
ued until 9 p. m., when the enemy retreated from the field. About
the time that this action commenced Jackson sent a body of cavalry
down the Sudley road, to harass the rear of a retreating army as he
thought, and this detachment ran into Sigel's troops marching north-
ward to strike the pike. Here another sharp skirmish ensued in
which the Federals were victorious. These two affairs are known as
the battle of Gainesville. Reynolds, hearing the firing, from his posi-
tion near Bethlehem Church, at once put his troops in motion and
late in the evening encamped near Sigel, about a mile from Groveton.
King took steps to hold his position, but late that night he learned
that Ricketts, who had checked Longstrcet at Thoroughfare gap, was
falling back toward Gainesville to avoid being cut off by a flank move-
ment through Hopewell gap, and after consulting his brigade com-
manders decided to fall back to Manassas. At 1 a. m. on the 29th
Ricketts also fell back toward Manassas, moving via Bristoe Station.

At daylight on the 29th Reynolds occupied a position on the south
side of the Warrenton pike near Groveton. Sigel's corps lay farther
east, near the crossing of the Sudley road. Reno and Heintzelman
were farther east, toward Centerville, while McDowell and Porter
were near Manassas Junction. Jackson occupied the ridge north of
the pike, behind the line of the unfinished railroad, his left resting on
Catharpin run near Sudley springs, and his right on the heights not far
from Groveton. Pope proceeded on the theory that, because Jackson
had left Manassas so suddenly, the enemy was retreating, and pre-
pared to strike with his whole force. McDowell and Porter were
ordered to move toward Gainesville early on the 29th in order to gain
the Confederate rear; Sigel was to attack the enemy's right, and Reno
and Heintzelman were to move forward and engage him in front.
Sigel carried out his part of the program and opened the battle of
Groveton by a vigorous attack about 6 a. m. The batteries began
shelling the woods and under cover of this artillery fire Schurz and
Milroy advanced, the enemy falling back to the embankment formed
by the railroad cut, where a fierce conflict ensued. The Federals
charged the embankment twice, but each time were repulsed. The
Confederates then sallied out in pursuit, but were checked by the fire
from the Union batteries. Meantime Reynolds had pushed Meade's
brigade across the pike in an effort to turn the enemy's right, but the
movement failed because Schenck, who was supporting it, was com-
pelled to withdraw Stahel's brigade and send it to the assistance of
Milroy. In the advance on the railroad a gap was left between Schurz
and Milroy. This was closed by the latter, but at the expense of
weakening his line. Seeing this the Confederates made a vicious
charge against Schurz and succeeded in breaking his line. The men
were rallied without difficulty, however, the enemy driven back to the
railroad, Schimmelfennig's brigade gaining possession of a part of the
embankment and holding it against repeated assaults until relieved by
fresh troops in the afternoon. A little while before noon the divisions
of Hooker, Kearny, Reno and Stevens arrived on the field. Some of
the troops belonging to these commands were used to relieve those
who had been engaged all morning, but aside from some skirmishing
and artillery firing there was no more aggressive action until about 4 p. m..
Pope deciding to wait for McDowell and Porter to come up.

These two officers, pursuant to Pope's order of the preceding even-
ing, moved at an early hour on the Gainesville road. At 11:30 the
advance was at Hawkins' branch, about 2 miles northwest of Beth-
lehem Church, where the enemy was encountered. This proved to be
a portion of Longstreet's corps. Skirmishers were thrown forward
across the branch and a few shots exchanged, but a general engage-
ment at this point was not desirable. King's division, then near the
church, was ordered to march up the Sudley road and join Reynolds,
Ricketts being directed to move in the same direction soon afterward.
Later McDowell advised Porter to attack the enemy in front, while
with his own command he would move up the Sudley road and join
the forces there on the left. Porter assumed that he was to wait until
he heard from McDowell before beginning the attack and remained
idle all the afternoon. This conduct on his part was made the sub-
ject of a court of inquiry. Late in the day Pope ordered Heintzelman
to attack simultaneously at two points on the enemy's line. Heintzel-
man sent in Hooker's and Kearny's divisions, the former against the
center of the line and the latter farther to the right against Hill's
division. Grover's brigade led the assault made by Hooker and the
charge has been described as "one of the most gallant and determined
of the war." With loaded pieces and fixed bayonets they advanced
slowly until the enemy's fire was drawn, when they fired a volley
and rushed forward to carry the position with the bayonet. The rail-
road embankment was carried in a desperate hand-to-hand conflict
in which bayonets and clubbed muskets were the principal weapons.
The center of Jackson's line was broken by this terrific onslaught,
but Grover was not supported and the advantage thus gained was
of short duration as the Confederates came rushing into the breach,
forcing Grover to retire. Kearny's attack was delayed until after
Grover's repulse and was made with the same bravery and determina-
tion. It was successful at first and for a short time it looked as
though Jackson's left had been turned. Gregg's brigade of Hill's
division held on with the bayonet until the brigades of Lawton and
Early could come to his relief, and these reinforcements drove Kearny

On the march up the Sudley road King was suddenly taken ill
and the command of the division fell on Brig.-Gen. John P. Hatch,
who arrived on the field, accompanied by McDowell, between 5 and
6 p. m. At that moment the Confederates could be seen readjusting
their line and the impression was gained by the Union generals that
they were retreating. Hatch was ordered along the pike toward
Groveton to convert the retreat into a rout if possible. Hatch made
a dashing assault on what he believed to be the retreating army of
Jackson, and encountered Hood and Evans of Longstreet's command
advancing to meet him. After a sharp action of nearly an hour
Hatch was compelled to fall back, leaving one piece of artillery in
the hands of the enemy. About the same time Reynolds undertook
to renew the attack on the extreme left, but was repulsed by the
severe artillery fire of the Confederates and withdrew. The battle
of Groveton was over.

Not until the repulse of Hatch by Hood and Evans did Pope know
that Longstreet had joined Jackson. Even then he was inclined to
believe that only a small portion of the Confederate right wing had
reached the scene of action. Porter arrived at headquarters early on
the morning of the 30th and tried to convince the commanding
general that all of Longstreet's forces had been on the field since
noon of the preceding day. This statement Pope regarded as an ex-
cuse on the part of Porter for not obeying orders, and, although it
was corroborated by other officers, he still clung to his cherished
opinion that Longstreet had not come up. The battle of the 29th
he considered a great victory, and sent a despatch to that effect to
Gen. Halleck at 5 a. m. on the 30th. Flushed with this notion of
victory, and believing the Confederates to be in full retreat, he re-
solved to continue on the offensive. Accordingly, at noon on Satur-
day, the 30th, he issued the following order:

"The following forces will be immediately thrown forward in pur-
suit of the enemy, and press him vigorously during the whole day.
Maj.-Gen. McDowell is assigned to the command of the pursuit.
Maj.-Gen. Porter's corps will push forward on the Warrenton turn-
pike, followed by the divisions of Brig.-Gens. King and Reynolds.
The division of Brig.-Gen. Rickctts will pursue the Haymarket road,
followed by the corps of Maj.-Gen. Heintzelman; the necessary cavalry
will be assigned to these columns by Maj.-Gen. McDowell, to whom regu-
lar and frequent reports will be made. The General Headquarters will be
somewhere on the Warrenton turnpike."

Jackson still held his position along the line of the unfinished rail-
road. To reach the Haymarket road in his rear Ricketts must march
some 5 miles via Sudley springs. Had Jackson been inclined to re-
treat by that route he could have struck the road far in advance of
Ricketts before that officer could have reached a point to intercept
him. But Jackson had no intention of retreating. He knew that
Longstreet, during the night, had moved forward to a position south
of the Warrenton pike, from which he could call reinforcements if
it became necessary. Hood lay across the pike a short distance
west of Groveton, ready to move to the assistance of the right or
left, or to hold in check any movement down the pike toward Gaines-
ville. Behind him were Wilcox and Anderson. D. R. Jones and
Kemper lay farther south, extending the line almost to the Manassas
Gap railroad. This part of the line was effectually concealed by the
woods and its existence was unknown to the Union officers. The
engagement was opened by a fierce artillery fire and Porter pushed
forward Morell's division, supported by Sykes, against Jackson's line,
under the impression that the Confederates were in retreat. Farther
to the right Hatch made a determined assault on the embankment,
receiving a slight wound as he led his command to the charge.
Both attacks were gallantly made and Jackson was so sorely pressed
that he sent for reinforcements to Lee, who ordered Longstreet to
send the required aid. But Longstreet knew that reinforcements
were unnecessary. He had planted his batteries in a position to
enfilade the Federal lines as they advanced, and now opened fire.
In less than ten minutes the Union troops were compelled to retire,
suffering heavy losses. A large part of the forces of Reno, Heintzel-
man and Ricketts were thrown against Jackson, but all failed to ac-
complish any permanent advantage. To advance against a sheltered
foe, while at the same time subjected to an enfilading fire of artillery,
was too great an undertaking.

Meantime Reynolds, to whom had been assigned the duty of
guarding the left against a flank movement, had discovered Jones
and Kemper advancing from that direction and reported it to head-
quarters. He was first ordered to form his division to resist an
attack, but was later directed to cross the pike and support Porter.
This gave Longstreet the opportunity, of which he was not slow to
avail himself, to strike the assailants on the left flank, and he
hurriedly massed his unemployed forces south of the pike for that
purpose. Sykes sent Warren's brigade to hold the movement in
check, but it was swept aside by overwhelming numbers. All thought
of "pursuit" was now abandoned by the Union commanders and the
struggle became one for the possession of the pike. Longstreet
advanced his whole line with a rush. Hood in advance supported
by Evans, while Kemper, Jones and Anderson swung farther to the
Confederate right until the line extended east of the Sudley road.
West of this road was an eminence known as Bald hill, and on the
east side of it, near the Henry house, was another elevation. Both
had been occupied by the Federal batteries early in the morning, and
these guns now did effective service in checking the impetuous ad-
vance of the enemy. The possession of these two hills was now the
key to the situation. Sigel was hurried to the support of the batteries;
two brigades of Ricketts' division under Gen. Tower and two more
batteries were also sent forward to Bald hill, and two brigades of
Sykes' division to the Henry hill, where they were soon afterward
reinforced by heavy detachments from the commands of Reynolds
and Meade. The battle was thus transferred to the south side of the
pike, and the Federal army suddenly thrown on the defensive.

Jackson, as soon as he saw that Longstreet's advance was likely
to be a success, sallied out of his works and advanced toward the
pike, but was met and turned back by Reno and Heintzelman. The
fight now centered around Bald hill. McLean's brigade of Schenck's
division was sent to the support of the troops there engaged in a
stubborn defense, and held the hill against several attacks from dif-
ferent directions. Schenck was severely wounded while bringing up
reinforcements. Schurz' division was then sent in and for a time held
the Confederates back. In the fight here Gen. Tower was wounded
and Col. Fletcher Webster, a son of Daniel Webster, was killed while
leading his regiment, the 12th Mass., into action. Longstreet massed
his forces for a final assault and by main force of superior numbers
carried the hill, but not without paying a severe penalty in killed
and wounded.

At the Henry hill a similar scene was being enacted. Here
Sykes' regulars stood in readiness to receive the onset. The two
brigades were commanded by Buchanan and Chapman, veterans of
the Mexican war, who had stood together at Molino del Rey. Behind
them were all the troops it was possible to bring to their support,
as this was the last stand that could be made west of Bull run.
If it were lost the Union army was doomed to utter defeat. Already
most of the troops were falling back toward the stone bridge, and
the possession of Henry hill was absolutely necessary to cover
the retreat. The Confederates had exhausted most of their energies
in the capture of Bald hill, but they charged Sykes with a show of
courage and enthusiasm only to be repulsed with severe loss. Again
they advanced and again the invincible line of regulars stood the
shock. Before the third attack could be made darkness fell with the
hill still in the hands of the Unionists. During the night the rem-
nant of the army fell back to Centerville.

The losses of the Union army from the 25th to the 30th, including
the engagements at Bristoe Station, Gainesville, Groveton and Bull
run. amounted to 1,747 killed, 8,452 wounded and 4,263 captured or
missing. Lee claims to have captured 7,000 prisoners and 30 pieces
of artillery, but the facts do not bear out the statement. The reports
regarding the Confederate loss are somewhat conflicting. Taking the
figures of the different division and brigade commanders they had,
in the battles of the 28th to 30th, inclusive, 1,553 killed, 7,812 wounded
and 109 missing. The probabilities are that the losses on both sides
have been understated.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 5


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