Tag Archives: Bull Run

The Battle of Chantilly

September 1, 1862 – A vicious fight in driving rain ended the Second Bull Run campaign with Major General John Pope’s Federal Army of Virginia still intact but thoroughly defeated by General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

On the early morning of September 1, Pope telegraphed General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, indicating a loss of confidence following his recent defeats:

“My men are resting; they need it much… I shall attack again tomorrow if I can; the next day certainly. I think it my duty to call to your attention to the unsoldierly and dangerous conduct of many brigade and some division commanders of the forces sent here from the Peninsula. Every word and act and intention is discouraging, and calculated to break down the spirits of the men and produce disaster. My advice to you–I give it with freedom, as I know you will not misunderstand it–is that, in view of any satisfactory results, you draw back this army to the intrenchments in front of Washington, and set to work in that secure place to reorganize and rearrange it. You may avoid great disaster by doing so.”

That day, Confederate Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson resumed his attempt to move north around Pope’s right flank. As Pope continued withdrawing from Centreville to Fairfax Court House, Federal cavalry detected Jackson’s movement. Pope deployed a force to stop Jackson and cover the Federal retreat. The force consisted of Major General Philip Kearny’s division of III Corps and a division of IX Corps led by Brigadier General Isaac I. Stevens.

Jackson advanced on the muddy Little River Turnpike and stopped at a plantation called Chantilly to wait for Major General James Longstreet’s Confederates to catch up. Two hours later, Jackson’s 15,000 men began climbing Ox Hill and approaching Stevens’s 6,000 Federals. Jackson deployed his three divisions south of the turnpike, and as a violent thunderstorm erupted, the Confederates charged.

Fighting raged back and forth along Ox Hill near Germantown, with the hard rain adding to the general confusion. The Federals repelled the attacks, but Stevens was shot dead while rallying his 79th New York Highlanders. Kearny’s division arrived as reinforcements, with Kearny taking command after Stevens’s death. While personally inspected the enemy lines, he unknowingly rode into a group of enemy skirmishers. They shot him dead after he refused to surrender.

“Kearny’s Charge, Battle of Chantilly” by Augustus Tholey, published by John Smith. From the Library of Congress. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

The Federals held their ground against the ferocious Confederate attacks until nightfall. In the dark, the Federals withdrew to rejoin Pope’s main force. They left Kearny’s body on the field, which the Confederates later returned under a flag of truce. Federals mourned the loss of Kearny, who had been one of the army’s most respected commanders. Stevens had also been well-respected; he was posthumously promoted to major general of volunteers.

Pope received orders from Halleck: “You will bring your forces as best you can within or near the line of fortification.” The Federals escaped from Centreville and retreated to Fairfax Court House, some 20 miles from Washington.

Lee received word that Pope had been reinforced and decided not to pursue any further. The storm may have saved Jackson from defeat because it prevented Pope from deploying reinforcements. The Federals lost some 1,300 men in this fight, and the Confederates lost about 800.

The Confederates advanced to Centreville on the 2nd, only to find it abandoned as Pope continued withdrawing from Fairfax Court House on the road to Alexandria and Washington. The Federals positioned themselves the defenses constructed by Major General George B. McClellan almost a year ago. This ensured that Washington would stay safe, even though the Confederates were now closer to the capital than they had ever been before.

This ended the Second Bull Run campaign much like the first–in embarrassing Federal defeat. From August 27 to September 2, the Federals sustained 16,054 casualties (1,724 killed, 8,372 wounded, and 5,958 missing) from about 75,000 effectives. The Confederates lost 9,197 (1,481 killed, 7,627 wounded, and 89 missing) out of some 48,500.

This campaign was one of the Confederacy’s greatest military victories. Three months ago, the Federals were within striking distance of Richmond, but now momentum had completely shifted and the Confederates were within striking distance of Washington. This secured the status of Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson as national heroes, and it enabled the Confederates to shift the eastern focus of the war from Richmond to Washington.

For the Federals, the defeat prompted charges and countercharges of dereliction of duty. Some blamed Pope for mishandling the battle. Some blamed McClellan for failing to hurry reinforcements from his army to Pope. Some blamed Halleck for failing to coordinate the two men’s armies. Some went straight to the top and blamed President Abraham Lincoln. There was enough blame to go around.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 84; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 49-55; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17251-69; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 208; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 643-45; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 202; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4565; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 64; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 257-60; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 717-18; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 531-32; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 469-70; Sabine, David B., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 408-09; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 787-88; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 167; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 94-95, 129-30

The Battle of Second Bull Run: Pope’s Retreat

August 31, 1862 – The Second Bull Run campaign ended with a two-day fight in which the Confederates proved unable to destroy Major General John Pope’s retreating Army of Virginia.

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Pope gathered the remnants of his army on the heights at Centreville on the 31st. Confederate General Robert E. Lee opted not to pursue immediately because his men needed rest after two weeks of hard marching and three days of heavy fighting. Although Pope now had a day’s jump on Lee and 20,000 reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac, he informed General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck that morning:

“Our troops are… much used-up and worn-out (after fighting) as desperate a fight as I can force our men to stand up to… I should like to know whether you feel secure about Washington should this army be destroyed. I shall fight it as long as a man will stand up to the work. You must judge what is to be done, having in view the safety of the capital.”

Pope then called a council of war, something he had long resisted. After discussing their options, the corps commanders recommended falling back further into the Washington defenses. Capital residents began panicking as rumors spread that the Confederate army was about to put Washington under siege. This was a dramatic turn of events from three months ago, when the Federals were within six miles of the Confederate capital of Richmond.

Meanwhile, Lee looked to repeat his latest success by sending Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates on another march around Pope’s right. Major General James Longstreet’s men would once again demonstrate against Pope’s front while Jackson crossed Bull Run and moved around Centreville to cut Pope’s line of retreat to Washington. Pope anticipated this and notified Halleck, “The plan of the enemy will undoubtedly be to turn my flank. If he does so, he will have his hands full.”

Lee suffered an injury while studying a map. As Lee stood beside his horse Traveller, a gust of wind blew the map into the horse’s face, prompting him to rear. Lee fell when he tried grabbing the bridle, breaking one hand and spraining the other. Doctors put splints on both of Lee’s hands, rendering him unable to mount his horse.

Jackson’s Confederates headed out, led by Major General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry. Jackson hoped to seize the important village of Germantown, where Pope’s only two routes to Washington–the Warrenton and Little River turnpikes–converged. However, the Confederate advance proved ineffective because of fatigue. The men slowly crossed Bull Run at Sudley Ford and then moved down the Little River Turnpike, but rain fell that night and turned the road to mud, slowing the advance even further.

The Confederate wing under Longstreet followed Jackson, but his men had not yet crossed Bull Run by nightfall. Stuart’s cavalry harassed Pope’s flank but caused no real damage. Also during this time, Federal forces abandoned their positions on the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, leaving behind enormous amounts of supplies.

Skirmishing occurred at various points, but the Confederates had been unable to cut Pope off as Lee had hoped. Pope received word that Jackson’s Confederates were heading east toward Fairfax Court House, and he informed Halleck:

“This movement turns Centreville and interposes between us and Washington, and will force me to attack his advance, which I shall do as soon as his movement is sufficiently developed. I hope you will make all preparations to make a vigorous defense of the intrenchments around Washington.”

Pope dispatched a portion of IX Corps under Brigadier General Isaac I. Stevens to form a rear guard to stop Jackson and cover the Federal retreat out of Centreville. That night, Jackson’s Confederates stopped along the Little River Turnpike in Pleasant Valley. Having marched ahead of their supply train, the men bivouacked without food.

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 13; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 49-55; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 208; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 643; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 201; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4553-65; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 258-59; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 167; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 94-95, 129-30

The End of 1861

December 31, 1861 – The year closed with southerners optimistic about gaining independence and northerners pessimistic about preserving the Union.

Union Flag | Image Credit: etseq.law.harvard.edu

Union Flag | Image Credit: etseq.law.harvard.edu

Confederate prospects were promising going into 1862. They had won impressive military victories at Big Bethel, Bull Run, Lexington, Wilson’s Creek, and Ball’s Bluff. Independence seemed likely, as the correspondent for the London Times reported from Washington that “the Union is broken for ever, and the independence of the South virtually established.”

For the Federals, they had won significant naval victories, capturing Hatteras Inlet, Ship Island, and Port Royal. They had also won minor land victories at Philippi and, more recently, Dranesville. They controlled western Virginia and were dominant in Kentucky and Missouri. Their blockade was also growing stronger, and they were beginning to drain labor from the South by confiscating slaves.

The 1st Confederate National Flag | Image Credit: RussellHarrison.com

The 1st Confederate National Flag | Image Credit: RussellHarrison.com

However, a supposed diplomatic victory turned into a setback of sorts in the Trent affair. The Federal armies, though numerically superior to their adversaries, remained stagnant in all theaters of operation, with General-in-Chief George B. McClellan seriously ill with typhoid and unable to command.

Perhaps most importantly, the U.S. was facing a financial crisis, as many northern banks suspended specie payments. The war cost northerners an exorbitant sum with no results to justify such a high amount. For this reason alone, prospects for the Federals seemed dim going into next year.

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., Forward to Richmond: McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 64-65; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 367

Davis Deals with Critical Commanders

August 4, 1861 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis responded to allegations made by Major General P.G.T. Beauregard, who joined with Major General Joseph E. Johnston in criticizing Davis’s administration.

President Jefferson Davis and Gens J.E. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

President Jefferson Davis and Gens J.E. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

By this month, Davis began experiencing dissension among his two top commanders at Manassas. Davis hoped that the Confederate Army of the Potomac would maintain the strategic initiative by resuming the offensive after the Battle of Bull Run, but Johnston, the army’s ranking officer, cited a lack of supplies as a reason not to advance. Davis wrote to Johnston on the 1st:

“We are anxiously looking for the official reports of the battle of Manassas, and have present need to know what supplies and wagons were captured. I wish you would have prepared a statement of your wants in transportation and supplies of all kinds, to put your army on a proper footing for active operations…”

Davis urged Johnston to “be prompt to avail ourselves of the weakness resulting” from plummeting Federal morale due to their defeat last month.

That same day, a letter was read to the Confederate Congress from Beauregard arguing that “want of food and transportation has made us lose all the fruits of our victory. We ought to, at this moment, be in or about Washington… From all accounts, Washington could have been taken up to the 24th instant, by 20,000 men!” The press quickly published this letter in various newspapers, and taking the hero of both Fort Sumter and Bull Run at his word, most southerners put the blame on Davis for failing to adequately care for the troops.

Davis testified before Congress and asserted that the Commissary Department was working as well as it could with its limited resources, and that Beauregard’s letter may have exaggerated the issue. Davis acknowledged that Beauregard had informed him the week before that some regiments had no food, but Davis had shared a report with him from Colonel Lee at the Commissary stating that local citizens were making up the ration shortages by donating food. Davis conceded that if the army lacked rations, “the neglect of the subsistence department demands investigation and proper correction.”

Three days after Beauregard’s letter was read to Congress, Davis wrote a letter assuring him that the government was doing all it could to meet the army’s needs. Davis then stated:

“I think you are unjust to yourself in putting your failure to pursue the enemy to Washington to the account of short supplies of subsistence and transportation. Under the circumstances of our army, and in the absence of the knowledge since acquired, if indeed the statements be true, it would have been extremely hazardous to have done more than was performed… Enough was done for glory, and the measure of duty was full; let us rather show the untaught that their desires are unreasonable, than, by dwelling on possibilities recently developed, give form and substance to the criticisms always easy to those who judge after the event.”

Davis then wrote once more to Johnston regarding the complaints about inadequate food and medical care in the army. The president continued defending himself against criticisms and accusations from the public, Congress, and his commanders throughout the month.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 6398-405, 6742; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 69-70; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 52; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 103-05, 110

From Robert McAllister, 1st New Jersey

Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Robert McAllister, 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry

Fort Albany

July 25, 1861

New Jersey State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

New Jersey State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

FRIEND WIESTLING:

In writing to you yesterday, I had to stop short, as the cry was: “The enemy are coming.” But it turned out to be only a troop of horse. Fire was exchanged and they disappeared.

The right wing of our Regiment have since been engaged in throwing up breastworks at the Arlington Mills, some three miles out from the river at a road and railroad crossing, where we are planting a battery to sweep the road. We hope the North will pour down her troops so that before long we may take up our line of march to Centreville and Manassas Junction and regain what we have lost.

No retreat should have been ordered at Bull Run, for the day was ours. The enemy were whipped. The men fought brave enough, but we have too many cowardly officers. Yet we have very many brave ones who did credit to our arms.

Sabbath morning, July 21st, the 1st and 2nd New Jersey Volunteers were encamped at Vienna. Col. McLean commanded the 2nd New Jersey. Being Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Regiment, I commanded that unit, as our Col. Montgomery outranked McLean and thus had command of the whole.

The roaring of artillery announced the opening of the battle of Bull Run. Three of our companies were absent on reconnaissance and had not returned when orders came from Headquarters for us to move up to Centreville. We were soon on our way and moving rapidly toward the scene of conflict. We passed Germantown, the artillery sounding louder and louder. Some miles on this side of Centreville, we met a gentleman who said all was right, the enemy were driven in toward Manassas Gap. On we went, feeling elated. After a while, the artillery ceased firing. We then knew that the battle was decided; but which way was the question.

Soon this sad story was told by the confused mass of the retreating army. We determined to do what we could to stop the panic. We threw our columns across the road, appealed to their patriotism, to their honor, to the Flag, and urged them to return and help us fight the battle. But the panic was so great that our appeals were for the time unheeded. We then charged bayonets and stopped the stampede, letting only the wounded pass on…

Cheer after cheer went up for us as we advanced, and solemn promises were made on the part of the stampeders that they would fall in our rear if we advanced through them and formed a line of battle. Others cried: “Go up yonder hill and you’ll get it! You will be cut to pieces!” Still others encouraged us with hopes that we would save their retreat and bear the brunt of the battle.

The stampede was now stopped and we were on the summit of a hill. Col. Montgomery had a conference with Genl. McDowell and urged the propriety of making a stand on the heights of Centreville–throwing up breastworks, holding the position, and not retreating to Washington. The General consented and ordered him to take his command to the other side of Centreville and form his lines for defense. We passed Centreville and took up a position on the hill with our right resting on the road along which the enemy would have to come. But when we had accomplished this and were ready for battle, we found that our 2nd New Jersey Regiment had retreated. Two regiments under the command of Col. Blenker were the only troops left besides…

After sitting some time on my horse in silence–the men having nearly all fallen asleep–I passed over to the left wing on the other side of the road in order to throw out additional pickets. One of our Captains asked me if I knew the danger we were in.

“Certainly,” I replied.

“Why don’t we retreat?” he then asked.

I told him my orders were to hold this position and that I was going to do it.

“We may as well surrender all at once,” he said, “as we will be cut to pieces.”

I told him we would never surrender and that we would give them a tremendous fight.

I then returned to my position and remained there until Maj. Hatfield returned and informed me that we had to retreat. Our orders were given in a low tone, almost a whisper…

I do contend that we–i.e., all the army–ought to have formed at Centreville, according to Montgomery’s idea. Had that plan been pursued, we would be in possession of it yet.

A great many claim the credit of protecting the retreat and being the last to leave the field. But it is all in the imagination, for we were the very last to leave Centreville. In confidence I tell you that when our Colonel called on Genl. McDowell, he could not be found. He had retreated without giving us order to retreat, and we would have been left to be cut to pieces had we not accidentally discovered that Col. Blenker was retreating. You see it stated that Blenker’s command saved the retreat, and yet we were in Centreville two hours after Col. Blenker left.

I have now given a fair, unvarnished statement of the whole matter, but have been so much interrupted that I fear it will be uninteresting…

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Source: Tapert, Annette, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 13-18

From Philip Powers, 1st Virginia Cavalry

Letter from Sergeant Major Philip Powers, 1st Virginia Cavalry

Camp at Fairfax Courthouse

July 23, 1861

Virginia State Flag | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Virginia State Flag | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

MY DEAREST WIFE:

Several Clark men, among them Knelles, were in our camp for a short time this evening but I was so busy I had not time even to drop you a line, and fearing lest the same thing may occur again, I write tonight, though excessively fatigued.

Yesterday we had a drenching rain all day and most of last night, and being without our tents we could not escape the rain and mud. We broke our camp however about midnight and marched to this place accompanied by two regiments of infantry and one battery of artillery. I was glad to leave, for as I wrote you we were near by a hospital of the enemy where (there were) over three hundred of their wounded, dead and dying. Many of them necessarily left out in all the inclemency of weathers to die. To pass by it was enough to soften and sicken the hardest heart. I will not dwell upon the awful scene.

The battle was nothing to this after piece. The excitement of the contest, the cheering of the soldiers, the triumph of victory and the whole field of many of its terrors–nothing could lessen the horrors of the field by moonlight. Enough–I cannot, I will not describe it. May God, in his infinite mercy, avert a second such calamity. Our march after we got beyond the scenes of he fight was rather cheering than otherwise. For twelve miles the road was literally strewn with every description of baggage, wagons, ambulances, barrels of sugar, crackers, ground coffee and thousands of axes, spades, shovels, picks, arms by the thousands, clothing of every description, cooking utensils–in fact, everything–and all left behind to expedite their flight, which was never stopped until they reached Washington.

Our troops have been busily engaged in appropriating everything they might possibly need, from a pin cushion to the finest army tent. In this place we found in several houses clothing enough to fill every room in our house. Their army was splendidly equipped with every possible convenience and comfort. But I cannot account for their utter confusion and panic. Their own papers give our regiment the credit of turning the tide of victory on our side. The papers if you can see them will give you all the particulars…

I do not know what our next move will be but suppose it will be upon Alexandria. All I desire is to drive them from our soil and secure peace–I would not shed another drop…

I cannot write now. Farewell! I pray that my wife and little children may be protected and comforted at all times.

Ever Yours,

P.H. POWERS

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Source: Tapert, Annette, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 11-13

From Eugene Blackford, 5th Alabama

Letter from Major Eugene Blackford, 5th Alabama Volunteer Infantry

Bivouac Camp of the Advanced Guard, on the railroad near Union Mills

Above Manassas

22nd July, 1861

Alabama State Flag | Image Credit: AllFlagsWorld.com

Alabama State Flag | Image Credit: AllFlagsWorld.com

MY DEAR FATHER:

We are very much fatigued and jaded by our late movements. I must relieve your anxiety by letting you know that I am alive and well. I was in the great battle of yesterday, tho our regt. arrived too late to take any considerable part in the action. But I will go back and let you know what I have been doing since this day a week.

Last Monday the enemy advanced their lines considerably and caused our pickets to fall back some two miles. We were up all Tuesday night expecting to march down to the battery to defend it. At 8 o’clock Wednesday, the advance guard of the enemy appeared, and we went out to give battle. We all took our positions behind our entrenchments, and remained there some time while parties of our men were skirmishing in front.

At last they were driven in, and the firing commenced upon our line. The enemy, having minie muskets, could fire upon us long before we could think of returning the compliment, and so we had to take it coolly. No wound was sustained by our men (in my company) except one pretty badly wounded. The balls make a very loud singing noise when they pass near you, and at first caused me to duck my head, but I soon became used to it. I never expected to be alarmed or excited in battle, but really it is a very different affair from what I thought it. I never was cooler in my life, and have ever since been very much pleased therefore, as I shall have no trouble hereafter…

Yesterday morning, about daylight, word was brought that the enemy was advancing on all sides, and that we must be ready to advance to the support of any point that might be seriously threatened. We had an alarm about 8 o’clock and set out immediately, but were ordered back before we had proceeded far, because the order was countermanded. We stood some eight hours in the sun on the road awaiting further orders. Since seven in the morning, heavy cannonading has been heard on all sides, mingled with a perfect roar of musketry. At eleven o’clock we set off at double quick to reinforce our men at Mitchell’s Ford and so, after crossing a dozen creeks, in the same creek a dozen times, we came upon the enemy. While retreating, they had been informed of our coming and had set off double quick, so we had our march of three miles for nothing.

We then came right about and set off to reinforce our men in the great battle (not yet named) about ten miles from us. This distance we marched at double time and came on the field about five o’clock, too late as I said to do much service, but early enough to smell a little gunpowder and receive a little of the enemy’s fire. We went over the battlefield several miles in extent. T’was truly awful, an immense cloud of smoke and dust hung over the whole country, and the flashing of the artillery was incessant tho none of the balls struck my company. One bomb burst a little above me, and killed and wounded several. This was our only loss. Had we been an hour earlier, many would not have lived to tell of it.

I shan’t attempt to describe the appearance of the field, literally covered with bodies, and for five miles before reaching it I saw men limping off, more or less wounded. We met wagon loads of bodies coming off to Manassas, where they are now piled in heaps. While we were looking over the field, an order came for us to go back to our batteries ten miles off, and defend them from the enemy who were advancing upon them, so we had to go back, tired as we were, to our holes, where we arrived half dead at twelve o’clock last night, having marched twenty-six miles heavily loaded. We have no protection against the rain, which has been falling all day. I have no blanket, not having seen my baggage since leaving Fairfax; I never was so dirty before in my life and besides I have scurvy in my mouth, not having anything but hard bread and intensely salty meat to eat, and not enough of that.

I do not however complain, nor do my men, tho I never thought that such hardships were to be endured. We have our meat in the blaze, and eat it on our bread. A continual firing is now going on around us.

Your affectionate son,

EUGENE BLACKFORD

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Source: Tapert, Annette, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 8-13