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06/16/16

The Eastern Theater: Graveyard of Generals (Part One)

This entry is part 3 of 17 in the series Union General Officers

Union Generals-The Eastern Theater: Graveyard of Generals (Part One)The Eastern Theater was the graveyard of generals for the Union Army. Initially, it was simply a matter of inexperience with large formations of troops by the field commanders. None of them had ever commanded more than a regiment of 600 to 1,000 men while they now commanded tens of thousands. After the Battle of Seven Pines the gravedigger became Robert E. Lee with Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet as the principal pallbearers.

The first Union commander of a major Union army was Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell who commanded the Army of Northeastern Virginia. McDowell was an inexperienced officer whose command consisted of 90-day enlistees with even less experience. He was pressured by the Washington politicians and major newspapers who had coined the phrase “On to Richmond.”

With an army of 35,000 men he initially outnumbered the 20,000 Confederates under Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard at Manassas. The second major Confederate force of 12,000 men under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in the Shenandoah Valley, was to be held in place by Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson with 18,000 men menacing Harpers Ferry, preventing the two Confederate armies from combining against McDowell.

McDowell’s major mistake was to put in place a complex battle plan that his inexperienced field commanders were incapable of executing. Initially, the Union forces had the advantage but Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson stout defense coupled with the timely reinforcements from the Valley turned the tide in the Confederates’ favor. McDowell’s retreat turned into a rout.

McDowell was superseded by Maj. Gen. George McClellan who was summoned to Washington and given command of the newly-formed Army of the Potomac. McDowell was initially given command of a division and later a corps. He would later serve under the equally unsuccessful John Pope at the Second Battle of Manassas. McDowell was shelved for two years after that battle and was eventually given command of the Department of the Pacific.

Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was the next Confederate general to wreak havoc among the Union high command in the Shenandoah Valley in 1862. Jackson had acquired his famous nickname at the First Battle of Manassas when he held of repeated Union attacks on his lines. In the Valley, he would whip a much larger Union force in a lightning campaign that is still studied at West Point.

After an initial tactical defeat against Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks at the First Battle of Kernstown (March 23, 1862), Jackson turned his force and defeated elements of the Union Mountain Departments of Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky of Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont‘s army in the Battle of McDowell on May 8th.

Both Banks and Frémont were ‘political’ generals. Banks had been the Democratic Governor of Massachusetts while Frémont was a prominent Republican having been their first Presidential candidate.

Jackson joined forces with Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell and captured the Federal garrison at Front Royal on May 23, causing Banks to retreat to the north. On May 25, in the First Battle of Winchester, Jackson defeated Banks and pursued him until the Union Army crossed the Potomac River into Maryland.

Bringing in Union reinforcements from eastern Virginia, Brig. Gen. James Shields recaptured Front Royal and planned to link up with Frémont in Strasburg. Jackson was now threatened by three small Union armies. Withdrawing up the Valley from Winchester, Jackson was pursued by Frémont and Shields. On June 8, Ewell defeated Frémont in the Battle of Cross Keys and on the following day, crossed the North River to join forces with Jackson to defeat Shields in the Battle of Port Republic, bringing the campaign to a close.

Jackson had defeated the larger forces of three Union generals. After the subsequent Battle of Cedar Mountain, Banks was criticized for his numerous tactical errors before and during the battle, including poor placement of troops, inadequate reconnaissance, and failing to commit reserve resources when he had a chance to break the Confederate line. He was removed from command an assigned to organize a force of thirty thousand new recruits, drawn from New York and New England.

When the Army of Virginia was created June 26, to include General Frémont’s corps, with John Pope in command, Frémont declined to serve on the grounds that he was senior to Pope and for personal reasons. He then went to New York where he remained throughout the war, expecting a command, but none was given to him.

Brig. Gen. James Shields was yet another ‘political general’. Although he was the only general who defeated Jackson in the campaign, his career did not benefit from his victory. The day after Kernstown, he was promoted to major general, but the promotion was withdrawn, reconsidered, and then finally rejected. His overall performance in the rest of the Valley Campaign was poor enough that he resigned his commission, and his departure was not resisted by the War Department.

 

02/19/14

McClellan’s Failed Successors: Ambrose Burnside

This entry is part 5 of 17 in the series Union General Officers

General Ambrose BurnsideMaj. Gen. George B. McClellan was relieved of the command of the Army of the Potomac on November 9, 1862. The main reason for his removal was his failure to us the instrument of war that he created. Commanders love the army but the great commanders must risk the destruction of the thing that they love to achieve victory. George McClellan was not a great commander.

McClellan was succeeded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside. A West Point graduate in the class of 1847, Burnside had served in Mexico but by the time that he had arrived hostilities had ceased and he saw only garrison duty. He then served two years on the western frontier under Captain Braxton Bragg. In 1852 he returned east to Rhode Island where he met and married Mary Richmond Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island.

In 1853 Burnside resigned his commission and entered the business world where he devoted his time and energy to the manufacture of the famous firearm that bears his name, the Burnside carbine. He obtained government contracts and invested heavily in manufacturing equipment. But through devious means he lost the contracts and was ruined financially. He then moved west where became treasurer of the Illinois Central Railroad. He worked for, and became friendly with, one of his future commanding officers, George B. McClellan.

At the start of the Civil War Burnside was a brigadier general in the Rhode Island Militia. He raised a regiment, the 1st Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, and was appointed its colonel on May 2, 1861. Within a month he was given a brigade which he led without distinction at the First Battle of Manassas. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers but relegated to training provisional brigades for the Army of the Potomac.

Burnside commanded the Coast Division, or North Carolina Expeditionary Force—three brigades assembled in Annapolis, Maryland, which formed the nucleus for his future IX Corps—and the Department of North Carolina, from September 1861 until July 1862. He conducted a successful amphibious campaign that closed over 80% of the North Carolina sea coast to Confederate shipping for the remainder of the war.

He was promoted to major general of volunteers and his units were assigned to the Army of the Potomac as the IX Corps. After McClellan’s failure on the Peninsula Burnside was offered command of the Army of the Potomac, citing his lack of requisite experience. His corps was detached for service with Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia. After the defeat at Second Manassas, Burnside was again offered the command of the army and again refused due to lack of experience and loyalty to McClellan.

At Antietam Burnside commanded his corps which was placed at the southern end of the Union position. His corps was tasked with crossing the Rohrbach’s Bridge, a three-span, 125-foot (38 m) stone structure that was the southernmost crossing of the Antietam. His four divisions of 12,500 men faced a small Confederate force of 3,000 men and 12 guns. However, the superior Confederate defenses stymied Burnside’s men for critical hours until their eventual breakthrough. The Union casualties  at Burnside’s Bridge amounted to 20% of their strength.

After McClellan’s relief in November Burnside was again offered the command of the army. He reluctantly accepted when he was informed that Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker was the alternative. Disliking Hooker, Burnside accepted command. President immediately began pressuring Burnside to launch an attack on the Confederate capital of Richmond.

Burnside formulated a plan to cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg using pontoon bridges. But the plan was poorly executed and Gen. Robert E. Lee was given sufficient time to concentrate his army and repulse the Army of the Potomac. He ordered a series of bloody frontal assaults against Marye’s Heights. The Army of the Potomac suffered 12,653 total casualties while the Confederates sustained only 5,377. Detractors labeled Burnside the “Butcher of Fredericksburg”.

In January 1863, Burnside launched a second offensive against Lee, but it bogged down in winter rains before it accomplished anything and has been derisively called the Mud March. In its wake, he asked that several officers, who were openly insubordinate, be relieved of duty and court-martialed; he also offered to resign. Lincoln chose the latter option on January 26 and replaced him with Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, one of the officers who had conspired against Burnside.

It turned out that Ambrose Burnside was a better corps commander than an army commander. Lincoln refused Burnside’s offer to resign from the army altogether. He was placed back at the head of the IX Corps and sent to command the Department of the Ohio, encompassing the states of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois. While in command of this department he clashed with the anti-war Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham.

Burnside’s IX Corps was heavily involved during the Knoxville Campaign. He occupied the city of Knoxville unopposed. At the Cumberland Gap he forced the surrender of 2,300 Confederate troops. He then clashed with James LOngstreet’s corps but he was able to outmaneuver him and return to the safety of Knoxville. Tying down Longstreet’s corps at Knoxville contributed to Gen. Braxton Bragg‘s defeat by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Chattanooga.

Burnside’s corps was returned to the Eastern Theater where it eventually became part of the Army of the Potomac. Burnside fought at the battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, where he did not perform in a distinguished manner, attacking piecemeal and appearing reluctant to commit his troops to the frontal assaults that characterized these battles. After North Anna and Cold Harbor, he took his place in the siege lines at Petersburg.

Troops under Burnside’s command suggested that they dig a mine under a fort named Elliot’s Salient in the Confederate entrenchments and ignite explosives there to achieve a surprise breakthrough. The fort was destroyed on July 30 in what is known as the Battle of the Crater. Because of interference from Meade, Burnside was ordered, only hours before the infantry attack, not to use his division of black troops, which had been specially trained for this mission. He was forced to use untrained white troops instead.

He could not decide which division to choose as a replacement, so he had his three subordinate commanders draw lots. The division chosen by chance was that commanded by Brig. Gen. James H. Ledlie, who failed to brief the men on what was expected of them and was reported during the battle to be drunk well behind the lines, providing no leadership. Ledlie’s men entered the huge crater instead of going around it, becoming trapped, and were subjected to heavy fire from Confederates around the rim, resulting in high casualties.

Burnside was relieved of command for the final time and was never given another command. A court of inquiry later placed the blame for the Crater fiasco on Burnside and his subordinates. In December, Burnside met with President Lincoln and General Grant about his future. He was contemplating resignation, but Lincoln and Grant requested that he remain in the Army. At the end of the interview, Burnside wrote, “I was not informed of any duty upon which I am to be placed.” He finally resigned his commission on April 15, 1865, after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

The United States Congress Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War later exonerated Burnside, and placed the blame for the Union defeat at the Crater on General Meade for requiring the specially trained USCT (United States Colored Troops) men to be withdrawn.

Despite all of his failures Ambrose Burnside was elected to three one-year terms as Governor of Rhode Island (May 1866 to May 1869).

05/20/13

1862: The End of Conciliation in the East

This entry is part 4 of 18 in the series The Hard Hand of War

Map of US with divisionsWhile 1861 same several attempts to settle the war without shedding an ocean of blood, 1862 would see the gradual descent of the war into a bitter conflict on both sides. In order to understand this period we’ll look at the war from various perspectives. This post will cover the Eastern Theater.

After the First Battle of Manassas, or Bull Run as the losing Union side named it, both sides began a gradual feeling-out process that was the antithesis of the later total war waged by both sides. The reality of First Manassas convinced both sides that their armies were no more than armed mobs. Both armies were deficient in training, leadership and even uniforms.

Both sides had uniforms that in some cases caused confusion on the battlefield. There were Confederate units with blue uniforms and Union units with a sort of blue/gray uniform. Some of the uniforms were garish and impractical like the Zouave uniforms worn by units on both sides. Even the early Confederate battle flags caused confusion because of their similarity to Old Glory.

Both armies in the Eastern Theater spent the fall and winter reorganizing, training and equipping their troops. In the Western Theater there were tentative probes down the Mississippi River and into Kentucky which had tried to remain neutral.

Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant would make his first major foray from his base at Cairo, Illinois on November 7, 1861. The Battle of Belmont would see a limited clash of arms on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River with limited aims and a small loss of life.

In the Eastern Theater there were several engagements at the edges of the conflict but Maj. Gen. George McClellan refused to be pushed into major combat before he felt that his massive Army of the Potomac was ready to advance. By the end of 1861, McClellan had fortified Washington into one of the most defended cities in the world with 48 forts, 480 guns and 7,200 artillerymen.

The Army of the Potomac, McClellan’s chosen weapon of “shock and awe” had grown to over 190,000 men, the largest army ever assembled on the North American continent. It was was considered by far the most colossal military unit the world had seen in modern historical times. But McClellan wanted more. He envisioned an army of 273,000 with 600 guns to “crush the rebels in one campaign.”

McClellan continually overestimated the numbers of enemy troops that were facing him in the Washington area. On August 8, believing that the Confederates had over 100,000 troops facing him (in contrast to the 35,000 they actually deployed at Bull Run a few weeks earlier), he declared a state of emergency in the capital.

By August 19, he estimated 150,000 enemy to his front. McClellan’s future campaigns would be strongly influenced by the overblown enemy strength estimates of his secret service chief, detective Allan Pinkerton, but in August 1861, these estimates were entirely McClellan’s own.

The result was a level of extreme caution that sapped the initiative of McClellan’s army and caused great condemnation by his government. Historian and biographer Stephen W. Sears has called McClellan’s actions “essentially sound” if he had been as outnumbered as he believed, but McClellan in fact rarely had less than a two-to-one advantage over his opponents in 1861 and 1862. That fall, for example, Confederate forces ranged from 35,000 to 60,000, whereas the Army of the Potomac in September numbered 122,000 men; in early December 170,000; by year end, 192,000.

Eventually after much debate and arguments between McClellan and the Lincoln government, the Army of the Potomac was transported to the tip of the Peninsula where they began a slow advance northwest to their ultimate goal of Richmond. From the siege of Yorktown to Malvern Hill, McClellan and first, Joseph E. Johnston and then Robert E. Lee slugged it out over a four-month period. Eventually, the Confederates deflected the huge Union army from its goal.

While McClellan was left idle at Harrison’s Landing, Lee turned and thrashed Maj. Gen. John Pope at Second Manassas. He then turned north and headed into Maryland where Lee and McClellan met in the bloodiest one-day battle of the war at Antietam. After a bloodletting that caused almost 23,000 casualties, McClellan was relieved of command and replaced by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside.

With the departure of McClellan the war in the Eastern Theater began a slide to total war. Burnside’s first major battle was at Frederickburg on the Rappahannock River. The Union artillery preparation for the crossing of the river would destroy a large part of the town.

Union cavalry units were sent into the Virginia countryside to seize food and fodder thus denying it to the Confederates. This would establish a pattern for both armies to prey upon the civilian populations. The Confederate cavalry would do the same in Maryland and later Pennsylvania.

05/13/13

General Winfield Scott’s Plan to End the Rebellion

This entry is part 3 of 18 in the series The Hard Hand of War

General Winfield ScottThe prime mover of conciliation with the South in the Lincoln administration was its General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. Scott was a Virginian but also a steadfast supporter of the Union. He was the most recognizable soldier in the United States and had served his country longer than any other man in American history, and many historians rate him the best American commander of his time. Over the course of his forty-seven-year career, he commanded forces in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Black Hawk War and the Second Seminole War.

Now, he was called upon to craft a strategy that would preserve the Union with a minimum amount of bloodshed. This would be the most difficult task in his distinguished career.

Throughout the late spring and early summer of 1861, Scott crafted his strategy. However, elements within the administration and in the press began to agitate for immediate action. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, an influential Republican, led the opposition to Scott’s gradualism. Blair in a letter to Lincoln insisted that Scott and other Army officers underestimated the depth of the secession spirit in the South.

Blair contended that unless immediate action was undertaken the Confederate government would consolidate their hold on the southern states. Blair warned that if that occurred only the complete conquest of the South could end secession. In retrospect Blair was absolutely correct and only the complete and utter conquest of the South brought the southern states back into the Union.

Scott’s plan was an all-encompassing strategy that became known as the Anaconda Plan. The plan called for the complete blockade of the Southern ports which would deny the South revenue from the trading of cotton. It would also deny the South those items that the Confederacy required to conduct the war.

The major problem with a complete naval blockade was that the United States lacked the navy to conduct such an all-encompassing 3,500 mile operation. The hundreds of ships needed to carry out such an operation would need to be built, equipped and crewed. This would require time to accomplish and in fact Scott’s plan provided no details only an overall strategy. Eventually, the Union Navy had 500 ships to carry out this operation.

The land phase, in part, called for a force of about 80,000 men to move down the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in half. A spearhead The Anaconda Planconsisting of a relatively small amphibious force, army troops transported by boats and supported by gunboats, should advance rapidly, capturing the Confederate positions down the river in sequence.

They would be followed by a more traditional army, marching behind them to secure the victories. The culminating battle would be for the forts below New Orleans; when they fell, the river would be in Federal hands from its source to its mouth, and the rebellion would be cut in two.

This was in fact what the Union did. Starting from Cairo, Illinois, Union forces worked their way downriver capturing strategic locations. At the same time naval and army forces moved upriver from the Mississippi Delta until both forces met at Vicksburg.

Scott also called for a similar force to move from Washington into the Virginia countryside. He hoped that the threat of large forces on their home grounds would bring the Southerners to their senses. He also expected that the appearance of large Union forces would encourage loyal citizens to rise up against the secessionists.

He then anticipating the landing of strong naval and army troops along various points of the coast. This, he hoped, would force the state governments to recall their troops and fragment the “grand army and make it powerless for any offensive movement.”

All of Scoot’s grand strategy came to naught with the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run or Manassas as the victorious Confederates named it. This defeat any hopes of a rapid Confederate collapse. Once the South became united by this stunning victory any hopes that the Anaconda Plan had held out.

05/10/13

Toward A Real Civil War: Spring and Summer 1861

This entry is part 2 of 18 in the series The Hard Hand of War

Ohio VolunteersThe antebellum United States Army had about 16,000 officers and men. Of these about one-quarter of the officer corps resigned to join the Confederate Army. At the onset of the war both armies were no better than armed mobs, untrained, undisciplined and unblooded. Both sides were simply groping toward civil war without a firm plan.

The U.S. Army consisted of ten regiments of infantry, four of artillery, two of cavalry, two of dragoons, and one of mounted infantry. The regiments were scattered widely. Of the 197 companies in the army, 179 occupied 79 isolated posts in the West, and the remaining 18 manned garrisons east of the Mississippi River, mostly along the Canada–United States border and on the Atlantic coast.

President Abraham Lincoln initially issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to serve for three months to put down the “insurrection”. Some have said that the Union government was overly optimistic but in reality that was the limits of Lincoln’s legal authority. Until Congress reconvened he could only ask for that many volunteers.

While the army was forming, the Lincoln administration went about seeking ways to heal the breach between the North and the South. Many Northerners retained the belief that a settlement with the Southerners could be achieved without too much bloodshed. Those who supported General Scott believed as he did that quick, bloody action would push the Southern Unionists into supporting the secessionists. There was a significant group who was of the opposite opinion that quick action could ignite the Southern Unionists into action on the side of the Union.

Postmaster General Montgomery Blair was on the side of those who pushed for quick, decisive. He wrote Lincoln that in his opinion the officer corps was making a fatal flaw by overestimating the strength of the secessionist spirit in the South. Blair predicted that if the North didn’t move rapidly then the South would only be subjugated by complete conquest.

As the spring moved into early summer and no offensive action was undertaken Lincoln began to have doubts in Scott’s policy of deliberation. The South had achieved a number of minor victories: the capture of the shipyard, the seizure of Harper’s Ferry and the minor but humiliating defeat at Big Bethel, Virginia.

Both the New York Tribune and the Chicago Tribune called for the Union army to drive on Richmond with the slogan, “Forward to Richmond.” General Irvin McDowellHowever, the majority of the nation’s newspapers continued to support General Scott’s plan of deliberately fencing the Confederates in. Scott hoped that by amassing huge armies in the east and west, he would discourage the Confederate troops. He was hoping that loyal citizens would rise up and prevent any further attacks, like Fort Sumter.

At the cabinet meeting on June 29th, Lincoln gave the Army command marching orders. He insisted that they advance as far as Manassas within two or three weeks. Scott resisted but eventually agreed to the order. By July 8th, Lincoln issued order for General Irvin McDowell, the field commander, to launch his offensive. McDowell launched his forces on July 16th.

McDowell had been a supply officer from 1848 until 1861. He was pushed for a field command by his mentor, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. Although McDowell knew that his troops were inexperienced and unready, and protested that he was a supply officer, not a field commander, pressure from the Washington politicians forced him to launch a premature offensive against Confederate forces in Northern Virginia.

In order not to antagonize the Southern civilians, McDowell gave instructed his men to conduct themselves ” with as much forbearance and propriety as if they were at their own homes.”    

McDowell’s army met their Confederate counterparts near Manassas Junction on July 21st where an all-day battle ensued. His strategy during the First Battle of Bull Run was imaginative but ambitiously complex, and his troops were not experienced enough to carry it out effectively, resulting in an embarrassing rout. The Union defeat ended any hopes of a Confederate collapse and peaceful reconciliation. President Lincoln summoned Maj. Gen. George Brinton McClellan to take command of the Union Army in the East.                                                                                                                                         

05/25/11

The First Battle of Manassas

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series First Blood: The Manassas Campaign

The First Battle of Manassas

The First Battle of Manassas (called Bull Run by the North) took place on July 21, 1861 in Fairfax County and Prince William County, Virginia. It was the first major land battle of the American Civil War to take place in Virginia. During the course of the war Virginia was the scene of many important battles.

On July 21st the untried-Federal army led by Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell marched from Washington to confront the Confederate army, led by Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. Both sides had approximately 18,000 men engaged. The Confederate forces were drawn up behind Bull Run (a small creek) beyond Centreville.

McDowell had an ambitious plan to surprise and overwhelm the Confederate left flank. Unfortunately, neither his officers or his men were sufficiently trained or experienced to carry it out. McDowell’s plan was to move westward in three columns, make a diversionary attack on the Confederate line at Bull Run with two columns, while the third Stone Bridgecolumn moved around the Confederates’ right flank to the south, cutting the railroad to Richmond and threatening the rear of the rebel army. He assumed that the Confederates would be forced to abandon Manassas Junction and fall back to the Rappahannock River, the next defensible line in Virginia, which would relieve some of the pressure on the U.S. capital.

After two days of slowly marching in the summer heat, McDowell rested his troops at Centreville. By the time McDowell was ready to move again the relief force of Brig. Gen. Joseph Johnston was able to move by train from the Shenandoah Valley to reinforce Beauregard. Battle of Manassas

Both armies’ plans called for a attack on the left flank. If both plans had been carried out, it would have resulted in a mutual counterclockwise movement as each attacked on the left. On the morning (2:30 AM) of the 21st McDowell sent two divisions of about 12,000 total men southwest along the Warrenton Turnpike, then northwest toward Sudley Springs. A third division was ordered to march directly to the Stone Bridge. This unit immediately blocked the other two. The surrounding roads were inadequate for such large forces. At 5:15 AM an artillery barrage interrupted Beauregard’s breakfast and alerted him to the Federal movements. The Confederate response was just as bungled with orders either not properly executed or no orders at all.

A small Confederate force 1,100 under Col. Nathan Evans was guarding the Stone Bridge. Evans was alerted by semaphore by Captain Porter Alexander (we’ll meet him later on July 3, 1863 at Pickett’s Charge) that he was in danger of being flanked. He repositioned his small force and was later reinforced by two additional brigades, bringing the total blocking forced to 2,800. They were able to stop the initial attack by a brigade led by Col. Ambrose Burnside but another brigade led by Col. William T. Sherman crossed Bull Run at an unguarded ford and surprised the Confederate defenders.

This attack, coupled with the pressure from the front, collapsed the Confederate line shortly after 11:30 a.m., sending them in a disorderly retreat to Henry House Hill. Fortunately for the Confederates, McDowell did not press his advantage and attempt to seize the strategic ground immediately, choosing to bombard the hill with the batteries of Capts. James B. Ricketts (Battery I, 1st U.S. Artillery) and Charles Griffin (Battery D, 5th U.S.) from Dogan’s Ridge.

Col. Thomas J. Jackson’s Virginia brigade came up in support of the disorganized Confederates around noon, accompanied by Col. Wade Hampton and his Legion, and Col. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry. Jackson posted his five regiments on the reverse slope of the hill, where they were shielded from direct fire. He was able to assemble 13 guns for the defensive line, which he posted on the crest of the hill. As the guns fired, their recoil moved them down the reverse slope, where they could be safely reloaded. Meanwhile, McDowell ordered the batteries of Ricketts and Griffin to move from Dogan’s Ridge to the hill for close infantry support. Their 11 guns engaged in a fierce artillery duel across 300 yards against Jackson’s 13. The Confederate artillery had the advantage. The Federal pieces were now within range of the Confederate smoothbores and the predominantly rifled pieces on the Federal side were not effective weapons at such close ranges, with many shots fired over the head of their targets.

“The Enemy are driving us,” Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee exclaimed to Jackson. Jackson, a former U.S. Army officer and professor at the Virginia Military Institute, is said to have replied, “Then, Sir, we will give them the bayonet.” Bee exhorted his own troops to re-form by shouting, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we Stonewall Jacksonwill conquer. Rally behind the Virginians.” There is some controversy over Bee’s statement and intent, which could not be clarified because he was mortally wounded almost immediately after speaking and none of his subordinate officers wrote reports of the battle. Major Burnett Rhett, chief of staff to General Johnston, claimed that Bee was angry at Jackson’s failure to come immediately to the relief of Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades while they were under heavy pressure. Those who subscribe to this opinion believe that Bee’s statement was meant to be pejorative: “Look at Jackson standing there like a stone wall!”

The Federal artillery commander Charles Griffin decided to move two of his guns to the southern end of his line, hoping to provide enfilade fire against the Confederates. At approximately 3 p.m., these guns were overrun by the 33rd Virginia, whose men were outfitted in blue uniforms. Griffin’s commander, Maj. William F. Barry, mistook them for Union troops and ordered Griffin not to fire on them. Close range volleys from the 33rd Virginia and Stuart’s cavalry attack against the flank of the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Ellsworth’s Fire Zouaves), which was supporting the battery, killed many of the gunners and scattered the infantry. Capitalizing on this success, Jackson ordered two regiments to charge Ricketts’s guns and they were captured as well. As additional Federal infantry engaged, the guns changed hands several times.

The capture of the Union guns turned the tide of battle. McDowell had brought 15 regiments into the fight on the hill, outnumbering the Confederates two to one but no more than two were ever engaged simultaneously. Jackson continued to press his attacks, telling soldiers of the 4th Virginia Infantry, “Reserve your fire until they come within 50 yards! Then fire and give them the bayonet! And when you charge, yell like furies!” For the first time, Union troops heard the disturbing sound of the Rebel yell. At about 4 p.m., the last Union troops were pushed off Henry House Hill by a charge of two regiments. 

To the west, Chinn Ridge had been occupied by Col. Oliver O. Howard’s brigade from Heintzelman’s division. Also at 4 p.m., two Confederate brigades that had just arrived from the Shenandoah Valley—Col. Jubal A. Early’s and Brig. Gen. Kirby Smith’s (commanded by Col. Arnold Elzey after Smith was wounded)—crushed Howard’s 

Bull Run battle scenebrigade. Beauregard ordered his entire line forward. McDowell’s force crumbled and began to retreat.

The retreat was relatively orderly up to the Bull Run crossings, but it was poorly managed by the Union officers. A Union wagon was overturned by artillery fire on a bridge spanning Cub Run Creek and created  panic in McDowell’s force. As the soldiers streamed toward Centreville, discarding their arms and equipment, McDowell ordered Col. Dixon S. Miles’s division to act as a rear guard, but it was impossible to rally the army short of Washington. In the disorder that followed, hundreds of Union troops were taken prisoner.

The wealthy elite of nearby Washington, including congressmen and their families, expecting an easy Union victory, had come to picnic and watch the battle. When the Union army was driven back in a running disorder, the roads back to Washington were blocked by panicked civilians attempting to flee in their carriages.

First Manassas, July 21, 1861The combined Confederate army was highly disorganized as well. Beauregard and Johnston did not fully press their advantage, despite urging from Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who had arrived on the battlefield to see the Union soldiers retreating. An attempt by Johnston to intercept the Union troops from his right flank, using the brigades of Brig. Gens. Milledge L. Bonham and James Longstreet, was a failure. The two commanders squabbled with each other and when Bonham’s men received some artillery fire from the Union rear guard, and found that Richardson’s brigade blocked the road to Centreville, he called off the pursuit.

First Bull Run was the largest and bloodiest battle in American history up to that point. Union casualties were 460 killed, 1,124 wounded, and 1,312 missing or captured; Confederate casualties were 387 killed, 1,582 wounded, and 13 missing. Among the latter was Col. Francis S. Bartow, who was the first Confederate brigade commander to be killed in the Civil War. Confederate General Bee was mortally wounded and died the following day.

Beauregard was considered the hero of the battle and was promoted that day by President Davis to full general in the Confederate Army. Jackson, arguably the most important tactical contributor to the victory, received no special recognition. Irvin McDowell bore the brunt of the blame for the Union defeat and was soon replaced by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, who was named general-in-chief of all the Union armies.

The name of the battle has caused controversy since 1861. The Union Army frequently named battles after significant rivers and creeks that played a role in the fighting; the Confederates generally used the names of nearby towns or farms. The U.S. National Park Service uses the Confederate name for its national battlefield park, but the Union name (Bull Run) also has widespread currency in popular literature.

 

 

05/24/11

Manassas (Bull Run) Commemoration Events

Manassas (Bull Run) Commemoration Events

Manassas was the site of two major battles and several smaller ones. This July the Prince William County, Virginia area will be host to a number of commemorative events honoring the Civil War battles and other events that took place there. Between now and the July 21-24 anniversary dozens of events are scheduled to take place. For a complete listing go to http://manassasbullrun.com, http://visitmanassas.org and http://nps.gov/mana. Here are details of the major events:

July 21-Free Day at Manassas National Battlefield, 6511 Sudley Road, Manassas, VA. Events include the opening ceremonies, hands-on demonstrations, 3-D photography, living history. Hours: 9:30 AM to 8 PM. Information available at http://manassasbullrun.com

July 21-100th Anniversary of the National Jubilee of Peace. This moving event takes place at 4 PM at the Old Manassas Courthouse at the intersection of Grant and Lee Avenues. Parking is available at the Prince William Fairground with transfer provided free. This a free event. Information is available at http://manassascivilwar.org

July 21-Sesquicentennial Concert. This event takes place at 8 PM at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas, Virginia. Tickets range from $30 to $60 each. For more information either visit http://hyltoncenter.org or call 703-993-7550 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 703-993-7550 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

July 21-24-Manassas Museum. Admission to the museum is free. There will be living history, military demonstrations, music and crafts. The museum is open from daily from 10 AM to 8 PM, except Sunday when the hours are 10 AM to 4 PM. The museum is located at 9101 Prince William Street, Manassas, Virginia. For further information visit http://manassascivilwar.org or call 703-361-6599 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 703-361-6599 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

end_of_the_skype_highlightingJuly 21-24-Camp Manassas. This is a free event and is located at the Jennie Dean Historic Site, 9601 Wellington Road, Manassas, Virginia. There will be military encampments, horse training, soap-making, period games. Camp Manassas is open daily from 10 AM to 8 Pm, except Sunday when the hours are 10 AM to 4 PM. For further information visit http://manassascivilwar.org or call 703-361-6599 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 703-361-6599 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

July 22-Manassas Civil War Parade. The parade is from 10 AM to 12 PM in Old Town Manassas. It is a free event. For further information visit http://manassascivilwar.org or call 703-361-6599 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 703-361-6599 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

July 22-24 150th Anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas. Admission is $3 for a three-day pass. The events include battlefield tours, artillery demonstrations and a performance of the Quantico Marine Corps Band on July 23rd. Information can be found at http://nps.gov/mana. Ticket information can be purchased at http://manassasbullrun.com.

July 23-24 Re-enactment of the First Battle of Manassas. This event is from 7 AM to 3 PM and takes place at the Pageland Farm, Gainesville, Virginia. Parking is at Jiffy Lube Live. Tickets are up to $24. Information can be found at http://manassasbullrun.com or call 703-396-7130 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 703-396-7130 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

end_of_the_skype_highlightingJuly 23-24-Bristoe Station Battlefield Tours. Tours start at 10709 Bristow Road, Bristow, Virginia and run between 11 Am and 3 PM. Admission is $5 with children under 6 free. For information go to http://pwcgov.org/historicsites or call 703-792-5546 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 703-792-5546 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

July 23-Pringle House Confederate Field Hospital. First-person interpretive program from 6:30 PM to 8 PM at the Ben Lomond Historic Site, 10321 Sudley Manor Road, Manassas, Virginia. Admission is $15, under 6 free. This event has been deemed inappropriate for children under 11. For information go to http://pwcgov.org/historicsites or call 703-792-5546 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 703-792-5546 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

July 23-United Daughters of the Confederacy Wreath-Laying. This event is free and will take place from 2 PM to 4 PM at 9027 Center Street, Manassas, Virginia. For information visit http://manassasmuseum.org or call 703-368-1873 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 703-368-1873 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

The following video is from the Prince William County Sesquicentennial Committee and features Ann Marie Maher, Executive Director of the Prince William & Manassas CVB.

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