The Battle of  Manassas (2nd Bull Run)

        The next day was fought the Second Battle of Bull Run, as we call it; the battle of Manassas, as the Confederates call it. As they won it, perhaps they have the best right to give it a name.
        It was the morning of Saturday, the thirtieth day of August, 1862. General Pope had, as we have seen, got it into his head that the enemy were bent upon retreating, that they had, on the day before, suffered a severe defeat. He found indications in the morning that confirmed him. The enemy were readjusting their line, and had really fallen back over ground which had been disputed the evening before.
        Then, although he knew, from the fact of Hatch having been repulsed by Hood's and Evans' commands late in the previous afternoon, that a part of Longstreet's force had joined Jackson, this very fact, that nothing had been seen of them till very late in the day, convinced him, being, as we have before remarked, a sanguine man, that the reinforcement had been but small; and that it had only come up late in the afternoon.
        General Porter, who had been sent for during the night to join the main army, and had come up early in the morning, saw General Pope and endeavored to disabuse his mind of the belief that the mass of Longstreet's command was not yet up. He recounted his own observation, and that of his officers. But in General Pope's preoccupied mind, these facts, when stated by Porter, partook rather of the character of excuses for very culpable inactivity and disobedience of orders, than of information of the enemy's position and strength. He could not, or would not, see that it was all-important to him to know the facts as to Lee's strength south of the turnpike the afternoon before; and that it stood to reason, that by sending for Porter, Morell, Butter-field, and others, he would get the facts. He preferred to act on the belief which his own limited observation of the field justified, and he would not listen to information coming from officers of whose good faith he chose to entertain doubts. Such a course by a general in his position was extremely culpable; it was thoroughly wrong-headed.
        We need not, we are sure, do more here than to remind our readers that it was, on the morning of the day before, very clearly General Pope's judgment, that it would not be wise for him to engage the united forces of Jackson and Longstreet on the westerly side of Bull Run, but that it would be better, in the event of the junction of the two wings of the enemy's army, to retire behind Bull Bun to Centreville, supply his exhausted army, and receive such reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac as General Halleck might be able to send him. This opinion was clearly a sound one, warranted by the highest military reasons, and in his cool moments General Pope entertained it, and meant to act on it. But his mind was now disturbed by two causes: first, by the excitement of the bloody battle which he had been fighting, and by the success, such as it was, which he gained in it; and secondly, by vexation and indignation at Porter's not having supported him by an attack on Jackson's flank; and he would listen to nothing in excuse or explanation of this. It unfortunately happened that the very things which Porter had to urge by way of excuse and explanation were the most important things Pope could have known, with reference to his plan of action on Saturday--that is, they were the results of Porter's observation and information as to the strength and dispositions of the enemy. But he would not hearken to anything of the sort.
        Accordingly, having sent out reconnoissances in his front, north of the pike, and ascertained, as he supposed, that the enemy were in full retreat, he issued the following order:


August 30, 1862, I2 M.

        The following forces will be immediately thrown forward in pursuit of the enemy, and press him vigorously during the whole day. Major-General McDowell is assigned to the command of the pursuit.
        Major-General Porter's corps will push forward on the Warrenton turnpike, followed by the divisions of Brigadier-Generals King and Reynolds.
        The division of Brigadier-General Ricketts will pursue the Haymarket road, followed by the corps of Major-General Heintzelman; the necessary cavalry will be assigned to these columns by Major-General McDowell, to whom regular and frequent reports will be made.
        The General Headquarters will be somewhere on the Warrenton turnpike.


Colonel and Chief of Staff.

        It will be observed that the corps of Sigel and Reno are not mentioned in this order. They were to constitute the reserves.   A brief glance at the field will be in place here.

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        The Warrenton turnpike runs east and west; the Sudley Springs road runs north and south; the Haymarket road runs parallel to the Warrenton pike, and about a mile and a half to the north of it. The forces marching on the Hay-market road were therefore attempting to turn the enemy's left, and even cut him off from Haymarket and the Gap.
        On the south of the turnpike were woods, mostly very thick, with occasional clear places. There were two considerable hills south of the turnpike and near to it, with more or less clear land near them--the Henry House Hill, just east of the crossing of the Sudley Springs road with the turnpike, and the Bald Hill, some distance to the west of the Henry. House Hill, but still east of Groveton. Near the Bald Hill was a house known as the "Chinn House." The possession of these was of the first importance to us, as will presently appear.
        The reconnoissances which our forces had made in the forenoon seem to have satisfied General Lee that his adversary was preparing to attack him on the north side of the turnpike. Seeing that we were making a mistake, he allowed our movement to go on. He desired that we should expend a portion of our strength in attacking again Jackson's embankment, the approaches to which the guns of Long-street, now advanced somewhat, swept with a destructive fire. Lee had been reinforced during the night by the division of R. H. Anderson, of Longstreet's command.
        General Pope's plan was that Porter's corps should move forward, their left on the turnpike, supported by King's division, under Hatch. On Porter's left and on the south of the pike was to be Reynolds, to look out for the left flank.
        On the right of Porter were to be Heintzelman's two divisions under Hooker and Kearny, and, supporting them, the division of Ricketts.
        Shortly before the engagement fairly opened, Reynolds discovered the enemy in force on the south of the pike, and facing it, concealed in the woods, and preparing a serious attack on our flank. On reporting this he was ordered to form his division to resist this attack, which he proceeded to do.
        Porter, meantime, about four o'clock, pushes Morell's division in front, the brigades of Barnes and Butterfield leading. They drive the enemy from the outlying woods, back upon the old railroad entrenchment. Sykes' division of regulars is in reserve. To the right, Hatch pushes in King's division. The attack is made with great resolution. Jackson's veterans resist with their never-failing tenacity and pluck. Our officers and men push up to the embankment. It is a powerful attack and is pressed home, and for a moment Jackson is afraid he cannot resist it. He sends to Lee for reinforcements, says he is "severely pressed" and Lee orders Longstreet to send them from his hitherto unemployed command. But that officer has, with a soldier's eye for position, placed his guns where their fire enfilades any troops attacking the front of Jackson's position. There is no need of reinforcements, the guns do the work. "As it was evident," says General Longstreet, "that the attack against General Jackson could not be continued ten minutes under the fire of these batteries, I made no movement with my troops. Before the second battery could be placed in position the enemy began to retire, and in less than ten minutes the ranks were broken, and that portion of the army put to flight."
        Jackson says his "entire line was engaged in a fierce and sanguinary struggle. As one line was repulsed, another took its place, and pressed forward, as if determined, by force of numbers and fury of assault, to drive us from our positions. So impetuous and well-sustained were these onsets as to induce me to send to the Commanding General for reinforcements."
        Porter's and Hatch's attack had failed, but it is plain, from what Jackson himself says of it, that it was a very gallant and a very well-sustained attack. It may be that had it not been for the enfilading fire of Longstreet's guns, our brave troops might have effected a lodgment in the embankment. General Hatch was slightly wounded.
        On the extreme right, Hooker's division, or rather a part of it, for Grover's brigade was not put in again after its heavy losses the day before, drove the enemy from some woods, but does not seem to have made a serious attack. Further to our right, Kearny and Ricketts were to have attacked by the Haymarket road. The movement failed, owing to the withdrawal of a large portion of Ricketts' command, to be used on the Warrenton pike, or to the south of it, against the enemy, who were rapidly developing a very serious movement against our left flank.
        On the retirement of Morell and Hatch, General Pope incautiously ordered Reynolds to leave the commanding position which he had taken up on the left flank of the army, south of the turnpike, and cross over to the north of the turnpike and support Porter's corps. This seems to have been unnecessary, as well as incautious, for Sykes' division had not been severely engaged in the attack. The effect of this change in Reynolds' position was to expose the left flank of the troops who were attacking Jackson. Of course they could make no headway in front, if their left flank was attacked, and, as we have seen, the enemy was massing south of the pike for this purpose. Warren, with great promptitude, takes his little brigade, with Sykes' approval, to the left, and endeavors to maintain himself against a heavy attack which the enemy do not fail to make immediately upon his small command. But he, as well as Anderson, whose brigade of Reynolds' division had been left on the south of the pike when the remainder of the division crossed it, was overwhelmed by superior numbers.
        Major-General McDowell, though charged at noon with the conduct of a "pursuit," very soon recognized that the enemy were fully aware of our great tactical mistakes, and were determined to avail themselves of them with their customary energy. We had made all our arrangements on the theory that the enemy would not put in an appearance south of the turnpike. Reno, Heintzelman, King, and Ricketts, Porter, and Sigel were all north of the pike, and before any adequate measures could be taken to guard our left flank, half of these troops had become heavily engaged; and more than that, had been repulsed with loss. But McDowell was equal to the occasion. He gave up all thought of overseeing the progress of the pursuit; he devoted himself entirely to the defence of the turnpike against an attack coming from the south or southwest. And General Pope, now seeing his danger, was prompt to take such steps as were yet available to ward off disaster. And gallant and determined as was the assault, and bloody as was the repulse of Porter and Hatch on the north of the pike, the chief military interest attaching to this battle will always attach to the struggle for the turn, pike.
        The enemy went into it with a rush. "My whole line," says Longstreet, "was rushed forward at a charge. The troops sprang to their work, and moved forward with all the steadiness and firmness that characterize war-worn veterans.
        The attack was led by Hood's brigade closely supported by Evans'. Those were rapidly reinforced by Anderson's division from the rear, Kemper's three brigades, and D. R. Jones' division from the right, and Wilcox's brigade from the left. The brigades of Brigadier-Generals Featherston and Pryor became detached and operated with a portion of General Jackson's command. The attacking columns moved steadily forward, driving the enemy from his different positions as rapidly as he took them. My batteries were thrown forward from point to point, following the movements of the general line."
        His brief summary is, however, altogether too favorable for his own side. The enemy were doubtless generally successful, for they were the stronger at the point of contact. We had left our line of retreat, the turnpike, exposed, under the mistaken supposition that the principal forces of the enemy were those of Jackson, who was, we knew, behind the railroad embankment, north of the turnpike, assisted on his right by, perhaps, one of Longstreet's divisions. Instead of this, Longstreet was able to advance on the south of the pike, from beyond Groveton to the Sudley Springs road, the five divisions of Evans, Anderson, Kemper, Jones, and Wilcox.
        These troops could be concealed in a great part of their movements by the woods. But when they reached the neighborhood of the pike, they found our batteries in position and infantry supporting them. There was not, to be sure, a regular line of battle, but the two principal eminences, the Bald Hill and the Henry House Hill, were occupied, and the troops from the right were hurried down to the south of the road as fast as Pope and McDowell could get them there.
        Fortunately lotus, Sigel's corps had not joined in the attack, and was therefore available both to cover the retreat of the divisions of Morell and King, and to occupy and hold Bald Hill. Two brigades of Ricketts' division were sent for at once, under General Tower, with two batteries; they also went to the Bald Hill. To the Henry House Hill were sent two brigades from the fine division of Sykes, consisting mainly of regulars. The other brigade, that of General Warren, had, as we have seen, lost very heavily near, or rather beyond the Bald Hill, early in the action. Reynolds, also, with his two excellent brigadiers, Meade and Seymour, was near the Henry House Hill.
        On the north of the turnpike Reno and Heintzelman resisted the advance of Jackson, who, as soon as he saw Longstreet moving forward, ordered a general advance of his own line.
        The struggle for the possession of the Bald Hill was most obstinate and sanguinary. McLean's brigade of Schenck's division was first sent to hold it, and did hold it handsomely, repulsing several attacks both in front and rear, until the command was reduced to a skeleton. Schenck himself was severely wounded at the head of the reinforcements which he was leading to McLean's support. The other brigade of Schenck's division, Stahel's, was maintaining the ground on the north side of the road, and Schenck could not withdraw it. But Sigel, seeing the danger, sent Schurz's division to the aid of McLean. The two brigades of Koltes and Kryzanowski were put in, and for a time stayed the advancing tide. The losses were very severe, as the enemy were in large force. The brave Colonel Koltes here fell, sword in hand, at the head of his men. In the conflict around this hill General Tower was severely wounded at the head of two of Ricketts' brigades, and Colonel Fletcher Webster, of the Twelfth Massachusetts, a son of the great statesman, was killed while leading his regiment.
        In their first violent attack on this strong position, even the impetuosity of Hood's Texans failed to make any impression. Hood was compelled to fall back, and all that could be done, says Evans, who commanded the division, was to hold the enemy with the other brigade until Anderson's division came up. In one of his brigades 631 officers and men were killed and wounded, probably one-fourth of the actual force present on the field. Two colonels were killed, and one wounded.
        D. R. Jones also found his way to the neighborhood of the Chinn House, and the two brigades which he had with him "went in most gallantly, suffering severe loss." In one of these brigades, Anderson's, consisting of five regiments, but one field officer was untouched. They had to fall back, however, and were evidently very severely handled. The account which Generals Bennings and Anderson give of their experience with these two brigades is very interesting. It was evident that the troops who held the hill held it with obstinate courage, and that they yielded only to the assaults of fresh troops. Jones' division got no further than the China House that day.
        In spite, however, of this heroic resistance, the enemy car-lied the position by main force. They suffered heavily, but fresh relays pressed on with great enthusiasm, and they finally drove our forces from the Bald Hill.
        We pass now to the struggle for the Henry House Hill. Here were Sykes' regulars, in first-rate order, and ready to receive the enemy. Buchanan, an old veteran of the war with Mexico, who had with his own hand forced open the door of the Molino del Rey, commanded one brigade; Chapman, his comrade in the same gallant fight, the other. Here, too, were gathered all the troops that could be collected from the front. It was a post of the last importance. We could not afford to lose it. There was no position west of Bull Run which offered such advantages for defence as this. The army was in full retreat, though in orderly retreat; but that orderly retreat would be changed into a rout if the enemy should drive us from our position on the Henry House Hill and its neighborhood. There would be nothing between them and the Stone Bridge across Bull Run.
        And they did not carry it. Their exertions had been severe before they reached this position. They had marched a considerable distance and over difficult country. They attacked, however, with their customary energy and courage, and while they suffered much, they inflicted heavy losses upon the regulars of Sykes. But fortunately for the Federal army, darkness came on, and the exhausted Confederates ceased from farther assaults upon their obstinate antagonists.
        When Buchanan and Chapman were withdrawn, after suffering heavy losses, McDowell, who had charged himself with the defence of this vital position, stationed Gibbon there with his brigade, and that force remained there some two hours after dark. Schurz, who also placed the brigade of Schimmelpfenning on the Henry House Hill, withdrew it about eight o'clock by orders of General Sigel, in the direction of Bull Run.
        By this time everything was quiet. The retreat of the Federal army had been assured. "The artillery continued to fire," says General Wilcox, "after the musketry had ceased, but by half-past eight o'clock it had all ceased. My brigade bivouacked at this point of the field, which was the most advanced point reached by our infantry, and near the hill where Bee and Bartow fell, on the 21st July, 1861, the first battle of Manassas." This hill was the Henry House Hill.
        Schurz, with his one brigade, crossed Young's Branch about nine, and remained between that stream and Bull Run, guarding the bridge and the neighboring ford till eleven o'clock. Between eleven and twelve they crossed Bull Run, but still continued near the bridge. About one in the morning they were joined by Colonel Kane's battalion of Pennsylvania Bucktails, which General McDowell had assigned to the duty of covering the retreat. The bridge was then destroyed, and they all marched to Centreville.
        Thus ended the Second Battle of Bull Run. It was a severe defeat for General Pope; but it was nothing else. It was not a rout, nor anything like a rout. The army retired under orders, and though, of course, there were many stragglers, it retreated in good order. The advance of the enemy had been definitely checked, and there was no pursuit.
        In fact, there was no battle fought in the whole war in which the beaten army acquitted itself more creditably than did General Pope's army on this bloody day. Compromised as its line of retreat was by the unexpected appearance of Longstreet's powerful corps on the south of the turnpike, confusing and embarrassing as was the attack of this corps, made as it was upon troops who had been disposed upon a different part of the field and who had been repulsed with heavy loss in their assaults upon Jackson's strong position, terrible as were the charges of the fresh divisions which Longstreet hurled upon our hungry and wearied men, the Federal army, like a noble ship struck by a sudden squall, soon righted itself, and all, from the Commanding General and his able lieutenant, to the brave regiments under Meade, Reynolds, Buchanan, Tower, McLean, Koltes, and their other gallant commanders, in the confusion of this flank attack and in the gathering shades of the evening, rallied on the hills and faced their determined foes with indomitable pluck and unyielding fortitude. Beaten they were, but not put to flight. They retreated, indeed, but in good order, and carrying off all their artillery that had not been lost in actual combat.
        The battle was indeed one of which General Lee had good reason to be proud. It would be hard to find a better instance of that masterly comprehension of the actual condition of things which marks a great general than was exhibited in General Lee's allowing our formidable attack, in which more than half the Federal army was taking part, to be fully developed and to burst upon the exhausted troops of Stonewall Jackson, while Lee, relying upon the ability of that able soldier to maintain his position, was maturing and arranging for the great attack on our left flank by the powerful corps of Longstreet.
        Lee claims to have captured in these engagements 30 pieces of artillery and 7,000 unwounded prisoners. So far as we know, no statement has been made of these losses by any Federal authority, except the very inaccurate one in General Pope's despatch to General Halleck, written the evening of the battle, in which he claims to have lost neither guns nor wagons.
        Among the casualties on our side were Brigadier-Generals Hatch, Schenck, and Tower, wounded. On the other side, Colonel Baylor, commanding the Stonewall brigade, was killed.
Source:  Chapter 10 of "The Army Under Pope" By John Codman Ropes

This page last updated 02/16/02