Report of Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell, U.S. Army,
Commanding Third Corps, Army of Virginia,
of Operations August 7 - September 2
AUGUST 16 - SEPTEMBER 2, 1862
Campaign in Northern Virginia.
November 6, 1862.
Maj. Gen. JOHN POPE,
Commander of the late Army of Virginia.
GENERAL: The rapid succession of events, forced marches, separation from books and papers, and other circumstances attending the late campaign of the Army of Virginia were such as made it impracticable for me to make from time to time detailed reports of the part taken in it by the Third Army Corps; and as immediately after the end of the campaign the corps was sent under another commander on active service into Maryland, and several of the officers commanding divisions and brigades became disabled there, I am still without many of the principal reports and returns which are necessary to make my report as full as it should be. It may therefore be found incomplete in some parts, and to comprise much which should have been made the subject of separate reports.
In the movements of the Army of Virginia, made, I presume, for the purpose of drawing on it the enemy's army from Richmond, and then of holding that army in cheek till a junction could be effected by our forces with the troops from the Peninsula, the Third Army Corps consisted in the first place of King's and Ricketts' divisions and Bayard's cavalry brigade.
On the 7th of August, when we first felt the advance of the enemy, King's division was on the north bank of the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg. Ricketts' division, with the headquarters of the corps, was between the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, about 3 miles east of the little town of Culpeper Court-House. Bayard's cavalry brigade was well to the front, in the forks of the Rapidan and its principal northern tributary, Robertson's River, with his outposts thrown forward, watching the enemy's line, which was on the south or right bank of the Rapidan, from a point some 3 miles to the east of the crossing of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, to the left of Buford's cavalry, which watched the front from the Rapidan to the Blue Ridge. The Rapidan from the left of Bayard's line to the Rappahannock and thence to Fredericksburg was watched by the First Rhode Island, First Maine, Fifth New York, and Harris' Light Cavalry, making a line of cavalry posts from the Blue Ridge to the Potomac. The distance between King's division at Fredericksburg and Ricketts' at Culpeper was too great for either to join the other in case of its being attacked, and so far apart as to leave a wide opening for the enemy to get between them by moving down the Rapidan and crossing near its confluence with the Rappahannock.
The weakness of this disposition of the corps early engaged your attention, as it had my own, and you would have remedied it in the beginning by bringing away King's division, but that to do this before the arrival of troops from the Peninsula would cause us to abandon Fredericksburg and the line from that place to Aquia, which at the cost of months of labor had been placed in condition for service, and heavily supplied with railroad rolling stock and other materials for large operations that it was thought might soon have to be undertaken from that point. General King, was, however, held in readiness to leave at the shortest notice, and our cavalry was kept far to the front, so as to give timely warning of the movements of the enemy.
It was at midnight of the 7th of August that the line was broken by the enemy's crossing the Rapidan above the mouth of Robertson's River, driving in Bayard's outposts, and following them early on the morning of the 8th on the road leading across Robertson's River, and thence along the northwest base of Cedar Run (or Slaughter) Mountain, toward Culpeper.
Early on the morning of the 8th General Bayard sent Lieutenant-Colonel Karge with a battalion of the First New Jersey to get around the enemy's left flank, while the general himself held them in check in front with part of the First Pennsylvania, under its colonel, Owen Jones, and part of the First New Jersey, under Major Beaumont. Slowly falling back toward Robertson's River he was rejoined by Lieutenant-Colonel Karge (who had been successful in his flank movement, capturing 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, and 24 privates), and after passing his command over the river under a fire of the enemy's artillery the general destroyed the bridge, thus delaying the enemy's advance, and gaining time to call in all his pickets and give the notice needed to concentrate the army on the point threatened by the enemy.
This was on the day of your arrival at Culpeper. The order given by you to King, as soon as news of the enemy's advance became known, found him just returned with a large part of his division (including all of his cavalry)from a demonstration, made in compliance with your orders, on the line of the enemy's railroad communications between Richmond and Gordonsville; and though his men were weary, and would have much liked rest before beginning this march, they set forth at once, and made a forced march of 40 miles in thirty-six hours, during oppressively hot weather. The First and Second Corps were between the Blue Ridge and Culpeper, upon which they were directed by your orders. Crawford's brigade, of Banks' corps, had been occupying the town of Culpeper, and being nearest the enemy, was sent by you on the 8th to support Bayard, and joined him that evening at Cedar Run, a small stream running past the eastern base of Cedar Run (or Slaughter) Mountain. Colonel Duffié's First Rhode Island Cavalry and Colonel Allen's First Maine Cavalry, which had been guarding the fords on the Rapidan below Bayard, also joined him, to aid in holding the enemy in check till the army should be sufficiently massed to offer battle. Thus far this had been done by Bayard's brigade, and now the duty devolved on Crawford, who joined him with infantry and artillery.
General Banks, arriving at Culpeper in the evening of the 8th with the remainder of his corps, was sent by you on the 9th to join his advanced brigade, then operating with the cavalry of my corps, holding the enemy in check. The orders were that General Sigel's corps (the First) should follow and support General Banks; Ricketts' division, of my corps, which had been moved to the southwest of the town, to be in reserve, King's division being more than two days' march distant.
The cannonading of the 8th had been resumed on the 9th, and was kept up more or less throughout the day. The reports from the front sent in to me and from General Banks to your headquarters (where by your direction I had been throughout the day)were to the effect that the enemy did not yet seem to be in great force, showing his cavalry somewhat ostentatiously, and using his artillery only; and these reports continued to be of this character throughout the day, and gave the assurance the enemy would not be able to bring up his main force till our army should have been sufficiently concentrated and got in good condition for battle.
General Sigel's corps having arrived at Culpeper after a forced march, much of it during the night previous, and being reported without provisions and not in a condition to immediately follow General Banks, by your order I directed subsistence to be given General Sigel's men from my supply train, and instantly took Ricketts' division, accompanied by you, to the front, to join General Banks, without waiting to follow General Sigel, as had been before ordered.
When the order was given me to take Ricketts' division to the front it was not known General Banks had attacked the enemy, or that he purposed doing so, or that the enemy was in sufficient force to attack him; but the cannonading having become more continuous, I was sent forward as a precautionary measure, and to allow General Sigel's men some rest. When between 2 and 3 miles from Cedar Mountain we began to meet the evidences of the battle which General Banks had fought at its base--stragglers, singly and in groups, and soon companies, battalions, and batteries moving to the rear. General Banks had left the position where he had drawn up his troops and moved them forward to attack the enemy, not believing him to be in any great force, and found him stronger than he had supposed, outnumbering greatly his own corps, and had been driven back after a gallant, severe, and bloody contest.
It was now dark, and under the assurance of General Banks that the remainder of his corps were in the front of a narrow strip of woods which extended across the road; that a brigade was still on a hill to the right of this wood, and that this brigade and the right of his line, which was said to be intact, would be drawn toward and strengthen the center, which had suffered most, I was ordered to place Ricketts' division to the right and front. This was done by posting Tower's brigade with two batteries (Leppien's and Thompson's) on the knoll to the right of the wood, Carroll's brigade connecting the left of Tower's line with the woods; Hartsuff's and Duryea's brigades in second line, with Hays and Thompson's batteries in reserve. But while making these dispositions and moving forward in column to do so, the enemy, following up the retreat of General Banks, established a battery beyond the woods before mentioned and opened on the head of my column, and soon after coming through the woods with infantry, cavalry, and artillery, established another battery on the knoll where you had just before made your headquarters after your conference with General Banks and others. This battery fired on the second line of Ricketts' division, and until the battalions in mass were placed under the shelter of the rolling ground took effect on Hartsuff's brigade. Quickly the batteries in reserve, under the direction of that most valuable officer Major Tillson, chief of artillery, Hall's First Maine, and Thompson's Second Maryland, opened on the enemy. It was dark, and only by the flash of the enemy's pieces could they see where to direct their aim, but soon, by a rapid and well-directed fire they silenced the enemy's batteries and forced them to withdraw, leaving some of their officers and most of their horses dead on the ground. The fire of the enemy's infantry from the woods was mostly at Carroll's brigade, which suffered from it before his men could be got into position in the front line.
The hot reception given the enemy by Ricketts' division caused the enemy to fall back during the night to their former position on and near Cedar Run Mountain, some 3 miles. Finding Ricketts' division too far to the front and right, it was drawn over during the night by your direction to the right of the position you had directed General Sigel to occupy.
On the morning of the 10th (Sunday) nothing was done by either army beyond a few dropping shots, and we remained in position under arms awaiting a renewal of the attack, which was not made, there being only one false alarm of a movement on our right flank. The First Pennsylvania Cavalry, under Col. Owen Jones; the First New Jersey Cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Karge (Colonel Wyndham being a prisoner of war on parole); the First Rhode Island Cavalry, under Colonel Duffié, and the First Maine, under Colonel Allen, all under Brigadier-General Bayard, had been engaged in the battle before we came up, and I am assured by your chief of cavalry, Brigadier-General Roberts, who was present, they performed good service, not only before but during the action. General Bayard, who had himself rendered most valuable service, speaks warmly of a charge made about 5 o'clock p.m. by that gallant old soldier Major Falls, First Pennsylvania Cavalry, who led his battalion against the enemy's lines and charged completely through them. All the regiments above named, and especially the Pennsylvania and New Jersey, had severe duty to perform in holding the enemy in check.
There are two officers of my staff (aides-de-camp) who are descrying of especial mention in this connection--Captain Leski and Capt. Howard Stockton. Having had no officers of Topographical Engineers, they were placed on this duty, and were constantly in front, exerting themselves with a zeal and intelligence that accomplished much for the army, and especially for the advance.
On the 11th nothing in the way of hostilities occurred between the two armies. The burial of the dead and care of the wounded were effected under an informal flag of truce.
On the 12th King's division joined from Fredericksburg, and on the same day the enemy retired from our front across Robertson's River, going, according to the reports of our scouts and the lookouts, from the mountains back to Gordonsville, or, at all events, his main body disappearing from the banks of the Rapidan.
As it was not intended we should go beyond the Rapidan, but to continue to threaten its passage, the strongest defensible position north of that river and east of its northern tributary, Robertson's River, was occupied by the army; Major-General Sigel's corps on the right, his right touching Robertson's River; the Third Corps in the center; Major-General Reno, who, at the head of the re-enforcements coming up the Potomac to Aquia Creek, had followed King's division from Fredericksburg, on the left, his left near the Rapidan, and General Banks in reserve at the little town of Culpeper Court-House--the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, which had been repaired, going through the center of the position. The army was in the forks of the Rappahannock and its tributary, the Rapidan. These two streams rise in the Blue Ridge and run through the Bull Run or Piedmont Ridge. Beyond the Rapidan and close to the river the Piedmont Ridge, which disappears at Warrenton, begins again nearly opposite the left of our line, held by Reno, and stretches off to the southwest to Lynchburg.
On the morning of the 18th one of our spies, who had been with the enemy's army, came and reported to you that the enemy had accumulated all his forces, including several divisions just up from Richmond, behind the ridge immediately beyond the river and opposite our extreme left. His artillery horses were all harnessed, and they were expecting orders to march every moment down the river, to cross at Raccoon Ford to get in our rear. This movement, which had been completely hidden from our sight by the ridge, and even from that of our lookouts on the top of Thoroughfare Mountain, was one made in the direction which had been expected from the first, and had for its object the interposing of the whole of the enemy's forces between our army and its re-enforcements, then coming up from Aquia Creek and Fredericksburg and from Alexandria by way of Manassas Junction.
The information was important and received in time, provided the enemy gave us that day and night the start.
Your orders for the army to retire forthwith behind the Rappahannock required that the reserve corps (Banks') should immediately send its baggage to the rear, by way of Brandy Station, to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad crossing of the Rappahannock; that the trains of the Third Army Corps should follow those of Banks; that those of Sigel should follow the Third Corps to Culpeper, and then go by the Warrenton road to the Sulphur Springs crossing of the Rappahannock, some 6 miles above the railroad crossing; that Reno should take the road by which he came, and which led him back to Kelly's Ford, some 6 miles below the railroad crossing. The movement of the trains--un-fortunately very large--was followed by the march of troops in the same order--the troops commencing to move after midnight, so as to allow the trains to get some distance ahead if possible. The size of the trains, the night march, the corps having for a large part of the way to use the same road, made a retreat a very tedious and wearisome one to the troops, although it was entirely successful and effected without loss or accident, but the troops did not reach the Rappahannock until the evening of the 19th.
Bayard's cavalry, being charged with covering the rear of the column, got no farther than Culpeper that night. The next morning, the 20th, agreeably to the instructions given him, he took post at Brandy Station, half way between Culpeper Court-House and the Rappahannock, and sent out strong parties in all the roads coming from the enemy's position. The party sent out on the Raccoon Ford road soon came upon the head of the enemy's column, which had made the expected movement, but too late to intercept us. The enemy followed up the cavalry to Brandy Station and thence to the Rappahannock, some skirmishing taking place on the way, and the cavalry retiring across the river.
The entire corps, with the exception of a small party thrown in advance at the head of the bridge, now occupied the left or north bank of the Rappahannock, with General Sigel's corps on the right, General Banks' corps partly in reserve and partly on the left, and Reno's corps below us, at Kelly s Ford, and Reynolds division, formerly under my command, and which it was soon to rejoin, coming up the river from Fredericksburg. I understood it was desired the line of the Rappahannock should be held as long as possible, to gain time for the troops coming up the Potomac to join, and particularly those coming by way of Aquia and Fredericksburg, who would be liable to be cut off if we should give up the river before they arrived. The Rappahannock above the mouth of the Rapidan is an inconsiderable stream, and fordable at most seasons every few miles. The Third Corps was posted at and above the railroad bridge, which had been so arranged as to serve for artillery and cavalry. The advance, a regiment of Hartsuff's brigade, was posted on two small hills on the southern side of the river, between the line of the railroad and the river. The first one was about 150 yards from the road and as many from the river; the second some 400 yards from the road and 600 from the river. On the first was a small intrenchment, thrown up by the enemy at the time of their retreat from Manassas last spring. That evening a battery of artillery and a regiment of infantry, from Banks' corps, I think, were sent by you to guard a ford to the right of my line.
Early on the morning of the 21st the enemy attempted the ford held by the battery and regiment on my right and drove them away, dispersing the regiment and disabling the battery. King's division was immediately sent up to retake the position, which it soon did, driving the enemy back with loss, and taking some of the cavalry prisoners. The rifled batteries of both divisions now lined the river bank in such position as commanded the opposite shore and gave shelter to our troops. The enemy's fire disabled three guns in Naylor's battery, but they themselves were equally damaged in return by the accurate fire of Hall's battery, which finally compelled them to retire.
On the 22d, fearing the enemy might gain possession of the most advanced hill, near the bridge, which it was desirable to hold, in the night a trestle bridge was built by the Engineer Corps, under Major Houston, of the Engineers, about 800 yards above the railroad bridge, in a bend of the river which swept near the farther hill, the banks here being covered with woods. This gave us another and a shorter and hidden line of communication, and enabled Hartsuff's whole brigade and Thompson's and Matthews' batteries to be thrown over to occupy these heights. The firing to-day was very animated between the enemy's batteries and our own.
Since the morning of the 21st the enemy's heavy columns of infantry, artillery, and trains could sometimes be plainly seen passing up to our right, and their course, when behind the woods, was indicated by the lines of dust ascending above the trees. The attack on my front had been followed up by similar ones on the positions held by the other corps above and below me. All the movements of the enemy gave assurances he was moving to turn our right, having failed on the front and left. This was confirmed by the intelligence that he had crossed at Sulphur Springs and was moving on Warrenton.
On the night of the 22d, just as I received your orders for the Third Corps to cross at the bridge, and in connection with the commands of Reno and Reynolds below me, to fall on the rear of that long column which had been passing before us for two days up the south side of the river, an officer came to report to me, in your presence, that the rain which had been falling during the night had so swollen the river that the trestle bridge had been swept away and had lodged against the railroad bridge, the center of which was yielding to the pressure of the flood, and was in imminent danger of being carried off. The river had risen some 6 feet, and all the fords were gone.
Fearing for the safety of Hartsuff's brigade, who were on the opposite bank, I ordered them to be withdrawn. It was now impracticable to cross the river and make the attack you had planned. Your orders then were to move the army against the enemy, who had crossed at Sulphur Springs and gone to Warrenton, whence he had made the attack with his cavalry at Catlett's, and who, it was thought, would be unable, on account of the state of the river, either to recross or be re-enforced.
The withdrawal of Hartsuff's brigade from the south side encouraged the enemy to more forward to seize the hills he had abandoned before we could complete the entire destruction of the railroad bridge, which we did not wish to leave for the enemy to repair and use to annoy us on our march to Warrenton. They opened a furious fire upon us, and, moving their infantry down in masses, rushed upon the hill Hartsuff had just left. Matthews'. Thompson's, and Leppien's batteries, and our sharpshooters returned their fire so vigorously that they were soon driven off. Leppien's especially did them much damage. Farther to the right Hall's battery engaged two of the enemy's batteries and drove both of them off and dispersed a regiment of infantry. The firing of this excellent battery was, as usual, rapid and accurate. Farther up the river the batteries of Reynolds and Naylor were also successfully engaged. In the mean time the corps, agreeably to your orders, was on the march to Warrenton, to be on the right of General Sigel, who was to attack the enemy, and who was to have Generals Reno and Banks on his left and rear, General Reno having moved up the river for this purpose. Reynolds' division, following him, rejoined the Third Corps, and marched after the divisions of Generals King and Ricketts to Warrenton. The rear guard of the corps was commanded by Brigadier-General Tower, who had his brigade and the batteries of artillery holding the river at the bridge, which he was directed to see destroyed before leaving.
In the afternoon, under cover of a thunder-storm, which for a while hid all objects at a little distance from view, the enemy again occupied the hill from which they had been driven in the morning, but kept out of sight till after the bridge had been destroyed and the rear guard had taken up its line of march, when, just as the batteries were limbering up to leave, they commenced a rapid fire upon the retiring column. That night the advance of the First Division of the corps entered Warrenton, the other divisions being on the road leading there, but from 3 to 5 miles from it. The enemy had retreated in the afternoon toward the river. General Sigel who had been on the right when we were on the river facing the south, was now, by our change of front, in advance He was to have intercepted the enemy, but for some reason was not able to come up with them before they recrossed the river at Sulphur Springs on a bridge they had built at that place. General Sigel followed up the north bank of the river to Waterloo Bridge, at the crossing of Luray turnpike.
On the 24th the whole corps was at Warrenton and on the road thence to Sulphur Springs.
On the 25th I received your order of that date, directing the Third Corps to occupy Warrenton, &c. This same general order required Major-General Sigel's corps to occupy Fayetteville to the left of the Third Corps, General Banks' to occupy Bealeton Station to the left of General Sigel's, and General Reno's to return to Kelly's Ford, on the Rappahannock.
The line thus intended to be established would touch the river only on the extreme left at Kelly's Ford, the center and right being thrown back or refused, and the right held by the Third Corps, resting on the extremity of the Bull Run or Piedmont Ridge at Warrenton.
This order, so far as concerned the Third Corps, was immediately carried out by placing Reynolds' division on the road to Sulphur Springs with Meade's brigade thrown forward to within 4 miles of the Springs, which are at the river; Ricketts on the Waterloo road, with Tower's brigade in advance within 4 miles of the bridge, and King's division near the town, and the forks of the road above mentioned, which issue from Warrenton at nearly right angles to each other, and are good, broad turnpikes, the Waterloo road leading nearly west through the Blue Ridge to Luray, and the Sulphur Springs road nearly southwest toward Culpeper; Buford's cavalry brigade was posted between Tower's advanced brigade and Waterloo Bridge (over the Rappahannock), and Bayard's brigade was to take post on the Sulphur Springs road between Meade's brigade and the river.
On the night of the 25th I received from you, by telegraph from your headquarters, near Warrenton Junction, an order that, leaving Reynolds in reserve, I should make a reconnaissance with my corps across the river at Sulphur Springs, and sending me an open order for General Sigel, which I was to read and send to him, directing him to force the passage of the river at Waterloo. This order was immediately forwarded to General Sigel by the hands of one of my aides-de-camp, Capt. F. Haven, and was received at 2 o'clock a.m., whilst the general was on the retreat in the night from Waterloo to Warrenton, through which his troops were moving all night long.
Early the next morning (the 26th) Ricketts' division, which was on the Waterloo road, was moved across to the Sulphur Springs road to make the attack you had ordered.
In the course of the morning I received your telegram of 5 o'clock a.m. and as I was on my way to Sulphur Springs to direct the attack your telegram of 8.10 o'clock a.m. These informed me of your order to Reno to make the reconnaissance across the river below Rappahannock Station to Culpeper and of his failure to do so; and, in view of the failure of General Sigel to force the passage of the river above at Waterloo, authorized me to use my discretion as to crossing at Sulphur Springs, and desired me to ascertain, if possible, if the enemy were really in force at Waterloo, and what had become of the head of his column which yesterday was in front and had taken the road toward Salem. General Sigel, you informed me, reported his men unable to do anything until they should have some rest. Generals Bayard and Buford reported to me that, owing to the hard, unremitting services performed, their cavalry was broken down--the former, that his would neither charge nor stand a charge; the latter, that his was at that time disorganized.
As the falling back of General Sigel from Waterloo to Warrenton and the transfer of my troops from the Waterloo road to the Sulphur Springs road had left the right weakly guarded, and as it was around the right the enemy were then moving, I decided to replace my corps in the position it had occupied the day before.
In order to comply with your wishes to ascertain the force of the enemy at Waterloo and farther to the right, agreeably to your instructions of 8.10 a.m. I took command of General Sigel's corps and everything in front. (A copy of my note to General Sigel is below, marked E.) Brigadier-General Buford, with the available cavalry at hand and some artillery from General Sigel's corps, was sent to turn the head of the enemy's column, which was moving through Salem. This was reported to you and met your approval.
I am obliged here to ask your attention to General Sigel's report, which has been made public. It will be noticed the general gives at some length his reasons for abandoning the position at Waterloo Bridge and falling back under cover of the night of the 25th; a movement with which he seems to wish it to appear I was in some way connected, if, indeed, for which I was not responsible. He says, first, he had been under my command since his arrival at Waterloo, had sent to me for instructions, &c. It will be seen from your telegram, my letter, and his own report that he did not come under my orders until the 26th, after he had left his position and fallen behind my command at Warrenton. Second, he says I was to have relieved Milroy's brigade at the bridge. In that he mistakes the general order (which I have quoted) forming the line from Kelly's Ford on the left to Warrenton on the right. The river was to be held, except at Kelly's Ford, by cavalry only, and Buford's brigade was close behind Milroy for this purpose. Third, he says when he fell back he had no support within 8 or 10 miles of him. It is 8 miles, so called, from Waterloo Bridge to Warrenton. He had behind and to his right Buford's brigade; behind Buford, Ricketts' division, of four brigades and four batteries of artillery, all of which were between 4 and 5 miles of the bridge. Fourth, he says matters were confused at receiving a mutilated order or letter from General McDowell, part directed to him, informing him he would meet his bridge train at Fayetteville, and part addressed to General Banks, calling for information from his corps. Here he is again mistaken. I wrote him no such letter nor such as he describes to General Banks. I did not myself know where his bridge train was, and had no right to call on General Banks for any return, for he was my senior. The letter to him, I have been informed by that officer, was from your late chief of staff, and was, I suppose, sent to Warrenton by telegraph from your headquarters, and forwarded thence to its destination by the operator by means of one of the cavalry of my corps. However this may be, I know nothing of it.
The attack on the enemy beyond Sulphur Springs by my corps was not undertaken for the reasons I have stated; but before the countermand was given King's division became engaged with the enemy, mostly with artillery, and the firing was kept up during the day. The troops opposed to him, as we learned from a flag of truce sent by the enemy, was a division of Anderson's, formerly Huger's, and, as far as I know, the last of those of which we had any knowledge that had left Richmond. I inferred from this the enemy's rear rested then at Sulphur Springs.
On the supposition the enemy might offer us battle at or near Warrenton, upon which he could now concentrate a large force, you informed me in your telegram of the 26th that the corps on my left and rear would all be pushed forward, so as to be within supporting distance of the Third Corps. The information, however, received in the evening and night from General Buford, from General Sigel's scouts, and from some negroes was to the effect that the enemy's column, whose rear division we had been fighting at Sulphur Springs, was directed upon Thoroughfare Gap, through which his advance had passed, to attack our communications at Manassas. Copies of the telegrams to and from your headquarters, concerning the supposed designs of the enemy, are herewith, marked Appendix A.
You then decided to throw the army back on the forces of the enemy which had passed through the Piedmont Ridge at Thoroughfare Gap, and agreeably to your order of 8.30 a.m. of the 27th (and not as stated in General Sigel's proposal), I gave the latter, who, as we were to march to the rear, was now in front, the following order:
Push immediately a strong advance along the turnpike from Warrenton to Gainesville for the purpose of taking possession of Buckland Mills, on Broad Run, and get your corps in hand as soon as possible to follow the advance. No wagons but for ammunition will accompany your corps on this road. Your baggage trains will immediately proceed to Catlett's. Detach three batteries from your corps to report to Major-General Kearny, commanding division, who will be moving by way of Greenwich to your support. Further instructions will be given as to the route by which the batteries are to join General Kearny, and until they do they will remain with you.
I gave General Sigel the cavalry of my corps in place of his own, which had been detached by your order, and informed him that Reynolds', King's, and Ricketts' divisions would immediately follow him, and that as soon as they closed upon him he should push his advance to Gainesville, the point where the Warrenton turnpike to Centreville and Alexandria was crossed by the road from Thoroughfare Gap to Manassas Junction. The divisions of Reynolds, King, and Ricketts, in the order named, followed as soon as they could be brought in. As there was but one road for all these troops to march over, stringent orders were given that all wagons not required for ammunition should be sent to the lower road, so as to leave this one as unencumbered as possible for the passage of the troops. So far as the Third Corps was concerned this order, with inconsiderable exceptions, mostly in Reynolds' division, was obeyed.
General Sigel succeeded in reaching Buckland Mills in time to save the bridge which I had had made over Broad Run at that place, and had pushed on his advance to Gainesville as ordered, and that night the three divisions of the corps closed up with him.
Buford, who had been indefatigable on this as on every other occasion during the campaign, sent in word from our extreme left (our former right) that he had cut the enemy's column and forced Longstreet to deploy between Salem and White Plains. Duffié's Rhode Island Cavalry was sent up to watch the road between White Plains and Thoroughfare, to see that the enemy should not fall on the rear of our column unawares.
The night of the 27th I saw General Sigel at Buckland Mills, and informed him that Longstreet would be coming through the Gap next morning, and that, as the head of his corps (Sigel's) was now on the road leading from the Gap to Manassas Junction, I would give him one of my divisions (a third of my force)and charge him with the duty of marching to Hay Market, watching the Gap and engaging the forces when they came through, whilst I would take the remainder of my force and go against those who had already passed. I sent word to you of this at Bristoe, but whilst the preparations were being made to carry it out I received your order, dated Bristoe, August 27, 9 o'clock p.m., as follows:
At daylight to-morrow morning march rapidly on Manassas Junction with your whole force, letting your right on the Manassas Gap Railroad, throwing your left well to the east. Jackson, Ewell, and A. P. Hill are between Gainesville and Manassas Junction. We had a severe fight with them to-day, driving them back several miles along the railroad. If you will march promptly and rapidly at the earliest dawn of day upon Manassas Junction we shall bag the whole crowd. I have directed Reno to march from Greenwich at the same time upon Manassas Junction, and Kearny, who is in his rear, to march on Bristoe at daybreak. Be expeditious, and the day is our own.
I showed this order to General Sigel, and sent him a copy of my general order, the receipt of which he acknowledged at 2.30 a.m. on the 28th. My order required all the forces to march immediately. His advanced division was already at Gainesville, and he had to close his command upon it and march as ordered. I endeavored, by every exertion of myself and staff, to get the force forward as early as you had indicated, and, so far as the Third Corps was concerned, worn as the divisions were by the marching and counter-marching of the day previous up to a late hour in the night, which had prevented many of the regiments from obtaining their supplies, there was no difficulty. They were ready, and marched forward with alacrity, though many of the regiments had barely finished the march of the day before; but General Sigel's rear division was so long getting out of its bivouac that Reynolds' division, after waiting some time, had to pass the larger part of it, and General Sigel's corps, instead of complying fully with my orders at Warrenton, that all wagons not carrying ammunition should go by the way of Catlett's, had brought with them nearly 200, which encumbered the road and embarrassed our movements seriously, and when all the divisions were closed up, instead of a rapid march, everything came to a stand.
At 7.30 o'clock I received a message from General Reynolds, who was at the head of the Third Corps, that General Sigel was halting on the road at the junction of the railroad (Gainesville), and was making no preparations to advance or to organize or form his line, and that his men had built fires to cook their breakfast, and had blocked up the road so that he could not get forward. I sent my assistant adjutant-general to the head of the column to urge General Sigel to march immediately on Manassas Junction, as ordered, but it was late in the forenoon before the head of the corps passed him.
All the forces of the army were now, by your orders, converging on Manassas Junction, and had been moving, till we crossed the railroad at Gainesville, in the angle comprised between the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and the Manassas Railroad, which unite at Manassas J unction. The troops under my command, the First and Third Corps, were to cross the Manassas road at Gainesville and move with the right on that road, the left well to the east.
General Sigel says in his report that he understood he was to have his right on the railroad leading from Warrenton Junction to Manassas Junction, the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, some 6 miles to the south of us. He saw your order to move with his right on the Manassas Railroad, and had my general order in writing to the same effect. When I arrived at Gainesville I found he had moved to the right or south side, instead of to the left or north side, of the Manassas road.
I varied from your orders to march with "my whole force" only so far as concerned General Ricketts' division and the cavalry of Buford and Bayard. Knowing that Longstreet would be coming through Thoroughfare, I sent early in the morning Colonel Wyndham's First New Jersey Regiment of Cavalry to the Gap, and sent up other cavalry as fast as I could get hold of it, and on receiving word the enemy was coming through I detached Ricketts' division to hold him in check. This departure from your orders to move with "my whole force" on Manassas I felt called upon to make to carry out the spirit of your plan of crushing the enemy at that place before his re-enforcements, of whose position I had just received positive intelligence, could join, as those re-enforcements, I thought, could be better held in check at the Gap than this side of it.
As soon as the Warrenton road was free Reynolds' division pushed forward across the railroad, and after a short march the head of his column found itself opposed by the enemy with a battery of artillery posted on a hill. The attack, commenced by the enemy as soon as we came in view, caused Reynolds to deploy his column, to bring up his artillery, and send out his skirmishers. After a short engagement the enemy retired, so that when our skirmishers occupied the hill he left he was nowhere to be seen. Supposing from the movements of this force that it was some rear guard or cavalry party, with artillery, sent out to reconnoiter, the march of the division, after caring for the killed and wounded, was resumed, and it turned off to the south of the road to go to Manassas. As General Sigel's getting so far to the south of the Manassas railroad left so wide a distance between him and the leading division of the corps (Reynolds') that King's division, which was to have gone to the left of Reynolds', was now brought between it and General Sigel's corps, and the march on Manassas resumed.
The country between the Warrenton turnpike and the Manassas railroad, on which we were now marching, was unknown to us. It was partly in fields, but mostly in woods, across and through which we were going in the general direction ordered. It was now late in the afternoon, and I ascertained that the enemy were no longer at Manassas Junction,and soon after I received your dispatch of 1.20 from that place, which must have been delayed on the way, for after giving the necessary orders to carry out your instructions, but before the troops had received them, your second dispatch from Manassas was received, informing me that the enemy were on the other side of Bull Run, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, as also near Centreville, and directing me to march with my command upon the latter place. King's division, which was nearest the Warrenton and Centreville turnpike, was ordered to march by that road, and Reynolds' division, which was near the Sudley Springs and Manassas road, was ordered to move by that road and thence by the Warrenton turnpike. After putting these divisions in motion and going with Reynolds' division to near Manassas I proceeded to that place, to confer personally with you. King's division moved along the Warrenton road and became engaged with the enemy, and at the same time Ricketts', some 6 or 8 miles farther to the west, became engaged with Longstreet's corps as it attempted the passage of the defile at Thoroughfare Gap.
I have as yet received no reports from King's division or from any of the brigade commanders. I cannot say, therefore, as to the engagement of Thursday, the 28th; but from verbal reports I understand it to have been mostly an affair of General Gibbon's brigade, one of the finest in the army, and part of Doubleday's brigade, with some two brigades of the enemy, and that the troops behaved most creditably. The loss in Gibbon's brigade was severe in both men and officers. The gallant Colonel O'Connor, Second Wisconsin, and Major May, Nineteenth Indiana, killed; Colonel Cutler, Sixth Wisconsin, one of the best officers we have, badly wounded, and at the time reported dead; the gallant Colonel Robinson, Seventh Wisconsin, Major Allen, Second Wisconsin, Lieut. Col. Charles A. Hamilton, Seventh Wisconsin, and Major Bill, Seventh Wisconsin, wounded.
General Ricketts engaged the enemy until dark, holding him in check and forcing him back, but finding him crossing at Hopewell Gap, above and on his right, and threatened with being turned on his left, he withdrew at night-fall to Gainesville, and here learning from General King that he intended to fall back to Manassas at I o'clock a.m. from the Warrenton road, General Ricketts did the same by the way of Bristoe, which gave him a long and fatiguing march. Finding on my arrival there that you had left Manassas I turned toward Reynolds' division, but did not succeed in finding it. It being now dark, until daybreak next morning, on the hill by the Warrenton road near Groveton. It was here I learned of the movements of King's and Ricketts' divisions of the night before.
Early in the morning of the 29th General Sigel, who had come up the night before from near Manassas, and who was on Reynolds' right, made demonstrations against the enemy, who seemed to be on the north of us. I directed Reynolds to support General Sigel on the left in the movements he might make, and then proceeded to join Generals King's and Ricketts' divisions.
At Manassas I found Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter's corps coming up and soon after, in answer partly to a message of mine, I received your order of the 29th from Centreville, addressed jointly to General Porter and myself. In compliance with it, King's and Ricketts' divisions were directed, as soon as they could be placed on the road from Manassas Junction to Gainesville, which runs nearly west, to follow in the rear and close to General Porter's corps. Both these divisions had been on foot night and day for several days past, had marched the most of the night before, and were separated from their baggage and subsistence. They moved forward, however, cheerfully. The column coming to a halt, I rode forward and found General Porter at the head of his corps, on a slight eminence; in front was an open piece of ground, and beyond it the woods skirting the Warrenton road, down which, as we could see from the dust above the trees, the enemy was moving from Gainesville upon Groveton, where the battle was now going on.
Just before reaching General Porter I received a note from General Buford, commanding cavalry brigade, who was on our then left and front, acquainting me with the strength of the enemy, which he had seen as they passed through Gainesville, then moving down the road. It consisted of seventeen regiments, one battery, and 500 cavalry. As this was an inferior force to General Porter's, I decided for him to throw himself at once on the enemy's flank, and as the head of my column was some 3 miles back, near the Sudley Springs road, I would move it directly north on that road upon the field where the battle was then at its height. Under the authority they gave me I deviated from the letter of your instructions, for I thought in this way the forces could be soonest and best applied, and that by coming up on the left of the line, then actually engaged with the enemy, the best disposition would be effected, and the fixed point in your instructions, which was "that the troops should occupy a position from which they could reach Bull Run that night or the next morning," would be still fulfilled.
Leaving General Porter I returned to the head of my two divisions and turned them immediately north, on the Sudley Springs road, to the battle ground, and after seeing most of them off I rode forward to the head of King's division, now commanded by Brigadier-General Hatch, General King, who had the misfortune to be struck down by a severe illness on the Rappahannock, but who had since tried to return to duty, being at last forced to relinquish the command. I found General Hatch absent. He had gone, as I was told, to see General Sigel.
General Reynolds reports that in the mean time, after I had left him in the morning, he had, agreeably to my orders to support General Sigel in any movement the latter might make, formed his division on the left of General Schenck's, but the right of the enemy's position being discovered upon the heights above Groveton, on the right of the Warrenton turnpike, the division advanced in that direction, Cooper's battery, supported by Meade's brigade, coming gallantly into action on the same ridge on which the enemy's right was posted. By some movement in General Sigel's corps Reynolds' right becoming unsupported, and the enemy's whole fire being concentrated upon it, he was obliged to fall back.
Later in the day General Pope, arriving on the right of the line from Centreville, renewed the attack on the enemy, and drove him back some distance. General Reynolds was then directed to threaten the enemy's right and rear, which he proceeded to do under a heavy fire of artillery from the ridge to the left of the pike. Generals Seymour and Jackson led their brigades in advance, but notwithstanding all the steadiness and courage of the men they were compelled, by the fire of the enemy's artillery and infantry on their front and left, to resume their former position.
Immediately on my arrival with King's division I directed it to move forward and take place on the left of Reynolds', then still engaged on the left of Sigel's corps, and some of the brigades went forward to do so, when I received your instructions to order the division over to the north of the turnpike to support the line held by Reno, which had been hotly engaged all day, and the division was recalled and brought back to the Sudley Springs road for this purpose.
One of the brigades--Patrick's--having received an order, as he informed me, direct from your headquarters, to move across the field, became separated from the division, and though he moved at the quickest pace, was not able to rejoin until late that evening.
About the time the division arrived at the crossing of the Sudley Springs and Warrenton turnpike I received word from you that the enemy were falling back, and to send the division right up the turnpike after them. It was now near dusk, and though the men had been on foot since 1 o'clock in the morning they moved forward with the greatest enthusiasm. They were led gallantly up the road by Brigadier-General Hatch, who, trusting to find the enemy in retreat, as he was told, and hoping to turn their retreat into a flight, took the men forward, his own and Doubleday's brigades and Gerrish's battery of howitzers, with Patrick's brigade in reserve, with an impetuosity akin to rashness. The attack was severe, both on the enemy and our men.
About the same time an attack was made by Bayard's cavalry, on the left of Hatch, on the enemy south of the road, in which Seymour's squadron suffered severely. These were the finishing strokes of the day, which we could now safely claim as ours.
The batteries of King's division, except Gerrish's, supported by Gibbon's brigade, had been sent to re.enforce and relieve those on the ridge near Groveton. Ricketts' division, coming on in the rear of King's, was taken up the Sudley Springs road north of the Warrenton pike, and held as a reserve for the line in front.
On the morning of Saturday, the 30th, Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter's corps came on the ground by the same road that had been taken by the divisions of King and Ricketts--the Sudley Springs road--and turned up the Warrenton turnpike, following the course of King's division. The order you finest gave was that we should hold the center and left and mass our troops on the right, to attack the enemy's left; and as you ordered me to make this attack with the Third Corps, added to the corps of Porter and Heintzelman, I asked to make a reconnaissance in person before sending the troops in, and requested General Heintzelman to accompany me.
The Sudley Springs road is nearly north and south, and the Warrenton turnpike is nearly east and west, crossing each other near where you established your headquarters. I found the enemy had the day before occupied nearly the half of a circle, commencing at a point beyond Bull Run, on the northeast angle made by those roads and sweeping around irregularly through Sudley Springs to the west, and then south to a point in the southwest angle. Our line opposing them had on the right Heintzelman's corps; in the center, first, Reno's and then Sigel's corps, and on the left King's division and Bayard's cavalry; Ricketts, in an interior position, in reserve. Porter's corps, which on the day before had been detached and been on the extreme left, hanging on the enemy's right and rear, was now on the left, up the Warrenton road.
On going with General Heintzelman over to the position held by his troops we found all the points held by the enemy the day before beyond Bull Run abandoned, and in going over to the Sudley Springs road and west of it we saw no evidences of the enemy in force, some skirmishers and advanced posts or rear guards, as the case might be, being all that we found. On returning to headquarters and reporting these facts we found that word had been sent in from the front that the enemy was moving back on the road to Gainesville. Similar word was given by General Patrick. On the supposition that the enemy was falling back I received your orders to take command of the corps above named and pursue the enemy. I accordingly gave orders that Ricketts' division should report to General Heintzelman, who was to have charge of the right of the advance, and was to move on the enemy by the road from Sudley Springs to Hay Market--a road running west nearly parallel with the Warrenton turnpike and the north side of it-and placed the other divisions, Reynolds' and King's, which were to the front on the Warrenton turnpike and near General Porter's corps, under that general, to support him in his advance on that road; but just as these orders were issued General Reynolds rode up to my headquarters and reported, of his own personal knowledge, that the enemy were not falling back ; on the contrary, that he was passing his troops to the south of Warrenton turnpike, and mussing them behind the woods, to turn our left and make an attack on the southwest angle of the two roads and thence across the Sudley Springs road to the southeast angles. It may be well to state here--what, however, is well known to you--that the country around the field of battle is much of it thickly wooded, and that the march of large bodies on the side of the enemy could only be seen at intervals and can be easily hidden from view.
On General Reynolds' information, seeing no time was to be lost and that instant measures were to be taken to meet this unexpected movement, I gave him orders to take his division immediately over to provide for this threatened attack and occupy the hill south of the turnpike, he knowing the ground well, having been over it in the course of the battle the day before. You at the same time gave orders that some of General Sigel's corps should also move to the south of the turnpike on the Bald Hill, so called, near Groveton. I immediately wrote to General Porter that he must exercise his discretion as to the use of King's division in the movement, he suggested, in his front, that I had been obliged to take Reynold's division from him to guard the left, and had to go there in person to see to it ; that you said if he should need more force you would send him General Sigel. I sent word also to General Heintzelman of the change, and that I was obliged to take from him two brigades and two batteries of artillery of Ricketts' division to aid in improvising the defense of the left, south of the turnpike, where I immediately repaired, and remained throughout the battle, having no further communication either with General Ricketts' division, under General Heintzelman, or General King s division, under General Porter.
The Warrenton turnpike goes west up the valley of the little rivulet of Young's Branch, and through the battle-field is mostly close to the stream. The ground rises from the stream on both sides, in some places quite into hills. The Sudley Springs road, in crossing the stream at right angles, passes directly over one of these hills, just south of the Warrenton turnpike, and this hill has on it a detached road, with fields stretching back away from it some hundreds of yards to the forest. This is the hill on which the Henry house stood. To the west of it is another hill--the Bald Hill, so called--which is, in fact, a ridge lying between the roads, and making about the same angle with each, and running back to the forest. Between the two hills is a small stream--a tributary, I think, of Young's Branch.
The two brigades under Brigadier-General Tower and the two batteries from Ricketts' division were taken from north of the Warrenton turnpike on the Sudley Springs road to the hill first above mentioned to the farther side of the first woods. Whilst reconnoitering in advance of these woods-the positions which the enemy would be likely to occupy in the direction indicated by General Reynolds--I was joined by that officer, and, seeing no evidence at that time of the enemy to the left, I accompanied him across to the Bald Hill ridge, on which, next to the main woods, his division was taking up its position, and on which, next to General Reynolds, General Schenck was coming up from the Warrenton road. Whilst these troops were forming on this ridge, which commanded a view of the enemy in the northwest angle of the two roads before mentioned, and which overlooked the Warrenton road, we saw the effects of the attack which had been made by Major-General Porter in front with his own troops and King's division of my corps. Seeing that it was resulting disastrously for us, and that our troops were falling back, I returned immediately to the Henry House Hill to see to the placing of Tower's two brigades and the two batteries. On my way I met one of your staff with your message, asking if in ordering over this force I had not taken too much from the right. But soon after meeting you, as you came up the Henry House Hill from the right, and representing the state of affairs in front, with your sanction I sent Tower's command over to the Bald Hill, to the right of General Schenck. The line thus formed, in connection with that on the north of the turnpike, held by Reno, Sigel, and others, commanded the Warrenton road and protected the retreat of Porter's command, then moving down from the front.
The line had not been formed any too soon, for the enemy, after our troops in front had retreated, made the expected attack, and assailed the troops on the ridge both in front and on their left flank. Those of the enemy who had passed to the south of the Warrenton turnpike, as represented by General Reynolds, soon after opened a severe fire from the southwest of the Henry House Hill on the Bald Ridge, and at the same time prepared to move down to take the woods on the Henry House Hill itself. The next step was to provide in some way for the defense of this hill, and as at this time some battalions of regulars, of Sykes' division, came up the hill, they were sent to the left to occupy the woods which covered it. The Rhode Island battery, under Captain Monroe, and some time after two brigades of Reynolds' division, under Generals Meade and Seymour, which had been withdrawn from the extreme left of the front to form a line across the road behind which General Porter's troops might rally, were brought over from the right and relieved the regular battalions. The latter rejoined their division, which formed another line on the hill to the east, in rear of the Henry House Hill and at a few hundred yards distant from it. Reno's corps was also withdrawn by your order from the north of the turnpike to the Henry House Hill.
The attack on the Bald Ridge line had been too severe for the troops to hold it long under the hot fire the enemy maintained upon it. Jackson's brigade, of Reynolds' division; McLean's, of Schenck's, and Tower's two brigades, of Ricketts' division, were, after heavy losses, little by little compelled to yield it, General Schenck and General Tower receiving severe wounds, the former in the arm, the latter in the left knee, as they were encouraging and leading on their men. Col. Fletcher Webster, Twelfth Massachusetts, and Captain Fessenden, aide to General Tower, were mortally wounded.
Though We lost this position, it had been held long enough to aid in protecting the retreat of our men from the front, who, as they came in, either formed behind it or in rear of the line on the north of the turnpike. It was the only position on the left from which we were forced, and its loss reflects no discredit on those who held it, for they yielded to the overwhelming force of the whole right of the enemy's army, which was concentrated on them after our advance had been driven back. The troops immediately north of the Warrenton turnpike then commenced falling back.
On going to the turnpike where it ascends from the bridge over Young's Branch to the top of the hill to the right and rear of the Henry House Hill, to see to the placing of some troops which I thought might be of King's division, of my corps, coming there from the front, I found Brig. Gen. Carl Schurz with some of General Sigel's corps drawn up by the road. The general spoke to me concerning the posting of a battery then out of position, which I caused to be placed so as to be of use in case we should be forced from the Henry House Hill as we had been from the Bald Hill, but with warning they were not to fire till after our men should have left the position in front. Seeing them commence loading, I sent a captain on my staff to warn the battery not to fire except on the contingency mentioned. I refer to this incident, as it may have served as a foundation for one of the strange stories that soon after became prevalent as to this battle.
I annex hereto an extract of General Schurz' report and a correspondence which grew out of it, from which it will be seen that the general says "he did not mean what he seems to have said."
Leaving General Schurz drawn up on the hill, I went to the left, where the corps of General Porter, or the larger part of it that came out of the fight in front, had been formed in double line, and when near Sykes' division of regulars Brigadier-General Milroy--a gallant officer, of General Sigel's corps--came riding up in a state of absolute frenzy, with his sword drawn, and gesticulating at some distance off, shouting to send forward re-enforcements, to save the day, to save the country, &c. His manner, his dealing in generalities, which gave no information whatever, and which, in the way he uttered them, only showed him as being in a state of mind as unfit to judge of events as to command men and as being away from his command, caused me to receive him coldly.
It was a question with me whether we could hold the Henry House Hill--whether to break the line of reserve at this time or hold the position they then occupied. It was a question of importance, on which I should have liked to consult you, the general-in-chief, before deciding--the more so as I had reason to think this line had been established under your own orders, given direct. But you were farther over to the left, and the case had to be determined at once.
But while General Milroy gave me nothing whatever on which I could be justified in acting, and while in doubt for the moment in view of the circumstances as to the course to be taken, I received a clear message from that intelligent as well as gallant officer Brigadier-General Meade, through one of his aides-de-camp, to the effect that if he could have some re-enforcements sent to him in the woods on the Henry House Hill he could not only hold them, but drive out the enemy, who were not then there in great force. Relieved from all doubt by this message. I exclaimed, "Meade shall have re-enforcements," and immediately gave General Porter orders to send them forward.
I send herewith an extract from General Milroy's report, to which I regret I have to refer to say that his statement that I refused to send re-enforcements to General Sigel is without foundation in anything that I said or thought. I had just come from a large part of General Sigel's corps. I had received no intimation from General Sigel that he needed re-enforcements. He was in reserve, and mostly in a different part of the field than that in which I had been operating. On Friday I had re-enforced him with Reynolds' whole division, and on Saturday the only part of his corps with which I had had anything to do up to the time of my seeing General Schurz was General Schenck's division, which I had re-enforced, without being asked, with every man I had at the time under my control.
I send herewith a copy of my correspondence with Colonel Buchanan, commanding the brigade of regulars sent forward at the time in question, and with other officers present on the occasion, from which you see the condition of mind General Milroy was in, and how little his impressions at the time are to be relied on, either as to what he did or what I said.
To General Sigel personally I bore no ill-will, but had he been my enemy, and had I desired to see him harmed--General Sigel here represented several thousand men, many of them from my own State, and, aside from the great question of the loss of the battle, the fate of the campaign and the ruin of the country, which might all have been involved--I could not be so stupidly bad, so utterly false to the simplest form of duty, as to refuse aid to my brother soldiers when I had the power to give it only because they were under an officer I did not like.
As it seems to have been the impression not only that I was unfriendly to General Sigel, but that we had bitter altercations and even personal conflicts on the field itself, I take the occasion to state that during the whole course of the operations from Thursday morning at Buckland Mills to the next Monday evening at Fairfax Court-House not only I did not exchange a word with General Sigel, but I did not see him, and I do not think he saw me. The re-enforcements taken forward by Colonel Buchanan and the troops brought by your orders from the north of the turnpike held the position on the Henry House Hill until they were withdrawn long after dark.
It was about 7 o'clock when I received your order to take such portions of my corps as I might find intact and proceed with them to take a position covering the bridges over Bull Run and Cub Run. Proceeding to the place where I had left General Schurz I found he had withdrawn, but General Gibbon's brigade, of King's division, was just coming up the hill, and seeing it would not be well to leave the position as unsupported as it then was, I told General Gibbon to take post there and hold it till everything should have passed him. He remained there, I am told by one of the colonels of his brigade, till some two hours after dark, when he withdrew.
Learning at this place that Patrick's brigade, of King's division, had just passed toward the bridge I followed it there. Seeing the road much blocked up with wagons I endeavored to find the ford, a couple of hundred yards below the bridge, but it was so dark I could not see the way, and returned to the road and crossed over. I left here two officers of my staff and a guard of the Pennsylvania Bucktail Battalion, belonging to the Third Corps, under the gallant Colonel Kane, and directed some pieces of artillery that were passing by to be placed in position on the left bank. All contest, however, save a shot now and then from one of our pieces on the Henry House Hill, had ceased for some time. This brave little battalion remained here until everybody had passed, when they destroyed the bridge and brought up the rear. The troops in passing over the bridges and in moving to the rear did so in good order. Stragglers there were, of course---a march, either in advance or retreat, is seldom without them--but the mass of the men preserved their organization and moved by battalions and batteries. At Cub Run Bridge I left, with Major Houston, U.S. Engineers, who had constructed the bridge over Bull Run, and rendered valuable service throughout the campaign, a regiment to keep the troops in the proper order in passing to the rear.
I have no reports from King's division, and, as its operations were under direction of another commander, I am unable to speak as I would like to do concerning it. It was, I know, driven back in the engage-merit in front, but I know it to be one of the finest, best-drilled, best-disciplined bodies of troops in the service, and in the main ably commanded, and if it could not accomplish its task it must have been an excessively hard one it was called on to perform.
The two brigades of Ricketts' division, engaged over in the extreme right, under General Heintzelman, were under General Ricketts, whose report is herewith.
On the morning of the 31st the corps was reunited, and by your order placed in reserve behind Centreville, the cavalry, under Bayard, being detached and operating to the right of that place.
On the 1st of September I received your order, herewith, to move immediately to Germantown to intercept the march of the enemy, then moving down the Little River (or Aldie) turnpike to Fairfax CourtHouse. This was complied with within a few minutes after its receipt, and the corps was in position at Germantown in time to receive the enemy at the crossing of the Difficult. Here Ricketts' division was drawn up, under the direction of Major-General Hooker, with a battalion thrown across the valley of the stream, and, opening on the enemy's advance, held it in check at the time Reno's corps attacked him in flank and re pulsed him.
September 2, in compliance with general orders, the corps fell back to Hall's and Upton's Hills, in front of Washington.
Here the campaign ended. If it had been short it had been severe. Beginning with the retreat from Cedar Mountain, seldom has our army been asked to undergo more than our men performed. With scarcely a half day's intermission the Third Corps was either making forced marches, many times through the night and many times without food, &c., or was engaged in battle. These fatigues were most severe toward the last, when, on account of the movements of the enemy, we had to separate from our supplies, and many generals, as well as privates, had no food, or only such as could be picked up in the orchards or corn fields along the road. In all this the patience and endurance and general good conduct of the men were admirable. To fight and re treat and retreat and fight in the face of a superior force is a severe test of soldiership. This they did for fifteen days, and, though many broke down under the fatigue and exposures and many straggled from the ranks, the troops as a general thing behaved most creditably, and even to their return to the lines in front of this place, though they were sad at seeing their numbers so much diminished by hardships and battles which had availed them nothing and were tired and reduced from marching and fasting, they preserved their discipline, and it is an abuse of words to say they were either demoralized or disorganized.
This report has been delayed so long, for the reasons mentioned at the commencement, that I now forward it without returns of the killed, wounded, and missing. I will supply this deficiency when all the returns are received.
General Ricketts, who at Cedar Mountain and at Rappahannock was under my immediate command and rendered valuable service with his division, speaks in high terms of the gallantry of Brigadier-Generals Duryea and Tower, both at Thoroughfare Gap and in the battle of the 30th, in which the former was slightly and the latter severely wounded.
The services of Tower's brigade were especially arduous, forming the rear guard on almost every occasion. On the retreat from Cedar Mountain, from the Rappahannock Station, from the Waterloo road, and from Thoroughfare Gap it had an undue share of the severities of this campaign. The general was detached from the division with his own and Hartsuff's brigade, and posted on the Bald Hill Ridge, where he remained till a severe wound forced him to retire.
Brigadier-General Hartsuff was so ill and weak from overwork as to have to move from place to place in an ambulance. He had rendered valuable service both at Cedar Mountain and at Rappahannock, where he occupied the advanced position beyond the river. He would not leave his brigade, though unable to get on his horse, and to save his life I was obliged to interfere and have him quit us at Warrenton, and thus lost him in the battles which followed.
Colonel Carroll, and acting brigadier-general, commanding brigade, was wounded beyond Cedar Mountain in visiting the outposts, and left before we began the retreat. He had done good service at Cedar Mountain, and by his wound was lost to us in the succeeding battles.
Thus Ricketts' division lost all of its brigadiers.
Amongst others General Ricketts makes especial mention of those excellent volunteers, Colonel Root, Ninety-fourth New York Volunteers, who, although painfully wounded, continued on duty; of Colonel Coulter, Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, whose regiment bore the brunt of the action at Thoroughfare Gap, and of Colonel Thoburn, First Virginia, commanding Carroll's brigade after the latter was wounded.
Brigadier-General Reynolds, always active himself and whose division did good service in the campaign, makes especial mention of the services of Brigadier-Generals Meade, Seymour, and Jackson, commanding brigades; also of Surgeons King and Read, who remained on the field to attend to the wounded, there being no ambulances with the division to bring them away. General Reynolds mentions the First Rifles, under Colonel McNeil, to whose lot the advance skirmishing principally fell; the First Infantry, Colonel Roberts; the Second Infantry, Colonel McCandless; the Sixth Infantry, Colonel Sinclair; the Seventh, Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson, and the Twelfth, Colonel Hardin.
Of General King's division I have but the report of Brigadier-General Hatch (which has been received since the foregoing report was written), who commanded the division after Brigadier-General King left. From it and what I know from the verbal reports of others I am justified in mentioning favorably the conduct of Brigadier-Generals Doubleday, Patrick, and Gibbon, the last having sustained the weight of the action of Thursday evening, and the first especially commended by General Hatch for his gallantry on the 29th and 30th. General Hatch was himself slightly wounded in the early part of the engagement of Saturday.
Colonel Post, commanding Second Sharpshooters, a valuable regiment, much exposed, and which rendered most excellent service, is deserving of especial mention for his conduct, amongst others, in the battle of the 30th.
The accomplished and gallant Colonel Pratt, commanding the Twentieth New York Militia, was mortally wounded. The brave Colonel Frisbee, Thirtieth New York, was killed.
Lieutenant-Colonel Fowler, commanding the gallant Fourteenth (Brooklyn) New York Militia, was severely wounded on the 29th whilst leading his regiment into battle.
My staff were always faithful, zealous, active, and fearless in the discharge of their duties, which were incessant and exhausting, and under which many of them broke down in health, some being still unable to leave their beds. I desire to record their names, with my best thanks for the support they gave. They were, Col. Edmund Schriver, chief of staff; Lieutenant-Colonel Myers, chief quartermaster; Maj. Davis Tillson, chief of artillery; Maj. S. F. Barstow, assistant adjutant-general; Maj. D.C. Houston, chief of engineers; Maj. J. M. Sanderson, commissary; Surg. D. L. Magruder, medical director; Majs. C. S. Brown and Joseph C. Willard, and Capts. F. Haven, G. St. Albe, W. Leski, W. H. W. Krebbs, J. E. Jewett, J.P. Drouillard, J. D. W. Cutting, C. W. Wadsworth, Howard Stockton, and F. Ball, aides-de-camp. Captains Merritt, Hughes, and Slosson, and First Lieut. Thomas Williams, Fifth Artillery, who had been assigned to my staff, were on duty with Brigadier-Generals King and Tower.
Brig. Gen. John Buford, commanding the cavalry of the Second Corps, was several times under my orders on the retreat from Warrenton, &c., and was actively engaged on the extreme left on the 30th. I beg leave therefore to add his name, with that of Brigadier-General Bayard, commanding cavalry of the Third Corps, to those deserving especial mention.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Maj. Gen., Comdg. Third Corps, Army of Virginia.
Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
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