Report of Brig. Gen. George G. Meade, U. S. Army,
Commanding First Brigade, of operations August 21-September 4,
Including Battles of Groveton and Bull Run.
AUGUST 16-SEPTEMBER 2, 1862
Campaign in Northern Virginia.
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., REYNOLDS' DIV., P. R. V. C.,
Camp near Munson's Hill, Va., September 5, 1862
Capt. CHARLES KINGSBURY,
CAPTAIN: I have to submit the following report of the operations of my command since leaving Fredericksburg on the night of August 21: On that night at 10 p.m. the brigade was put in motion from its camp, beyond Falmouth, on the road to Barnett's Ford. No transportation except for ammunition being furnished, the command was compelled to leave everything on the ground, including the hospital tents and all medical supplies, except the proportion that could be carried in two wagons furnished the whole division for this purpose.
Owing to the darkness of the night and the occurrence of a heavy rain-storm much time was lost in finding the road from camp to Falmouth, and at 2 a.m. of the 22d the brigade was halted about 2 miles beyond Falmouth. After resting for three hours the march was resumed, and continued through one of the hottest days of the season until Kelly's Ford was reached, nearly 27 miles from Falmouth.
On the 23d the command was marched to Rappahannock Station, arriving at that point just as the rear of General Pope's army was leaving, which the command followed, bivouacking for the night at a point some 3 miles from Warrenton.
The next day (24th) the command was marched to Warrenton and posted with the division on the heights about a mile south of the town.
On August 25 the brigade was ordered on the road from Warrenton to Sulphur Springs, at the forks of the Sulphur Springs and Waterloo roads, distant about 4 miles from Warrenton.
On the 27th the brigade marched from the last camp on the Alexandria pike as far as Buckland, where it bivouacked for the night.
On the 28th the march was resumed, this brigade being the advance of McDowell's corps and following Sigel's corps.
The plan of operation requiring the advance of the two corps in line of battle en échelon, Sigel's corps moved off to the right in the direction of Manassas Railroad, and this brigade was advancing along the Warrenton pike, about forming line of battle, when from the heights near Groveton the enemy opened on the head of the column with shot and shell. The brigade was immediately formed in line of battle on each side of the road, the Fourth Regiment on the right, the Third and Seventh on the left, and the Eighth in reserve.
Ransom's battery of light 12-pounders was brought to the front and put in action, but, the range being too great, was withdrawn, and Cooper's battery of 10.pounder Parrotts substituted in its place. Seeing these dispositions the enemy ceased firing and apparently withdrew.
The brigade was then formed in line of battle under the direction of the general commanding the division, with Cooper's battery in the center, supported by the Third and Fourth Regiments on the right, the Seventh and Eighth on the left, and the First Rifles (Bucktails) in advance as skirmishers. The brigade advanced in this order for several miles through the woods and across ravines until the plains of Manassas were reached, when the division was halted. At this point orders were received to move on Centreville, and the road by Bethlehem Church and stone bridge designated as the route to be taken. The brigade advanced on this road, but about 7 p.m., heavy firing being heard in the direction of Groveton, presumed to be the engagement of part of McDowell's corps, the division was headed to the left and gained the Manassas Junction and Sudley Springs road, on which it advanced until it became so dark, and the firing having ceased, it was halted and bivouacked for the night in the vicinity of the Conrad house.
On the 29th the brigade was formed in line of battle on the left of Sigel's corps and directed to move on Gainesville. Sigel, having found the enemy on his front on the other side of the Warrenton pike, engaged them along his whole line, and the brigade moved up on his left until it crossed the Warrenton pike within a half mile of Groveton, at which point Cooper's battery was established on the ridge, with the Fourth, Seventh, and Eighth Regiments to support him, the Third being posted along the pike and the Rifles sent up the pike as skirmishers. The enemy, perceiving this disposition, brought several batteries to bear on Cooper's, who, being short of ammunition, was withdrawn, and Ransom's was about being substituted, when it was ascertained that Schenck's division, of Sigel's corps, which had been on our right, was withdrawn, and at the same time the enemy's infantry were deploying in our front in such force as required the withdrawal of the brigade to the other side of the Warrenton pike, where a position was taken on the plateau near what is known as the Lewis House, which overlooks Groveton and the pike leading to it. This position was held until dark, when, ascertaining that the attack of a portion of King's division, on our right and front, had been repulsed and the enemy advancing in force, I directed the withdrawal of the batteries, and after dark withdrew the brigade to the position occupied by the rest of the division.
On the morning of the 30th the brigade advanced along the Warrenton pike and in the line of battle, First Rifles (Bucktails) in front as skirmishers, Cooper's battery in the center, with the regiments on each side in column of companies as support. The enemy immediately opened on us from his batteries on the ridge back of Groveton and the rifles engaged his skirmishers this side of Groveton. The skirmishers being driven back, the line was advanced to the ridge immediately overlooking Groveton, where Cooper was brought into action, and the firing kept up on both sides for over an hour. There appearing to be a disposition to dispute in force our farther advance, the Third Regiment was sent to Groveton and skirmishers deployed to support the Rifles. This position was maintained under quite a galling fire from the enemy's artillery until, by direction of the general commanding the division, the brigade was withdrawn to the ridge originally occupied in the morning. At this point, believing that a left attack was contemplated by the enemy, dispositions were made to meet it by placing the batteries on the plateau looking to the left and deploying the brigade in the woods on an oblique line from the batteries in the rear of the Warrenton pike.
About 3 p.m., by the orders of the general commanding the division, the brigade was moved from this position and marched entirely across the battle-field to the other side of the Warrenton pike, which position it had no sooner reached than it was ordered to march back to the plateau of the Henry house. At this point the brigade, in conjunction with the whole division, was deployed in line of battle and charged down the slope of the Henry House ridge toward the Sudley Springs road, driving before it such of the enemy as had advanced across this road, and taking a position in this road, which was firmly maintained under heavy infantry fire until it was relieved by Buchanan's brigade of regulars.
It is due to the Pennsylvania Reserves to say that this charge and maintenance of this position was made at a most critical period of the day. The enemy had repulsed the attack made by us on our right flank and had himself assumed the offensive on our left flank. His infantry had emerged from the woods, had already secured one of our batteries, and was advancing to the Henry House ridge, which, if he had succeeded in gaining, might have materially altered the fortune of the day. It was the good fortune of the Reserves to be brought into action at this moment, and by their gallant bearing and firm advance to compel the enemy to retire to the shelter of the woods, where he was held in check until the close of the action.
On being relieved, the brigade, together with the division, were after dark ordered to follow Sykes' division on the Centreville road as far as Cub Run, where it bivouacked for the night.
The next day (31st) the brigade marched to Centreville, when, after short time spent in procuring rations, it returned to Cub Run to relieve the division of General Stevens. On arriving at Cub Run, there appearing a disposition on the part of the enemy to force the passage of the stream, the brigade was deployed on each side of the road on the crest of the ridge, and Ransom's battery was opened on the opposite ridge, occupied by the enemy.
The command was under arms all night, but was withdrawn on the morning of the 1st, it being ascertained the enemy had all retired during the night.
The brigade was marched to Centreville and thence to Fairfax Court-House, where it bivouacked for the night, and on the next day (2d instant) marched to the woods adjoining Arlington House.
The conduct of the officers and men during these several actions was so uniformly good and commendable that it would be invidious to mention any names in particular. At the same time, the nature of the service required of them, viz, picket duty and skirmishing, have placed more prominently before me the First Rifles (Bucktails), whose coolness and steadiness under fire, when led by their commander, Col. Hugh W. McNeil, attracted my attention, and deserves, in my judgment, particular notice.
To my staff--- consisting of Capt. E. C. Baird, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieut. W. N. Watmough, aide.de-camp--I am indebted for indefatigable efforts to execute my orders, a labor rendered the more 'arduous by the constant movements of the brigade. Lieutenant Watmough, I regret to say, was so exhausted by previous service as to have to be relieved on the 30th.
Accompanying this report you will find a list of casualties, amounting in all to 185 killed, wounded, and missing. Among them are the names of several valuable officers. Capt. H. Clay Beatty, Third Regiment, wounded on the 30th, and since died of his wounds, will be mourned by all who knew him. Lieut. Col. R. M. Henderson, Seventh Regiment; Capt. J. W. Shoemaker, Fourth Regiment, and Capt. J. G. Henry, Eighth Regiment; Lieutenants Wetler and Sellers, of the Eighth Regiment, are all officers of promise, whose services in their respective commands will be missed.
I also inclose the official reports of the several commanders of regiments.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. G. MEADE,
Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
This page last updated 10/28/01
RETURN TO 2ND MANASSAS OFFICIAL RECORDS PAGE