Early's Brigade at Manassas by Jubal Early
At this time the largest organizations in our army were brigades, and each brigade commander received his orders directly from headquarters. Since the conference at Fairfax Station, when General Beauregard stated that his effective strength did not exceed 15,000 men, one regiment, the 1st South Carolina, had been sent off by reason of expiration of term of service, and one regiment, the 7th Louisiana, had joined my brigade. Besides this, General Beauregard 's troops had been augmented, since the advance of the enemy, by the arrival of six companies of the 8th Louisiana, the 5th North Carolina State Troops, the 11th North Carolina Volunteers, the 13th Mississippi, three companies of the 49th Virginia and Hampton's South Carolina Legion; the latter containing six companies of infantry. His whole effective force, however, did not probably much exceed the estimate made at the time of the conference, as the measles and typhoid fever, which were prevailing, had reduced very much the strength of the regiments, especially among the Virginia troops which were entirely new. To reinforce him, Holmes' brigade of two regiments had arrived from Aquia Creek, and Johnston's troops were arriving by the railroad, after much delay by reason of accidents or mismanagement on the part of the railroad officials.
On the 20th we were not molested by the enemy, and on the morning of the 21st the position of Beauregard's troops was pretty much the same as it had been on the 18th, to wit: Ewell at Union Mills; I). R. Jones at McLean's Ford; Longstreet, reinforced by the 5th North Carolina, at Blackburn's Ford; Bonham, reinforced by six companies of the 8th Louisiana and the 11th North Carolina Volunteers, at Mitchell's Ford; Cocke, reinforced by some companies of the 8th Virginia Regiment and three companies of the 49th Virginia Regiment, at some fords below Stone Bridge; and Evans at Stone Bridge; while my brigade was in reserve in the woods in rear of McLean's farm. No artillery was attached to my brigade on this day.
The arrival of General Johnston in person and the transportation of his troops on the railroad had, of course, entirely changed the plans of operations as communicated to us on the night of the 19th, but the new plans, which were rendered necessary by the altered condition of things, were not communicated to us, and I had, therefore, to await orders.
Very early on the morning of the 21st the enemy opened fire with artillery from the heights on the north of Bull Run near Blackburn's Ford, and I was ordered to occupy a position in rear of the pine woods north of McLean's house, so as to be ready to support Long street or Jones as might be necessary. After being in position some time, I received a request from General Longstreet for one of my regiments to be sent to him, and I sent him the six companies of the 24th Virginia under Lieutenant Colonel Hairston, and two companies of the 7th Louisiana under Major Penn. Not long afterwards I received a request for another regiment, and I carried the remaining eight companies of the 7th Louisiana to Blackburn's Ford, leaving Colonel Kemper with his regiment behind.
On arriving at the ford, I found that the whole of Longstreet's brigade had been crossed over Bull Run, and were lying under cover at the foot of the hills on its northern bank, awaiting a signal to advance against the enemy, who was in considerable force near the point occupied by his artillery at the fight on the 18th. The companies of the 24th were being crossed over to join Longstreet 's brigade, and the General ordered the 7th Louisiana to be formed in line in the strip of woods on the southern bank of be stream, covering the ford.
The enemy was keeping up a continuous artillery fire from two batteries, one in front of the ford and the other some distance to the right, which rendered the vicinity of the ford quite uncomfortable, but the troops across the Run were in a great measure under cover.
After Hays' regiment had been put in position, General Longstreet went across the stream to reconnoiter, and in a short time returned and directed me to take Hays' and Kemper 's regiments, cross at McLean's Ford, and move around and capture the battery to his right, which he said could be easily taken. I was informed by him that Jones had crossed the Run and was on the hills beyond McLean's Ford, likewise awaiting the signal to advance, and I was directed to move between him and the Run against the enemy's battery. Hays' regiment was moved back to where Kemper 's was, and was exposed to the fire from the enemy's batteries which was attracted by the dust arising from its march over the direct road through the pines. A shell exploded in the ranks, killing and wounding four or five men. The two regiments were moved to McLean's Ford, and while they were crossing over and forming, I rode forward to an eminence, where I observed a lookout in a tree, for the purpose of ascertaining the exact position of the battery and the route over which I would have to advance against it. While I was engaged in obtaining this information, Colonel Chisolin, a volunteer aide of General Beauregard, rode up and informed me that General Beauregard's orders were that the whole force should cross Bull Run to the south side.
I think this was about 11.00 A. M. I informed him of the order I had received from General Longstreet, and he stated that Longstreet was crossing, and that the order embraced me as well as the rest. I felt this as a reprieve from almost certain destruction, for I had discovered that the route by which I would be compelled to advance against the battery was along an open valley for some distance and then up a naked bill to the plain on which the battery was located, the greater part of the route being raked by the enemy's guns. The lookout had also informed me that a considerable body of infantry was in the woods near the battery. It turned out afterwards that this battery, which I was ordered to take, was supported by a brigade of infantry, posted behind a formidable abattis of felled timber. An attempt to carry out my orders would very probably have entailed the annihilation or utter rout of my two regiments; and in fact much later in the day, Jones' brigade on moving against this battery sustained a damaging repulse.
After recrossing to the south side, I sent Kemper's regiment to its former position, and moved with Hays' regiment up the Run to Longstreet's position, as I thought he probably desired its return to him. On reaching Blackburn's Ford, I found General Longstreet cautiously withdrawing a part of his troops across the Run, and he informed me that he did not now require Hays' regiment, but would retain the companies of the 24th. Hays was then ordered to move down the Run to McLean's Ford and return in that way to the position at which Kemper was, so as to avoid the artillery fire while passing over the direct route.
I rode directly to Kemper's position, and after being there a short time I discovered clouds of dust arising about McLean's Ford, which I supposed to be produced by Jones' brigade returning to its original position. Fearing that Hays' regiment might be mistaken for the enemy and fired upon, I rode rapidly to Jones' position and found some of his men forming in the rifle pits in rear of the ford, while the General was looking with his field glasses at Hays' regiment, which was advancing from the direction of the enemy's position higher up the Run. I informed him what command it was and requested that his men might be cautioned against firing, for which they were preparing.
As soon as this was done, General Jones asked me if I had received an order from General Beauregard, directing that I should go to him with my brigade. Upon my stating that I had received no such order, he said that he had received a note from General Beauregard in which he was directed to send me to the General. The note, which was in the hands of one of Jones' staff officers, was sent for and shown to me. It was in pencil, and after giving brief directions for the withdrawal across the Run and stating the general purpose to go to the left where the heavy firing was, there was a direction at the foot in very nearly these words, -' 'Send Early to me." This information was given to me some tine between 12 M. and 1 P. M.*
The note did not state to what point I was to go, but I knew that General Beauregard's position had been near Mitchell's Ford and that he was to be found somewhere to our left. I sent word for Hay's to move up as rapidly as possible, directed Kemper to get ready to move, sent a message to General Longstreet requesting the return of the companies of the 24th, and directed my Acting Adjutant General, Captain Gardner, to ride to Mitchell's Ford and ascertain where General Beauregard was, as well as the route I was to pursue.
The messenger sent to General Longstreet returned and informed me that the General said there was a regiment in the pines to my left which had been ordered to report to him, and that I could take that regiment instead of the companies of my own, to save time and prevent the exposure of both to the fire of the enemy's artillery in passing to and from Blackburn's Ford. In this arrangement I readily concurred, and soon found, to my left in the pines, the 13th Mississippi Regiment under Colonel Barksdale, which had very recently arrived. The Colonel consented to accompany me, and as soon as the command could be got ready, it was started on the road towards Mitchell's Ford.
This movement commenced about or very shortly after 1 o'clock P. M. On the way I met Captain Gardner returning with the information that General Beauregard's headquarters would be at the Lewis house, in the direction of the firing on our extreme left, and that I was to go there. On reaching General Bonham's position in rear of Mitdell's Ford, he informed me that I would have to move through the fields towards the left to find the Lewis house, and he pointed out the direction; but he did not know the exact location of the house. I moved in the direction pointed out, and continued to pass on to our left, through the fields, towards the firing in the distance, endeavoring, as I advanced, to find out where the Lewis house was.
While moving on, Captain Smith, an assistant in the adjutant general's office at General Beauregard's headquarters, passed us in a great hurry, also looking for General Beauregard and the Lewis house. He told me that information had been received at the Junction that 6,000 of the enemy had passed the Manassas Gap railroad, and it was this information (which subsequently proved to be false) that he was going to communicate to the General.
The day was excessively hot and dry. Hays' regiment was a good deal exhausted by the marching and the counter-marching about Blackburn's and McLean's Fords. Barksdale 's regiment, an entirely new one, had just arrived from the south over the railroad, and was unused to marching. Our progress was therefore not as rapid as I could have wished, but we passed on with all possible speed in the direction of the firing, which was our only guide. Towards 3 o'clock P. M. we reached the field of battle and began to perceive the scenes usual in rear of an army engaged in action. On entering the road leading from the Lewis house towards Manassas, we met quite a stream of stragglers going to the rear, and were informed by them that everything was over with us. I was riding by the side of Colonel Kemper at the head of the column, and we had the satisfaction of being assured that if we went on the field on horseback, we certainly would be killed, as the enemy shot all the mounted officers. Some of the men said that their regiments had been entirely cut to pieces, and there was no use for them to remain any longer.
It was to the encouraging remarks of this stream of recreants that my command was exposed as it moved on, but not a man fell out of ranks. Only one man who had been engaged offered to return and he belonged to the 4th Alabama Regiment, which he said had been nearly destroyed, but he declared that he would "go back and give them another trial." He fell into the ranks of Kemper 's regiment and I believe remained with it to the close of the battle. Captain Gardner had been sent ahead for instructions and had met with Colonel John S. Preston, a volunteer aide to General Beauregard; and on our getting near to the battlefield, Colonel Preston rode to meet us and informed me that the General had gone to the front on the right, to conduct an attack on the enemy, but that General Johnston was on that part of the field near which we were and would give me instructions. He pointed out the direction in which General Johnston was, and I moved on, soon meeting the General himself, who rode towards us when he discovered our approach, and expressed his gratification at our arrival.
I asked him at once to show me my position, to which he replied that he was too much engaged to do that in person, but would give me directions as to what I was to do. He then directed me to move to our own extreme left and attack the enemy on his right, stating that by directing my march along the rear of our line, by the sound of the firing in front, there could be no mistake; and he cautioned me to take especial care to clear our whole line before advancing to the front, and be particular and not fire on any of our own troops, which he was sorry to say had been done in some instances.
Affairs now wore a very gloomy aspect, and from all the indications in the rear the day appeared to be going against us. While General Johnston was speaking to me, quite a squad of men approached us going to the rear, and the General asking them to what regiment they belonged and where going without receiving any satisfactory answer, directed me to make my men charge bayonets and drive them back to the front. I immediately ordered Colonel Kemper to charge them with his regiment, when they commenced making excuses, saying they were sick, or wounded, or had no ammunition. I saw at once there was no fight in them, and I directed Colonel Kemper to move on and not delay battling with such cowards.
Immediately in front of us was a body of woods extending to our left, in which there was a constant rattle of musketry, and I moved along the rear of this woods, crossing the road from Manassas to Sudley, and inclining to the left so as to clear our line entirely. While so moving Colonel Kemper pointed out to me the United States flag floating in the distance on some high point in front of our right, probably the top of a house.
To clear our line entirely on our left, I found that it was necessary to pass beyond the woods in which our troops were, and as I approached the open space beyond, a messenger came to me from Colonel, afterwards General, J. E. B. Stuart, who was on our extreme left with two companies of cavalry and a battery of artillery under Lieutenant Beckham, stating that the Colonel said the enemy was about giving way and if we would hurry up he would soon be in retreat. This was the first word of encouragement I had received after reaching the vicinity of the battlefield. I was then making all the haste the condition of my men, who were much blown, would permit, and I directed my march to a field immediately on the left of the woods, and between Stuart's position and the left of our infantry then engaged.
The messenger from Colonel Stuart soon returned in a gallop and stated that the Colonel said the enemy had only retired his right behind a ridge now in my front, and was moving another flanking column behind said ridge still further to our left, and he cautioned me to be on the lookout for this new column.
Having now cleared the woods, I moved to the front,. in order to form line against the flanking column the enemy was reported forming behind the ridge in front of me. I ordered Colonel Kemper, who was in front, to form his regiment, by file, into line in the open field, just on the left of the woods, and sent back directions for the other regiments to move up as rapidly as possible and form to Kemper's left in echelon. Just at this time I observed a body of our troops move from a piece of woods on my immediate right across an open space to another in front of it, and this proved to be the left regiment of Elzey's brigade. I heard a rapid fire open from the woods into which this regiment had moved, and a body of the enemy approached on the crest of the ridge immediately in my front, preceded by a line of skirmishers.
This ridge was the one on which is situated Chinn's house, so often mentioned in the description of this battle, and the subsequent one near the same position. It is a high ridge sloping off towards our right, and the enemy had the decided advantage of the ground, as my troops had to form on the low ground on our side of the ridge, near a small stream which runs along its base. The formation of my troops was in full view of the enemy, and his skirmishers, which were about four hundred yards in front of us, opened on my men, while forming, with long range rifles or minie muskets. Barksdale and Hays came up rapidly and formed as directed, Barksdale in the centre and Hays on the left.
While their regiments were forming by file into line, under the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, Kemper's regiment commenced moving obliquely to the right towards the woods into which Elzey's troops had been seen to move, and I rode in front and halted it, informing it that there were no troops in the woods, and pointing out the enemy on the crest of the ridge in front. I then rode to the other regiments to direct their movements, when Colonel Kemper, finding the fire of the enemy, who was beyond the range of our smooth bores, very annoying to his men, moved rapidly to the front, to the cover of a fence at the foot of the ridge. As soon as Hays' regiment was formed, I ordered an advance and Hays moved forward until in a line with Kemper, then their two regiments started up the side of the hill. As we advanced the enemy disappeared behind the crest, and while we were ascending the slope Lieutenant McDonald, acting aide to Colonel Elzey, came riding rapidly towards me and requested me not to let n men fire on the troops in my front, stating that they consisted of the 13th Virginia regiment of Tlzev's brigade. I said to him, -'' They have been firing on my men,'' to which he replied, ''I know they have, but it is a mistake, I recognize colonel Hill of the 11th, and his horse.'' This was a mistake on the part of Lieutenant McDonald, arising from a fancied resemblance of a mounted officer with the enemy to the Colonel of the 13th. This regiment did not reach the battlefield at all.
This information and the positive assurance of Lieutenant McDonald, however, caused me to halt my troops and ride to the crest of the ride where I observed a regiment about two hundred yards to my right drawn up in line in front of the woods where Elzey's left was. The dress of the volunteers on both sides at that time was very similar, and the flag of the regiment I saw was drooping around the staff, so that I could not see whether it was the United States or the Confederate flag. The very confident manner of Lieutenant McDonald, in his statement in regard to the troops in my front, induced me to believe that this must also be one of our regiments.
Colonel Stuart had also advanced on my left with his two companies of cavalry and Beckham's battery of four guns, and passed around Chinn 's house, the battery had been brought into action and opened a flank fire on the regiment I was observing. Thinking it certainly was one of ours, I started a messenger to Colonel Stuart, to give him the information and request him to stop the firing, but a second shell or ball from Beckham's guns caused the regiment to face about and retire rapidly, when I saw the United States flag unfurled and discovered the mistake into which I had been led by Lieutenant McDonald.
I immediately ordered my command forward and it advanced to the crest of the hill. All this occurred in less time than it has taken me to describe it. On reaching the crest we came in view of the Warrenton Pike and the plains beyond, and now saw the enemy's troops in full retreat across and beyond the pike. When Kemper's and Hays' regiments had advanced, Barks-dale's, under a misapprehension of my orders, had not at first moved, but it soon followed, and the whole command was formed in line, along the crest of the ridge, on the right of Chin's house.
We were now on the extreme left of the whole of our infantry, and in advance of the main line. The only troops on our left of any description were the two companies of cavalry and Beckham's battery with Stuart. On my immediate right and a little to the rear was Elzey's brigade, and farther to the right I saw our line extending towards Bull Run, but I discovered no indications of a forward movement.
My troops were now very much exhausted, especially Hays' regiment, which had been marching nearly all the morning before our movement to the left, and it was necessary to give the men a little time to breathe. Beckham's guns had continued firing on the retreating enemy until beyond their range, and Stuart soon went in pursuit followed by Beckham. Colonel Cocke now came up and joined me with the 19th Virginia Regiment.
As soon as my men had rested a little, I directed the brigade to advance in column of divisions along the route over which we had seen the enemy retiring, and I sent information to the troops, on my right, of my purpose to move in their front with the request not to fire on us. I moved forward followed by Cocke's regiment, crossing Young's branch and the Warrenton Pike to the north side. When we got into the valley of Young's branch we lost sight of the enemy, and on ascending to the plains north of the pike we could see nothing of them. Passing to the west and north of the houses known as the Dogan house, the Stone Tavern, the Matthews house and the Carter or Pittsylvania house, and being guided by the abandoned haversacks and muskets, we moved over the ground on which the battle had begun with Evans in the early morning, and continued our march until we had cleared our right.
We had now got to a point where Bull Run makes a considerable bend above Stone Bridge, and I halted as we had not observed any movement from the main line. Nothing could be seen of the enemy, and his troops had scattered so much in the retreat that it was impossible for me to tell what route he had taken. Moreover the country was entirely unknown to me. Stuart and Beckham had crossed the run above me, and Cocke's regiment had also moved towards a ford above where I was. While I was engaged in making some observations and trying to find out what was going on, Colonel Chisolm of General Beauregard's volunteer staff passed me with a detachment of cavalry in pursuit of a body of the enemy supposed to be across Bull Run above me.
About this time it was reported to me that the enemy had sent us a flag of truce, but on inquiry I found it was a messenger with a note from Colonel Jones of the 4th Alabama Regiment, who had been very badly wounded and was at one of the enemy's hospitals in rear of the battlefield, and I sent for him and had him brought in to Matthews' house near where the battle had begun. I also found Lieutenant Colonel Gardner of the 8th Georgia Regiment in the yard of the Carter house, where he had been brought by some of the enemy engaged in collecting the wounded, and suffering from a very painful wound.
Shortly after this President Davis, accompanied by several gentlemen, rode to where my command was. He addressed a few remarks to each regiment and was received with great enthusiasm. I then informed him of the condition of things as far as I knew them, told him of the condition and location of Colonel Gardner, and requested him to have medical assistance sent to him, as no medical officer could be found with my command at that time. I informed him of the fact that I was unacquainted with the situation of the country and without orders to guide me under the circumstances, and asked him what I should do.
He said I had better form my men in line near where I was and let them rest until orders were received. I requested him to inform Generals Beauregard and Johnston of my position and ask them to send me orders. While we were conversing we observed a body of troops across Bull Run, some distance below, moving in good order in the direction of Centreville. I at first supposed it to be Bonham's brigade moving from Mitchell's Ford, but it turned out to be Kershaw's and Cash's remnants of that brigade, which had preceded me to the battlefield and were now moving in pursuit, after having crossed at or below Stone Bridge. Bonham's position at Mitchell's Ford was entirely too far off for his movement to be observed.
As soon as Mr. Davis left me, I moved my command farther into the bend of Bull Run, and put it in line across the bend with the flanks resting on the stream, the right flank being some distance above Stone Bridge. In this position my troops spent the night. They were considerably exhausted by the fatigues of the day, and had had nothing to eat since the early morning. They were now miles away from their baggage and trains. Early in the morning a Virginia company under Captain Gibson, unattached, had been permitted, at the request of the Captain, to join Kemper's regiment and remained with it throughout the day. A South Carolina company belonging to Kershaw's or Cash's regiment, which was on picket at the time their regiments moved from Mitchell's Ford, not being able to find its proper command, had joined me just as we were advancing against the enemy near Chin 's house, and had been attached to Hays' regiment, with which it went into action. Lieutenant Murat Willis had volunteered his services early in the day as aide and been with me through all my movements, rendering valuable service.
The conduct of my troops during the whole day had been admirable, and the coolness with which they formed in open ground under the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters was deserving of all praise. They were in a condition to have taken up the pursuit the next day, but it would have been with empty haversacks, or rather without any except those picked up on the battlefield and along the line of the enemy's retreat.
My loss was in killed and wounded, seventy-six, the greater part being in Kemper 's regiment.
The troops which were immediately in my front near Chinn's house constituted the enemy's extreme right, and were, I think, composed in part of the regulars attached to McDowell's army. Their long range muskets or rifles enabled them to inflict the loss on my command, but I am satisfied that the latter inflicted little or no loss on the enemy, as he retired before we got within range with our arms, which were smooth-bore muskets.
As soon as my troops were disposed for the night and steps taken to guard the front, I rode with my staff officers in search of either General Beauregard or General Johnston, in order to give information on my position and get instructions for the next morning Not knowing the roads, I had to take the circuitous route over which I had advanced, but I finally reached the Lewis house to find it a hospital for the wounded, and the headquarters removed. Not being able to get here any information of either of the generals, I rode in the direction of Manassas until I met an officer who said he was on the staff of General Johnston and was looking for him. He stated that he was just from Manassas and did not think either of the generals was there.
Taking this to be true and not knowing where to look further, I rode back along the Sudley Mills road to the Stone Tavern, passing over the main battlefield, and rejoined my command after twelve o'clock at night, when I lay down to rest, my bed being a bundle of wheat. While trying to find the generals, I discovered that there was very great confusion among our troops that had been engaged in the battle. They were scattered in every direction, regiments being separated from their brigades, companies from their regiments, while many squads and individuals were seeking their commands. That part of the army was certainly in no condition to make pursuit next morning.
Very early on the morning of the 22nd, I sent Captain Fleming Gardner to Manassas for instruction, and he returned with directions to me from General Beauregard to remain where I was until further orders, and to have my men made as comfortable as possible. A heavy rain had now set in, which continued through the day and night. When it was ascertained that there was to be no movement, I rode over the battlefield and to the hospitals in the vicinity to see about having my wounded brought in who had not been taken care of. The country in rear of the enemy's line of battle of the day before, and along his routes of retreat was strewn with knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, blankets, overcoats, india-rubber cloths, muskets, equipments, and all the debris of a routed army.
A report subsequently made by a Committee of the Federal Congress, of which Senator Wade was chairman, gave a most preposterous account of "Rebel atrocities" committed upon the dead and wounded of the Federal army after the battle. I am able to say, from my personal knowledge, that its statements are false, and the Federal surgeons, left with the wounded, could bear testimony to their falsehood.