AFFAIR AT Ox Hill OR CHANTILLY.
by Jubal Early
Jackson's command, after having rested on the morning of the 31st, in the afternoon of that day was put in motion for the purpose of turning the enemy's position at Centreville. Crossing Bull Run at and near Sudley's Ford, it moved to the left over a country road, Jackson's division in front followed by Ewell's and Hill's bringing up the rear, until the Little River Turnpike was reached, when we turned towards Fairfax Court-House and bivouacked late at night. Early on the morning of September the 1st, the march was resumed, and continued until we reached the farm of Chantilly in the afternoon. The enemy was found in position, covering the retreat of his army, near Ox Hill, not far from Chantilly, and a short distance beyond which the Little River Pike, and the pike from Centreville to Fairfax Court-House, intersect.
General Jackson at once put his troops in position on the ridge on the east of the Little River Pike, with his own division on the left, Hill's on the right and Ewell 's in the centre; Hays' and Trimbles brigades only of Ewell's division being on the front line, Lawton's and mine being formed in the woods in their rear. As we moved into position the enemy opened a heavy artillery fire on us, and soon the action commenced with some of Hill's brigades on the right, extending to Trimble's and Hays' brigades. During this action a severe thunder storm raged, and while it was progressing, General Starke, then in command of Jackson's division, represented to me that a heavy force was threatening his left, between which and the pike there was a considerable interval, and requested me to cover it with my brigade to protect him from the apprehended danger.
After examining the position I reluctantly consented to yield to General Starke's entreaty, without awaiting orders, as Hays' brigade was in my front and he represented his situation as critical, and I proceeded to move my brigade by the left flank to the point designated by him. I had put myself on the leading flank, and while moving I heard a considerable musketry fire, but as the woods were very thick and it continued to rain I could see only a short distance, and took it for granted that the firing proceeded from the troops in front of where I had been.
On reaching the position General Starke desired me to occupy, which was but a short distance from the place I had moved from, as his left was drawn back in a circle towards the pike, I discovered that the 13th, 25th and 31st Virginia Regiments which were on my right had not followed the rest of the brigade. I immediately sent my aide, Lieutenant Early, back to see what had become of the missing regiments, and he found them engaged with a body of the enemy in their front. On ascertaining this fact, I moved back at once and found that my regiment had repulsed the force opposed to them and inflicted considerable loss on it. Hays' brigade under Colonel Strong had fallen back in considerable confusion about the time I commenced my movement, and passed through the three regiments on my right, followed by a considerable force of the enemy. The commanding officers had very properly detained those regiments, as the affair was entirely concealed from my view, and they had received the enemy's onset with great coolness, driving him back out of the woods.
Colonel Strong had attempted to change front when the enemy were advancing on him, and, being entirely inexperienced in the management of a brigade, he had got it into such confusion that it was compelled to retire. The 8th Louisiana Regiment, under Major Lewis, had been halted and formed into line immediately in rear of my regiments, and the remaining regiments were soon rallied and brought back by their respective commanders. After quite a severe action, in which the enemy lost two
general officers, Kearney and Stevens, he was repulsed at all points, and continued his retreat during the night. After the close of the action, Jackson's division was withdrawn from the left to the rear, and Ewell 's division covered the point previously covered by General Starke, and Hays' and Trimble's brigades, and the men lay on their arms during the night. While Trimble 's brigade was engaged, the gallant old Captain Brown, of the 12th Georgia Regiment, in command of the brigade, was killed, and Colonel James A. Walker of the 13th Virginia Regiment was subsequently assigned to the command of the brigade, as it had no field officer present.
On the morning of the 2nd it was discovered that the enemy had retired from our front, and during that day Pope made good his escape into the fortifications around Washington. He had now seen the "rebels" in various aspects and found that his lines of retreat would not take care of themselves; and very soon he was shipped and sent to the northwest to look after the Indians in that quarter.
This affair at Ox Hill closed the series of engagements with the enemy under Pope, and it was again the old story of the "rebels in overwhelming numbers," opposed to a small army of "Union soldiers." According to Pope's account, his army was wearied. out and broken down by the fatigues of the campaign on the Rappahannock, and the incessant marching and maneuvering to confront Lee's army, and was short of rations and ammunition. It does not seem to have occurred to him that the soldiers of the army which thus wearied his own were at all susceptible of fatigue or hunger, or that when his own rations were short, their chances of supplying themselves were slim.
Pope's army had at the time of the battles of the 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th of August, been reinforced by Burnside's corps under Reno, one brigade of Sturgis' division from Alexandria, and the following troops from McClellan's army: Heintzelman's corps, Porter's corps, and the division of Pennsylvania reserves commanded by Reynolds. At the time of the affair at Ox Hill he had been further reinforced by Franklin's and Sumner's corps of McClellan's army, leaving but one corps of that army (Keyes') which had not reached him. His consolidated report of the 31st of July showed a strength of 46,858 before he was joined by any of those reinforcements and in the letter of Halleck to McClellan, dated the 6th of August, Pope's army is stated to be about 40,000. In a telegram from Halleck to McClellan, dated the 12th of August, Burnside's force is stated to be nearly 13,000.
General Lee's army at the time of these battles near Manassas consisted of Jackson's wing of the army in which there were three divisions of infantry containing fourteen brigades, Longstreet's wing in which there were four divisions of infantry containing fifteen brigades, and two brigades of cavalry under Stuart. There was about one battery of artillery of four guns for each brigade attached to the divisions, and there was a reserve force of artillery which may have numbered some eight or ten batteries, but perhaps not so many.
Longstreet's command consisted of his own division, seven brigades; Hood's division, two brigades; Jones' division, three brigades; and Anderson's division, three brigades. The whole of those brigades, as well as the force of Jackson, had been in the battles around Richmond, except Evans' brigade-attached to Longstreet's division,-and Drayton 's brigade, attached to Jones' division. Those two brigades had probably been brought from the South since those battles, or they may have been organized out of regiments attached to other brigades at that time; but I think they were brought from North and South Carolina, and if such was the fact, they were the only reinforcements which I ever heard of reaching General Lee after the battles around Richmond or before or during the campaign against Pope or the campaign in Maryland. D. H. Hill's division of five brigades; McLaw's division of four brigades, composed of his own and Magruder's consolidated; and the force of Holmes and Wise-all of which had constituted part of the army at Richmond during the battles,-had been left for the protection of that city until the whole of McClellan's force moved from James River.
When that event was fully ascertained, Hill's and McLaw 's division and two of Holmes' brigades, under Walker, had been ordered to move North, but Hill and Mclaws got up on the 2nd, the day after the affair at Ox Hill, and Walker later, so that Pope had only to confront the 29 brigades before mentioned. My brigade was fully an average one, and my effective force did not exceed 1,500. Some idea therefore may be formed of the force with which General Lee fought the second battle of Manassas; I don't think it could have exceeded 50,000 effective men in all, including artillery and cavalry, and it was probably considerably under that number.
The loss in Ewell's division, beginning with the artillery fighting on the Rappahannock and ending, with the affair at Ox Hill, was in killed 366, wounded 1,169, and missing 32, the loss in my own brigade being 27 killed and 181 wounded.
The main battle, which occurred on the 29th and 30th of August, has been called the second battle of Manassas, but I think the little village or hamlet of Groveton is entitled to the honor of giving its name to that great battle, as the fighting began there on the 28th, and was all around it on the 29th and 30th.
The first battle near the same spot, on ground which was again fought over, had been properly named, as Manassas Junction was then the headquarters and central position of our army, and was the objective point of the enemy during the battle. Such was not the case with either army at the last battle, and the Junction, several miles off, had no more relation to the battle than Bristow, Gainesville or Centreville.