Eyewitness Account - 2nd Battle of Manassas
An Article Contributed by BonnieBlueFlag
This is a cut-out from a newspaper, pasted into the pages of a journal I inherited from a g-g-g grandmother, Ada Saunders. Please note the "author" is notated only as P.W.A.
LETTER FROM P.W.A.
BATTLE OF MANASSAS No.2.
REVISED AND IMPROVED EDITION.
ANOTHER BRILLIANT VICTORY.
ENEMY ROUTED AT ALL POINTS.
BARTOW AND BEE AVENGED.
&c., &c,. &c.
BATTLE FIELD OF MANASSAS AUGUST 31ST, 1862
Another great battle has been fought on the bloody plains of Manassas, and once more has Heaven crowned our banners with the laurel of victory. The conflict opened Frday afternoon, and last night not a Federal soldier remained on the South side of Bull Run, except the prisoners we had taken and those that sleep the sleep that shall know no waking until the great day of Judgement. The people of the Confederate States---those at home no less than the invincible heroes in the field, and the friends of justice and the lovers of liberty everywhere---assuredly have cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving. Never since Adam was planted in the garden of Eden, did a holier cause engage the hearts and arms of any nation; and never did any people establish more clearly their right to be freemen.
I did not arrive in time to witness the battle of Friday, the 29th,---Leaving Gordonsville at 9 o'clock that day, on a freight train, I reached Rapidan Station, the present terminus of the railroad, at noon. There I took horse, forded the river, struck for the Rappahannock--forded that river also---got to Warrenton at one o'clock yesterday---rested my horse, and then took the turnpike for the battle field, fourteen miles distant, where I arrived in one hour and fifteen minutes, and just in time to witness, for the second time, the triumph of Confederate arms on these memorable plains.
(The first few words of this sentence are illegible)--number of men engaged on either side. It is not probable, however, that the enemy had more than 75,000 troops on the field. Our own forces were conciderably less, a large part of the army not having arrived in time to participate in the fight. Longstreet's corps d'armee held the right. A.P. Hill's and Anderson's (late Huger's) divisions the centre, and Jackson's veterans the left. Jackson was the first to reach the plains below the Blue Ridge; Hill came next, and then Longstreet, who entered the Thoroughfare Gap. The enemy occupied the Gap with a full division, and seemed disposed to dispute the passage of our troops; but Toomb's and Anderson's Georgia brigades, which led the corps, made a bold dash and soon drove them away with but little loss. That was on Thursday the 28th~~Jackson had brought the enemy to bay between Gainesville and Groveton, two miles from the old battlefield, on the Warrenton turnpike--Knowing this, Longstreet pressed forward, and succeeded in getting into position on the right of the turnpike, in time to hold that part of our lines while Jackson engaged the enemy on the left.
It should have been stated that Longstreet played the enemy a clever trick before he left the South bank of the Rappahannock. Jackson and Hill having moved around by Sperryville above, he made feints at several fords on the Rappahannock as if he would cross over, and thus drew the attention of the enemy to those points, whilst he put his forces in motion and marched rapidly to the northward and around to Gainesville. So successful was the maneuvering that a late Northern paper now before me congratulates its readers upon the brilliant victory achieved by the Federals in driving us away from the fords!
The enemy advanced to the attack on Friday. he was probably aware of Jackson's comparative weakness. He soon discovered, however, that a heavy Confederate column (Longstreet's) had got into position on the right, and immediately commenced a retrograde movement. The battle, which was hotly contested for a time, in which the artillery took a prominent part, continued through the afternoon (the next 2 lines are illegible)--of the enemy along the entire line.--Jackon's forces were chiefly engaged, and behaved with their usual gallantry. This scene of the conflict was just in front of Gainesville and on the left of the Warrenton turnpike as you look towards Washington.
The enemy were driven back to the edge of the old battle field of Manassas. The Confederates slept on the field, and there awaited renewal of the attack on yesterday. They were not disappointed, for the enemy again advanced against our left at two o'clock, P.M., and engaged Jackson first. By three the engagement became general, and the battle was joined. Gen. Lee was in command, having come to the front some days ago. But a word of explanation in regard to the feild and position of the combatants.
The Warrenton and Alexandria Turnpike runs nearly Eastward, and the road from Sudley Ford on Bull Run to Manassas Junction North and South. These highways intersect each other in the centre of the old battle ground. Advancing down the turnpike, our forces faced to the East and in the direction of Washington, while the enemy faced to the West, but not exactly towards Richmond.---The line of battle, three miles in length, extended across the turnpike almost at right angles and nearly parallel with and just West of the Sudley road. The battle of Manassas was to be fought over, and the point to be decided was, whether we should advance upon Washington or the enemy upon Richmond.
This was the issue, and this the battle ground.
We learn from prisoners that Halleck, McClelland and Pope were present. McClelland had brought up his old U.S. Regulars, eighteen regiments, under Fitz John Porter, Heintzelman's division, and other corps of his James river army. It was evident the enemy were confident of victory. They were aware of Jackson's weakness, and the fact that not more than half of our army had come up; and by precipitating the battle, they hoped to avenge their shameful defeat on the same ground a little more than one year ago. Indeed, we hear that McDowell, the most civilized officer in the Federal service, and the commander at Manassas last year, made an urgent appeal to his troops to wipe out the disgrace which then befell their arms, and never to leave the field but as conquerors.
As I have already stated, the enemy opened the battle by an attack upon our left. A heavy column with a full complement of artillery, was launched against Jackson's veterans, but there as elsewhere, they encountered a "Stone-wall" as immovable as the Blue Ridge. The onslaught would have been fearful to any other but the Confederate troops struggling for the dearest rights known to man. The attack was repulsed, however, and the enemy forced to retire.
In the meantime a heavy force was moved up against A. P. Hill and Anderson in the centre, and Lonstreet's splendid corps on the right. The attack upon the centre was not characterized by much vigor, but on the right it was made by McClellan's Regulars, and was furious. After the first movement against the left was repulsed, Jackson found but little difficulty in advancing his lines. The infantry were very reluctant to engage the stern chieftan again and their artillery alone resisted him with spirit. But on the right the conflict raged with great violence for more than an hour before we had made any impression upon the serried ranks of the Regulars. When they did yield, it was slowly and in order. It could hardly be called a retreat; we pushed them, as it were, from one elevation to another, gradually following them up and firmly holding the ground they had been forced to abandon.
In this way the contest continued until near sunset, the retrograde movement of the enemy growing more rapid and less orderly as the battle porceeded. Jackson pressed forward vigorously on the left; Hill and Anderson did the same in the centre; and as the foe retired faster in that part of the field than on the right, our line finally assumed somewhat the form of a crescent.
Jackson at length bent his line around by the Sudley road, near the church of that name, and about the same time the centre and right had reached the old battle ground. Then followed as spendid fighting on the part of the Confederates as the world ever saw. As the fact broke upon them that they again stood upon that glorious field and that the enemy sought a renewal of the decision rendered there one year ago they swept on as if they were borne onward by the fiat of fate. The eye grew brighter, the arm waxed stronger, and catching the inspiration of the place, and of the children of glory who sleep upon its hills, they sent up shout after shout that rose high above the mighty din and uproar, and sounded in the ear of the already retreating foe like a sentence of judgment.
About the same time Gen. Toombs, who had been absent under orders, reached the field at the top of his horse's speed. His appearance was greeted by ten thousand Georgians in Longstreet's corps. The shouts were caught up along the valley and over the hills as his splendid form swept across the field in the direction of his brigade. He found it at length, and led it immediately forward in the thickest of the fight. Dashing down the hill not far from where Bee and Bartow fell, he got within forty paces of a Federal brigade, which saluted him and his men with a terrific fire.--The men called to him to dismount, as otherwise he would certainly be killed.
His only reply, uttered in trumpet tones, was: "President Davis can create generals; God only makes the soldier--ON!" Finally our entire line crossed the Sudley road, and swept past the stone house at the intersection of the roads, the Henry and Lewis houses on the right, on towards Bull Run. But the enemy managed his artillery with great skill and judgment. His firing was superb, and I must admit, superior to our own. His batteries were posted at commanding points, and enabled him to cover the retreat of his infantry by delaying our advance. Night, too, came to his rescue, and to Nature and not his own arms, was he indebted for his escape from utter destruction. The persuit was kept up until darkness prevented further efforts, and the order to halt was given.
The enemy escaped across Bull Run during the night, and morning found him in a hurried retreat, for the second time over the same road and from the same battle field, back to Washington. Thus the issue had been decided for the second time in our favor, and the judgment of July, 1861, stands affirmed before the world. The battle of Manassas has been fought over and a gracious God and our own right arms have given us the victory.
Gen. Stuart advanced to Centreville and beyond this morning, but saw nothing of the enemy, except stragglers who were waiting to be taken.
It is too early to enter into details, either as to the part performed by individuals or the extent of the victory. Gen. Drayton was not entirely successful in bringing his excellent brigade into action at the time but otherwise, the battle was a complete success. Every officer and man from Gen. Lee down to the humblest private, with exceptions too unimportant to justify particular notice, performed his whole duty. But the triumph, however, has been purchased at the cost of much precious blood. Our loss has been heavy not less, I fear, than six or seven thousand. The casualties of the enemy, including killed, wounded, and probably fifteen hundred or two thousand prisoners, will not fall much short of ten thousand men.---Among the slain on the part of the Federals is Gen. McDowell, Col. Webster of Massachusetts, and many other officers; at least such is the report of prisoners. On our side we have to lament the death of General Ewell, * who was wounded yesterday and died this morning. Gens. Mahone and Jenkins were wounded--not dangerously; whilst a number of officers were killed, including Col. Means (formerly Govenor) of South Carolina and Col. Wilson of the 7th Ga. Gen. Pryor was captured but soon effected his escape.
Among our captures were several thousand stand of small arms thrown away by the flying foe, some, eighteen or twenty pieces of artillery, many wagons, a large amount of stores and other valuable property. It is reported that Stuart destroyed 17,000 pairs of shoes, by a sudden decent upon Manassas Junction on Friday and that Jackson destroyed several railway trains loaded with provisions, after filling his own wagons the day before.
The strategy of the enemy was clever and deserves attention. He had attacked Jackson on Friday, and were repulsed. He renewed the attack on yesterday, and thus sought to create the belief that his chief object was to turn our left. Having, as he supposed, produced this impression upon Gen. Lee, he suddenly precipitated upon our right a heavy force; including the old United States Regulars and other picked troops, under Fitz John Porter and Heintzleman. His object doubtless was to turn our right, throw us back against the Blue Ridge, keep open his communication by the Alex and Orange railway, and with Fredricksburg, and his gunboats to the south cut us off from the base of our supplies. The conception was excellent but the execution was faulty.
Bee, Bartow and others who fell on this field last year, have been amply revenged. The shaft erected over the spot where Bartow perished has been removed by the vandals; but the ground around the place is marked by the Federal dead. The Henry house, which was riddled by the artillery shots of the enemy last year, and where its aged owner, Mrs. Henry was killed, has also been removed piecemeal by the enemy, and probably sold as relics; but before its very doors, and within its demolished walls, sleep to-day the miserable myrmidons of the North.
Batteries were planted and captured yesterday where they were planted and captured last year. The pine thicket where the 4th Alabama and the 8th Georgia suffered so terribly in the first battle, is now strewn with the slain invader. We charged through the same woods yesterday, though from a different point, where Kirby Smith, the Blucher of the day, entered the fight before. These are remarkable coincidences; and they extend even to my own experience. In the road way where I relieved a wounded Irishman from Wisconsin late at night last year, I to-day found another Irishman crying for succor. As I rendered it to the first so I gave it to the second.
Is not the hand of God in all this? Who but He brought us again face to face with our enemies upon these crimsoned plains, and gave us the victory? When before did the same people ever fight two separate battles, upon the same ground, within so short a period? For the second time the God of Battles has spken by the mouth of our cannon, and told the North to let us go unto ourselves. Will that ill starred people require Him to repeat the command after the manner of Pharoah and the purblind Egyptians? We shall see.
P. W. A.