McClellan’s Own Story

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Author: Thomas Jonathan Jackson  | Date: 1885

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Second Battle of Bull Run (1862)

BY MAJOR-GENERAL THOMAS JONATHAN JACKSON

PURSUING the instructions of the commanding general, I left Jeffersonton on the morning of the 25th [August] to throw my command between Washington City and the army of General Pope and to break up his railroad communication with the Federal capital. . . .

On the next day (26th) the march was continued, diverging to the right at Salem, crossing the Bull Run Mountain through Thoroughfare Gap, and passing Gainesville, reached Bristoe Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, after sunset. . . . My command was now in rear of General Pope’s army, separating it from the Federal capital and its base of supply. . . .

Learning that the enemy had collected at Manassas Junction, a station about 7 miles distant, stores of great value, I deemed it important that no time should be lost in securing them. . . . The duty was cheerfully undertaken by all who were assigned to it and most promptly and successfully executed. . . .

The next morning the divisions under command of Generals Hill and Taliaferro moved to Manassas Junction, the division of General Ewell remaining at Bristoe Station. . . .

. . . Orders were given to supply the troops with rations and other articles which they could properly make subservient to their use from the captured property. It was vast in quantity and of great value, comprising 50,000 pounds of bacon, 1,000 barrels of corned beef, 2,000 barrels of salt pork, 2,000 barrels of flour, quartermaster’s, ordnance, and sutler’s stores deposited in buildings and filling two trains of cars. Having appropriated all that we could use, and unwilling that the residue should again fall into the hands of the enemy, who took possession of the place next day, orders were given to destroy all that remained after supplying the immediate wants of the army. This was done during the night. General Taliaferro moved his division that night across to the Warrenton and Alexandria turnpike, pursuing the road to Sudley’s Mill, and crossing the turnpike in the vicinity of Groveton, halted near the battle-field of July 21, 1861. Ewell’s and Hill’s divisions joined Jackson’s on the 28th.

My command had hardly concentrated north of the turnpike before the enemy’s advance reached the vicinity of Groveton from the direction of Warrenton. General Stuart kept me advised of the general movements of the enemy, while Colonel Rosser, of the cavalry, with his command, and Col. Bradley T. Johnson, commanding Campbell’s brigade, remained in front of the Federals and operated against their advance. Dispositions were promptly made to attack the enemy, based upon the idea that he would continue to press forward upon the turnpike toward Alexandria; but as he did not appear to advance in force, and there was reason to believe that his main body was leaving the road and inclining toward Manassas Junction, my command was advanced through the woods, leaving Groveton on the left, until it reached a commanding position near Brawner’s house. By this time it was sunset; but as his column appeared to be moving by, with its flank exposed, I determined to attack at once, which was vigorously done by the divisions of Taliaferro and Ewell. The batteries of Wooding, Poague, and Carpenter were placed in position in front of Starke’s brigade and above the village of Groveton, and, firing over the heads of our skirmishers, poured a heavy fire of shot and shell upon the enemy. This was responded to by a very heavy fire from the enemy, forcing our batteries to select another position. By this time Taliaferro’s command, with Lawton’s and Trimble’s brigades on his left, was advanced from the woods to the open field, and was now moving in gallant style until it reached an orchard on the right of our line and was less than 100 yards from a large force of the enemy. The conflict here was fierce and sanguinary. Although largely re-enforced, the Federals did not attempt to advance, but maintained their ground with obstinate determination.

Both lines stood exposed to the discharges of musketry and artillery until about 9 o’clock, when the enemy slowly fell back, yielding the field to our troops. . . .

Although the enemy moved off under cover of the night and left us in quiet possession of the field, he did not long permit us to remain inactive or in doubt as to his intention to renew the conflict.

The next morning (29th) I found that he had abandoned the ground occupied as the battle-field the evening before and had moved farther to the east and to my left, placing himself between my command and the Federal capital. . . .

In the morning, about 10 o’clock, the Federal artillery opened with spirit and animation upon our right, which was soon replied to by the batteries of Poague, Carpenter, Dement, Brockenbrough, and Latimer, under Major (L. M.) Shumaker. This lasted for some time, when the enemy moved around more to our left to another point of attack. His next effort was directed against our left. This was vigorously repulsed by the batteries of Braxton, Crenshaw, and Pegram.

About 2 p. m. the Federal infantry in large force advanced to the attack of our left, occupied by the division of General Hill. It pressed forward, in defiance of our fatal and destructive fire, with great determination, a portion of it crossing a deep cut in the railroad track and penetrating in heavy force an interval of nearly 175 yards, which separated the right of Gregg’s from the left of Thomas’ brigade. For a short time Gregg’s brigade, on the extreme left, was isolated from the main body of the command; but the Fourteenth South Carolina Regiment, then in reserve, with the Forty-ninth Georgia, left of Colonel Thomas, attacked the exultant enemy with vigor, and drove them back across the railroad track with great slaughter. General McGowan reports that the opposing forces at one time delivered their volleys into each other at the distance of 10 paces. Assault after assault was made on the left, exhibiting on the part of the enemy great pertinacity and determination, but every advance was most successfully and gallantly driven back.

General Hill reports that six separate and distinct assaults were thus met and repulsed by his division, assisted by Hays’ brigade, Colonel Forno commanding.

By this time the brigade of General Gregg, which from its position on the extreme left was most exposed to the enemy’s attack, had nearly expended its ammunition. . . . It was now retired to the rear to take some repose after seven hours of severe service, and General Early’s brigade, of Ewell’s division, with the Eighth Louisiana Regiment, took its place. On reaching his position General Early found that the enemy had obtained possession of the railroad and a piece of wood in front, there being at this point a deep cut, which furnished a strong defense. Moving through a field he advanced upon the enemy, drove them from the wood and railroad cut with great slaughter, and followed in pursuit some 200 yards. . . . As it was not desirable to bring on a general engagement that evening General Early was recalled to the railroad, where Thomas, Pender, and Archer had firmly maintained their positions during the day. Early kept his position there until the following morning. . . .

On the following day (30th) my command occupied the ground and the divisions the same relative position to each other and to the field which they held the day before, forming the left wing of the army, General Longstreet’s command forming the right wing. . . . the Federal infantry, about 4 o’clock in the evening, moved from under cover of the wood and advanced in several lines, first engaging the right, but soon extending its attack to the center and left. In a few moments our entire line was engaged in a fierce and sanguinary struggle with the enemy. As one line was repulsed another took its place and pressed forward as if determined by force of numbers and fury of assault to drive us from our positions. So impetuous and well sustained were these onsets as to induce me to send to the commanding general for re-enforcements, but the timely and gallant advance of General Longstreet on the right relieved my troops from the pressure of overwhelming numbers and gave to those brave men the chances of a more equal conflict. As Longstreet pressed upon the right the Federal advance was checked, and soon a general advance of my whole line was ordered. Eagerly and fiercely did each brigade press forward, exhibiting in parts of the field scenes of close encounter and murderous strife not witnessed often in the turmoil of battle. The Federals gave way before our troops, fell back in disorder, and fled precipitately, leaving their dead and wounded on the field. During their retreat the artillery opened with destructive power upon the fugitive masses. The infantry followed until darkness put an end to the pursuit.

The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, First Series (Washington, 1885), XII, pt. ii, 642–647 passim.

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Chicago: Thomas Jonathan Jackson, "Second Battle of Bull Run (1862)," McClellan’s Own Story in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903), Original Sources, accessed September 21, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=P79CLNUCJND6U4W.

MLA: Jackson, Thomas Jonathan. "Second Battle of Bull Run (1862)." McClellan’s Own Story, Vol. XII, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 4, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1903, Original Sources. 21 Sep. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=P79CLNUCJND6U4W.

Harvard: Jackson, TJ, 'Second Battle of Bull Run (1862)' in McClellan’s Own Story. cited in 1903, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 21 September 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=P79CLNUCJND6U4W.