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THE BATTLE OF BLACKBURN'S FORD.
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in considerable force all along Tyler's route | in burning and pillaging, which, however, was soon from Vienna, and several fresh earthworks were found, proving that the rebels designed to make a stand, but had not time to perfect their intrenching. Fairfax Court House village was fully occupied on the 17th.
Tyler's brigade occupied Germantown and the road towards Centreville. McDowell reported, on the morning of the 18th, as follows:
"The First division, under General Tyler, is between Germantown and Centreville.
A flank movement designed.
checked. It distressed us all greatly.
"The Second (Hunter's) is at this place, just by way of Brentsville. He (Mc D.) was at
about to move forward to Centreville.
"The Fifth (Miles') is at the crossing of the old Braddock road with the road from this to Fairfax Station, and is ordered forward to Centreville by
the old Braddock road.
Barrey's battery has joined it.
Sangster's station, arranging with Heintzelman for the movement, when news came of a heavy fight going on at Bull Run. This sudden and unlooked-for encounter compelled a change of plans, and Heintzelman was ordered to Centreville to await the result of
"One of Colonel Heintzelman's brigades (Wil- the demonstrations which it was thought
cox's) is at Fairfax Station.
"Colonel Heintzelman and his other brigade are below the Station, but he has not reported to me since we have been here, and I have not been able
to communicate with him. I think they are at Sangster's Station. The four men wounded yesterday belonged to Colonel Miles' division, who had some slight skirmishing in reaching the position.
"Each column encountered about the same obstructions, trees felled across the road, but the axemen cleared them out in a few moments.
"There were extensive breast works thrown up at this place, and some of them with embrasures resetted with sand-bags. Extensive breastworks were also thrown up at the Fairfax railroad station, and the road leading to Sangster's.
"A great deal of work has been done by them, and the number and size of their camps show they have been here in great force.
"Their retreat, therefore, must have a damaging effect upon them. They left in such haste, that they did not draw in their pickets, who came into one of our camps, thinking, as it occupied the same place, that it was their own.
"The obstructions to the railroad, in the vicinity of the station, including the deep cut filled in with earth. &c., can be cleared out in a few hours. The telegraph poles are up, with the wires on them. I look to having railroad and telegraph communication in a very short time.
the Ford, halting his brigade on an eminence one mile beyond Centreville. There he was joined by Tyler, when the two commanders started forward for a reconnoissance, accompanied by two companies of infantry and a squadron of cavalry. The enemy was discovered in position behind batteries, over the Run-their batteries enfilading the approach to the Ford. A battalion of light infantry was ordered forward to skirmish, while Ayres' battery of rifled guns was put in readi
ness for action on the crest of the hill occupied by the brigade. Sherman's brigade was detailed as a reserve. Ayres opened on the enemy, but elicited only a few return shots"Much flour, some arms, forage, tents, camp thus failing to "draw out" the covert force.
equipage, &c., were abandoned by them.
"I am distressed to have to report excesses by our troops. The excitement of the men found vent
Tyler then ordered Richardson to advance his entire brigade, at the same time ordering out skirmishers to scour the thick woods
The Battle of Blackburn's Ford.
that covered the entire valley through which the creek swept. The skirmishers did their duty with alacrity, and, ere long, came out near the Ford, on the road, having discovered no enemy. Still assured of the presence of the foe, and resolved to unmask his position, as well as to determine his force, Tyler ordered two twelve-pound how-| itzers from Ayres' battery, to a position close to the stream, with Captain Brackett's squadron of calvary as a support. This movement called out Beauregard's fire. In a brief period the entire bottom along the creek was alive with fire, front and flank, indicating the considerable force of the Confederates, showing their artillery to be numerous, and occupying effective positions. Tyler stated in his report, that, having secured the exposure by the enemy of their whereabouts, the reconnoissance would have ended; but Richardson, having ordered the Twelfth New York, Colonel Walrath, to deploy into line and advance in the woods, the fight became furious for the moment. The enemy, well masked, received the advance with such a searching fire as put most of the regiment to rout-parts of companies A., Captain M. H. Church, and I., Captain H. A. Barnum, only keeping the field. Richardson, to press his advance, had ordered the First Massachusetts, and the Second and Third Michigan, to the support, designing to force the enemy out of their positions by assault. But Tyler, having ordered Ayres and Captain Brackett from the field, and seeing the rout of the Twelfth, recalled the advancing regiments with the command to fall back upon the brigade position on the hill. Richardson begged hard to be permitted to make the attack, and was zealously seconded by the regimental officers; but Tyler forbade it. The division commander already had exceeded his orders in challenging an engagement. Ayres, after reaching the brigade position, opened fire on the enemy's two well masked batteries, with two twenty-pounders. Over four hundred shots were exchanged the rebels answering gun for gun in the iron duel. No particular results followed. At night fall the brigade fell back upon Centreville, around which the other divisions were
The Battle of Blackburn's Ford.
rapidly pressing, hastened, as they had been,
It will appear from this summary that Tyler encountered the full strength of Beauregard, whose troops were posted with skill in such positions as to sweep every ap proach and to command every creek and ford, It was well that the retreat was sounded; the entire Federal force might not only have been “bagged," but Centreville might have been reoccupied, though it is not probable that the rebel commander would have sacrificed his admirable positions over the creek for any partial advance. He knew the character of McDowell's force and was well informed of the Federal programme; he therefore chose to await the grand attack. That design was the secret of his not pushing and punishing Tyler more severely.
McDowell, as stated, was at Sangster's Station when the engagement occurred. He immediately, on hearing of it, hurried off to Centreville, to arrest it, if possible. The retreat had been ordered, however, when he reached the ground.
The Federal loss, as reported by Richard son, was nineteen killed, thirty-eight wounded, twenty-six missing, and four horses killed and eleven wounded. Beauregard reported his casualties at fifteen killed and fifty-three wounded-a large proportion of them mor tally. The rebel commander in this report betrayed the failing for which he afterwards became distinguished — exaggerating the Federal losses and disasters. He said: “In the cursory examination which was made by details from Longstreet's and Early's bri
THE ORDER OF BATTLE.
gades, on the 18th of July, of that part of the | burn's Ford, so as to provide for the continfield immediately contested, and near Blackburn's Ford, some sixty-four corpses were found and buried, and at least twenty prisoners were also picked up, besides one hundred and seventy-five stand of arms, a large quantity of accoutrements and blankets, and quite one hundred and fifty hats." He also added what was strictly true:
"The effect of this day's conflict was to notify the enemy that he could not force a passage across Bull Run in the face of our troops, and led him into the flank movement of the 21st of July and the battle of Manassas."
McDowell's Preliminary Arrangements.
gencies of a demonstration on his left. Senator Chandler, in his speech on the causes of the disaster at Bull Run,* imputes the defeat in part to that three days' delay; but his citations of reasons for it are too meagre to do the commanding General justice. The assurance that General Scott and the War Department gave, that Patterson would so engage Johnston as to prevent his junction with Beauregard, unquestionably led McDowell into the delay: if that assurance had been sustained, and Patterson had done as ordered and expected, the three days could have After this affair McDow-done nothing for the Confederates, but much ell massed his troops at for the Federal and around Centreville preparatory to forcing Beauregard back upon and out of Manassas Junction. That he did not attack his antagonist on the morning of the 19th, was owing to several causes, not the least of which was the general disorder that reigned in the march and trains. The troops being new, with brigade commanders whose only experience had been in single regiments with division commanders of comparatively small experience in such extended capacity—with regimental officers of whom very few knew military duty from active service in time of war-it is not strange that the army resembled a half-trained, rather than a finely ordered, legion, working with precision, and available for duty at an hour's warning. McDowell also desired to determine the enemy's disposition and force with more definitiveness than had resulted from Tyler's reconnoissance at the Ford. He further proposed to avoid the batteries which Tyler had unmasked, and, by turning Beauregard's lines, to strike upon his rear, thus to reach the Manassas Gap railway and cut off the expected reenforcements from Winchester. This programme necessitated careful disposition of the forces to cover his exposed left, and the presence of a full force of artillery for the advance and the reserves. There was delay in this disposition, owing to some confusion in the commands and to the non arrival of munitions and rations for a long sustained conflict. The interval was devoted to throwing up defenses at Centreville, and on the hill commanding Black
The Secretary of War,
his assistant, and one of Order of Battle. General Scott's aids, visited Centreville, Saturday, to consummate all needful arrangements prior to the engagement. They returned Saturday evening, confident of McDowell's ability to sustain his position, and satisfied with his plans to force the rebels out of their chosen positions. A council of war was held Saturday evening, at which McDowell unfolded his plans and promulgated his orders (General Order, No. 22), as follows:
"The enemy has planted a battery on the War. renton turnpike to defend the passage to Bull Run; has seized the stone bridge and made a heavy abattis on the right bank, to oppose our advance in that direction. The ford above the bridge is also
guarded, whether with artillery or not is not positively known, but every indication favors the belief that he proposes to defend the passage of the
"It is intended to turn the position, force the enemy from the road that it may be re-opened, and, if possible, destroy the railroad leading from Manassas to the valley of Virginia, where the enemy has a large force. As this may be resisted by all the force of the enemy, the troops will be disposed as
The First division, General Tyler's, with the exception of Richardson's brigade, will, at half-past
two o'clock in the morning precisely, be on the bridge, but will not open fire until daybreak. Warrenton turnpike to threaten the passage of the
"The Second division (Hunter's) will move from its camp at two o'clock in the morning precisely, and led by Captain Woodbury, of the Engineers, will, after passing above the ford at Sudley's *See Appendix, page 494.
Spring, and then turning down to the left, descend the stream and clear away the enemy who may be guarding the lower ford and bridge. It will then bear off to the right and make room for the succeeding division.
"The Third division (Heintzelman's) will march at half-past two o'clock in the morning, and follow the road taken by the Second division, but will cross at the lower ford after it has been turned as
The rebels reenforced.
All day long of Saturday, the 20th, the rumble of heavy railway trains and the shrieks of steam-whistles were plainly heard by the reconnoitreing parties, leading McDowell to fear that Johnston's forces from Winchester really were at hand. The fear, it will be seen by reference to Beaure
above, and then, going to the left, take place be- gard's report,* was well-founded, for all that
tween the stream and Second division.
"The Fifth division (Miles') will take position on the Centreville Heights (Richardson's brigade will, for the time, form part of the Fifth division, and will continue in its present position.) One brigade will be in the village, and one near the present station of Richardson's brigade. This division will threaten
the Blackburn ford, and remain in reserve at Centreville. The commander will open fire with ar
day the army from the Shenandoah valley was passing in upon Manassas, and, early Sunday morning, was on the field. It had been the purpose of the rebel commander to precipitate Johnston suddenly upon McDowell, on the 20th, before he should come out of Centreville, while Beauregard should throw his entire force over Bull Run, and,
tillery only, and will bear in mind that it is a de- by the combined attack, to cut up the Union
monstration only he is to make. He will cause such defensive works, abattis, earthworks, &c., to be thrown up as will strengthen his position. Lieutenant Prime, of the Engineers, will be charged with this duty.
"These movements may lead to the gravest results, and commanders of divisions and brigades should bear in mind the immense consequences in volved. There must be no failure, and every effort must be made to prevent straggling.
"No one must be allowed to leave the ranks without special authority. After completing the movements ordered, the troops must be held in order of battle, as they may be attacked at any moment. By command of
Brigadier-General MCDOWELL. "JAMES B. FRY, Adjutant-General."
An additional order to the division commanders instructed them to the following ef fect: "That an equal distribution of the subsistence stores on hand may be made immediately to the different companies in their respective commands, so that they shall be provided for the same number of days, and that the same be cooked and put in the haversacks of the men. The subsistence stores now in the possession of each division, with the fresh beef that can be drawn from the chief commissary, must last to include the 23d instant." This important order should be given all due prominence, since it is urged, even by some of the regimental officers, that the troops suffered for lack of food and water. If such want was experienced, whom shall we censure?
army. This plan was not carried out, we are informed by Beauregard, because of inadequate transportation for Johnston's troops. If that attack had been made, in all proba bility it would have ended in the utter defeat of the Confederates. The arrangements were made by them, however, without any fear or care of Patterson, whom Johnston prepared to leave at any moment. A vigorous blow struck at Winchester, on the 18th, would have placed it beyond Johnston's power to assist in crushing out McDowell.
Battle of Bull Run.
The general movements of the momentous day, the 21st, we gather from the lucid report of McDowell, which we here give as a summary of the battle necessary to a clear comprehension of the several incidents of the victory and the defeat:
"HEAD-QUARTERS, DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, August 4th, 1861. Lieutenant-Colonel E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adju tant-General, Head-quarters of the Army, Washing ton, D. C.:
"COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the fol lowing report of the battle of the 21st of July, near Manassas, Virginia. It has been delayed until this time from the inability of the subordinate commanders to get earlier a true account of the state of their commands.
"In my communication to you of the 20th ult., 1 stated it as my intention to move that afternoon, and drive the enemy from the east side of Bull Run,
*For Beauregard's Report see Appendix.
so as to enable the engineers to make a sufficiently accurate reconnoissance to justify our future movements. Later in the day they had obtained enough information of the passage across the stream to dispense with this reconnoissance, and it was decided to move without delay. It had been my intention to move the several columns out on the road a few miles on the evening of the 20th, so that they would have a shorter march in the morning; but I deferred to those who had the greatest distance to go, and who preferred starting early in the morning, and making but one move.
loss, and if we did that it would
"On the evening of the 20th ult. my command was mostly at or near Centreville. The enemy was at or near Manassas, distant from Centreville about seven miles to the south-west. Centreville is a village of a few houses, mostly on the west side of a ridge running nearly north and south. The road from Centreville to Manassas Junction was along this ridge, and crosses Bull Run about three miles from the former place. The Warrenton Turnpike, which runs nearly east and west, goes over this Brigadier-General Tyler was directed to move ridge, through the village, and crosses Bull Run with three of his brigades on the Warrenton road, about four miles from it, Bull Run having a course and commence cannonading the enemy's batteries, between the crossing from north-west to south-east. while Hunter's division, moving after him, should, The first division (Tyler's) was stationed on the after passing a little stream called Cud Run, turn to north side of the Warrenton Turnpike, and on the the right and north, and move around to the upper eastern slope of the Centreville ridge, two brigades ford, and there turn south and get behind the enemy. on the same road, and a mile and a half in advance, Colonel Heintzelman's division was to follow Hunto the west of the ridge, and one brigade on the road ter's as far as the turning-off place to the lower ford, from Centreville to Manassas, where it crosses Bull where he was to cross after the enemy should have Run, at Blackburn's Ford, where General Tyler had been driven out by Hunter's division, the fifth divithe engagement of the 18th ult. The second division (Miles') to be in reserve on the Centreville sion (Hunter's) was on the Warrenton Turnpike, one mile east of Centreville. The third division (Heintzelman's) was on a road known as the Old Braddock Road, which comes into Centreville from the south-east, about a mile and a half from the village. The fifth division (Miles') was on the same road with the third division, and between it and Centreville. A map which is herewith, marked A, will show these positions better than I can describe them. [See page 257.]
"On Friday night a train of subsistence arrived, and on Saturday its contents were ordered to be issued to the command, and the men required to have three days' rations in their haversacks. On Saturday orders were issued for the available force to march. As reported to you in my letter of the 19th ult., my personal reconnoissance of the roads to the south had shown that it was not practicable to carry out the original plan of turning the enemy's position on their right. The affair of the 18th at Blackburn's Ford showed he was too strong at that point for us to force a passage there without great
"I had felt anxious about the road from Manassas
by Blackburn's Ford to Centreville, along this ridge, fearing that while we should be in force to the front, and endeavoring to turn the enemy's position, we ourselves should be turned by him by this road; for if he should once obtain possession of this ridge, which overlooks all the country to the west to the foot of the spurs of the Blue Ridge, we should have been irretrievably cut off and destroyed. I had, therefore, directed this point to be held in force, and sent an engineer to extemporize some fieldworks to strengthen the position.