Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August 28, 1862

August 28, 1862: Eastern Theater, Second Bull Run Campaign - Gen. Pope’s troops get entangled on the roads: because Gen. Sigel starts late, his wagons get snarled with Gen. McDowell’s troops. Pope, with his army spread out from Centreville to Bristoe Station to Haymarket, decides to concentrate his forces, since he is still very doubtful as to where the Rebels exactly are. Earlier in the morning, there is skirmishing between Jackson’s men and Yankees from John Reynolds’ division, but it never develops into a real fight, and so Reynolds marches on. Meanwhile, Stonewall Jackson holds his Rebels concealed within the railroad cut, waiting for some Yankees to blunder by.

The Battle of Groveton (Brawner’s Farm) The Warrenton Turnpike, which runs from Gainesville to Centreville, right across Jackson’s front, has become a major avenue for the rapid movement of Union troops the last two days. Jackson is hoping that some Federals will blunder by in a vulnerable way–and some do oblige him, before too long. Crossing his front, Federal troops encounter a few Rebel pickets. After skirmishers exchange some fire, aroun 6:30 P.M., Jackson’s men come out of their railroad cut, and pounce on Gen. Rufus King’s division, commanded by Hatch, as it goes marching by on its way to Centreville. King’s division consists of the brigades of John Hatch, Abner Doubleday, John Gibbon, and Marsena Patrick. Gen. Gibbon unlimbers a battery of artillery and begins sparring with Jackson’s artillery, once the Federals figure out where it is coming from. Hatch’s brigade has already gone on, and does not deploy; Patrick’s forms up in the left rear, and so only Gibbon and Doubleday form their brigades. (It is not clear why neither Patrick nor Hatch participate in the fight.) The Federal column halts and begins to deploy into line in the woods parallel with the highway, with Gibbon sending the 2nd Wisconsin forward to chase off what he assumed was some of the Rebel horse artillery. As the 430 Wisconsin men deploy skirmishers, they drive the Rebel skirmishers back, until the famous Stonewall Brigade attacks the Wisconsin right flank. One by one, regiments are fed into the fray by both sides. Gibbon’s 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin, with the 19th Indiana, earn the sobriquet The Iron Brigade on this day, when both sides stand up and blast away at each other for several hours, until long after dark. Doubleday moves up two regiments to support Gibbon. Jackson eventually has 6,200 men in line against the 2,800 Federals. Finally, Jackson sends up some Georgia regiments to support the Stonewall Brigade, but mistaking the Stonewalls for Yankees in the dark, the Georgians pour volley after volley into their ranks, killing and wounding many of their own comrades. In the confusion of this tragedy, Gibbon and Doubleday withdraw their troops without further incident. The casualties are appalling: The Federals lose 1,100 out of 2,800, and the Rebels suffer over 1,200 casualties, with the Stonewall Brigade incurring over 40% losses. Two Georgia regiments receive over 70% losses. A number of senior Rebel officers are wounded or killed. Gen. Ewell and Gen. Taliaferro (pronounced Tolliver, believe it or not) are both wounded, and Ewell loses his leg to amputation. Taliferro writes of the battle: "In this fight there was no maneuvering and very little tactics. It was a question of endurance and both endured." Stalemate.
Battle of Groveton

This battle makes a fitting prelude to tomorrow’s battle at Bull Run—a monument of confusion and mismanagement.

—Capt. William Bolton, of the 51st Pennsylvania Infantry which serves in Gen. Reno’s division currently being hurried to the front, writes in his journal:
Left our bivouac at daylight, and passed through Manassas Junction at 12 o’clock. Here all was confusion. The rebels had reached this place ahead of us, captured seven trains of cars loaded with ammunition and provisions and army supplies generally. Ten locomotives were also destroyed. The enemy had supplied themselves with what they wanted and destroyed the balance. The ruins are still burning and it is said the destroyed property is worth $500,000. The 51st is covering the rear. . . . We have had more or less skirmishing all day. . . .

—Preston Sessoms, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, writes home to his sister Bettie about how lonesome it is on campus this year:
Chapel Hill N. Carolina.
August 28th 1862.
Sister Bett.
I have again reached this place in safety, and found all things as they were when I left last January, except there has been a great deal change among the College affairs. For such a place as this, which is called a university,there had ought to be no less than three or four hundred students, but there are only fifty here now, a very small number. Very soon after I left last January nearly all the students left and went to war; some were called out by the draft some were taken by the Conscription law and some went voluntarily, So nearly all left; if there had not new students come this session, there would be hardly twenty students here now. I call it very dull and lonesome place; if it was not for one thing I would not stay here, There is but two or three boarding houses now, all have gone down, and board is very high, and but very little to eat, The college expenses are the same as the have always been. I have heard something about the second call for conscripts; if there does come another call, this college will certainly break, it will take all, sweep it clean. . . .

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