Second Battle of Bull Run
(or Second Manassas)
Eastern Theater, Second Bull Run Campaign
As the morning breaks, Confederate infantry division of Maj. Gen. Richard Anderson, having arrived in the dark and attempting to find its place in line, advances too far and close to the Union lines. As Anderson withdraws, Union pickets see their movement. As this is reported to Gen. Pope, he is even more convinced that the Rebels are trying to retreat.
1. Morning: Gen. Lee decides to wait for Pope to make the first move and then use that to his advantage in releasing Longstreet’s attack. Pope also waits, although his behavior is odd considering his conviction that the Rebels are retreating and trying to get away. He maintains this delusion all morning, in spite of scouting reports from Porter, Reynolds, Kearney, and Isaac Stevens from Reno’s division: the Rebels were still clearly in position. But Pope dithers. Skirmishes break out all up and down the line throughout the morning, along with clashes of cavalry on the flanks, and artillery duels.
2. Pope attacks: Lee, believing that Pope is going to attack, places 18 guns under Col. Stephen D. Lee on high ground in front of Jackson’s center, in a position to sweep the field. Pope, after counseling with his officers (who are divided in their opinions), issues orders around 1:00 P.M.: Porter is to attack Jackson’s right, and hold on the Rebel left.
It takes two hours for Porter to get his 10,000 men into position, with Dan Butterfield’s division in front, supported by Hatch’s division on the right, and Sykes’s division in reserve. Porter, protesting all along that large numbers of Rebels were off his left flank, finally steps off around 3:00 P.M. Col. Lee’s artillery are able to get a flanking, enfilading fire on Hatch’s division as they advance, causing high casualties. Butterfield has over 600 yards of open ground to cross, with a steep slope and a fortified enemy behind that. The assault strikes Starke’s (Jackson’s former) division, and break through the Southern line. But the famous Stonewall Brigade, in a counterattack, drives the Yankees back—but these Virginians take heavy losses, including their commander, Col. Baylor, who is killed. Longstreet’s artillery, off to the left of the Federal attack, opens up and scores flanking fire on the Union lines, too. At one point, Rebels in the brigades of Stafford and Johnson have run out of ammunition, and begin throwing rocks at the 24th New York–who begin throwing them back, instead of shooting. Porter’s men are badly cut up, though, and he calls off the attack, although some of his brigades are still pinned to the enemy line, unable to withdraw. Starke’s Rebels counterattack in a moment of ill-considered bravado, and Porter’s reserves fire devastating volleys into the charging Rebels, who return to their lines, badly diminished. At that moment, McDowell sends Reynolds’s division forward to reinforce Porter, but weakens the extreme left Union flank to do so.
3. Longstreet’s Assault: Gen. Lee and Gen. Longstreet agree that with the Union left thus weakened, the time was right for the attack. Longstreet’s four divisions (Hood, Evans, Kemper, and Jones–with Anderson in reserve), 25,000 men in a line a mile and a half long, step off in a wide right wheel, plunging into the flank and rear of the Union army.
Only two undermanned brigades under Warren and McLean are in line ready to resist them. Warren has only two regiments, and they do not even slow down the Rebel attack. The 5th New York Zouaves, out of 500 men, suffer 300 men shot down in the first 10 minutes. McLean has better luck, and stalls the Southern advance for 30 minutes, while Gen. Pope and McDowell begin to scramble to post troops on Henry House Hill, which dominates the road junction in the center of the battlefield, and comprises the Federal’s only escape route. McLean gives way, and the Rebel assault rolls on, smashing in succession the Yankee brigades of Zealous Tower, John Stiles, and then those of John Koltes and Wlodzimierz Krzyzanowski.
4. Attack on Henry House Hill: The resistance of these six Union brigades, however, has slowed the Southern attack by more than two hours, and by this point, Pope has built a line. Longstreet sends Jones’ division forward on the right, and then two brigades from Anderson, who is able to damage the Union flank enough to ascend Henry House Hill—but Anderson fails to exploit this, due to the gathering darkness.
Despite orders from Lee to assist, Jackson does not launch a supporting attack from his lines until late. Pope’s makeshift line holds, and during the night, his army withdraws across Bull Run and moves quickly back to the safety of the Washington defenses.
—1st Lieutenant William Penn Lloyd, of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment, offers in his journal his view of Longstreet’s attack on the Federal left flank, and his blame on Pope:
We hear of battles, and read descriptions of them; but it is only when on the field, and a spectator of the scene, that one can realize half their grandeur, or their horrors.
For more than two hours, the battle continued thus to rage, when the enemy having, [unperceived?] or [unheeded?] by our Genls., thrown a heavy body around on our left, suddenly poured a cloud of troops down on our flank and rear; and our exhausted columns, unable to withstand the torrent that came rolling against them, broke, and fell back in confusion. Here was the Great and fatal error of the day. From the time our left was attacked, till our flank was turned, Genl. Pope was repeatedly advised of the probability of the enemy attempting this movement; but deaf to all advice and entreats, he not only neglected to make the necessary disposition of his forces, to meet such a contingency; but continued with drawing troops from the extreme left, and marching them to the center and right, and even so for forgot the duties of a general, as to neglect having videtts out on the left to warn him of the approach of the enemy.
—Union army Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman, ever irrepressible in expressing his opinion, writes agrily in his journal about McClellan’s refusal to hurry to help Pope:
Alas, my poor country! and must you at last be sacrificed to the jealousies, the selfishness, the ambition, the treachery or the incompetency of those to whom you have entrusted your treasure, life, honor, every thing? Grouchy failed to come. So did Hancock, Franklin and McClellan. There may be good reasons for our delay, and we not be permitted to know what they are. The subordinate is forbidden to discuss the merits or the motives of his superior, but we must not be blamed for thinking. Pope was whipped. Thousands of our neighbors and our friends died on that bloody field, whilst struggling to hold it till we could reach and save them, and the joyous faces of many officers of our Army of the Potomac made us think that the whipping of Pope and the slaughter of his men, had something to do with their joy. . .
—Private Robert Knox Sneden, a cartographer on the staff of Gen. Heintzelman, recounts his gruesome experience of the battle in his journal:
I saw the head of one of our atillerymen taken off, shot within fifty feet of my position. His blood spattered his gun. He was pulled up by his arms a few paces away, the blood gushing in streams from his neck. . . . The other artillerymen kept on loading and firing without giving him further notice. All the guns of the battery were worked with great rapidity. The men were loading and firing like madmen. The wounded were crawling around on their hands and knees. Others were tearing up their shirts to make bandages for their bloody wounds . . . while from a low strip of bushes the Rebels were firing on our wounded in front who were crawling to our lines. The wounded and dying Rebels along our front in the open ground held up their hands in token of surrender, while piercing shrieks, yells, cheers, and oaths filled the air, heard above the deafening reports of the artillery and crash of musketry. . . . Having seen enough of the terrible fighting, I returned to our headquarters. . . .
—George Templeton Strong writes in his journal of the reaction to the battle in New York City:
—Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, Day 2: The day begins with an artillery duel, and then Gen. Cleburne advances his two-brigade division. Gen. Nelson has ordered up Gen. Charles Cruft and his brigade to reinforce Manson. (Most of Nelson’s troops are purely green regiments raised specifically in answer to the threatened Rebel invasion that Kirby-Smith and Bragg are now conducting.) South of Richmond, near Mt. Zion Church, Cleburne’s troops drive in the Federal skirmish line, and both sides bring up more artillery. Cleburne moves against the Federal left; Gen. Manson, in response, takes troops from his right flank and sends them to his left. But about that time, unseen by the Yankees, Gen. Thomas Churchill and his division of Arkansans and Texans come charging up out of a ravine, and hit the weakened Federal right. Manson’s green troops gave way before the assault, and the left finally collapsed as well, although Cleburne had been shot in the jaw and was taken from the field. As the Federals retreat back up the road, Manson is finally able to rally them around 11:00 A.M. Kirby-Smith orders Churchill to attack again, while Col. Preston Smith (taking Cleburne’s place) attacks the Federal left---and again the Yankee line breaks, and they continue to retreat in disorder back to Richmond. General "Bull" Nelson arrives on the field, and attempts to stem disaster: he organizes a new line in a cemetery just outside of town. Col. Smith sends his two brigades forward, and as dusk settles, this line breaks, too, and the Yankees retreat in a rout northward. Two miles north of Richmond, however, Scott;’s cavalry brigade (1st Georgia, 1st Louisiana, 3rd Tennessee, and a squadron of Kentucky riders) catch the panicked Federals and, blocking their retreat, attack. The Northerners surrender in large numbers, and only Nelson and a few troops escape. Confederate Victory.
Forces: U.S. Maj. Gen. Wm. "Bull" Nelson, 6,500 men
C.S. Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby-Smith, 6,850 men
Losses: Killed Wounded Captured and Missing Total
Union 206 844 4,303 5,353
Confederate 78 372 1 451
|Battle of Richmond, Kentucky|