mismanaged and costly, Jackson would later claim this small battle as his
greatest fight, snatching victory from certain defeat. Historian's would
credit Jackson with far greater feats, but Jackson's own thoughts show the
significance he placed on this hard fought and costly battle. The next day,
the battle victors buried the dead in an oppressive heat that was broken
late in the afternoon by rain. A day later, Jackson was on the move again.
Outnumbered, with additional Union forces coming, Jackson retreated. In the
meantime, the remaining Union troops under McClellan had been recalled from
the tip of the Virginia peninsula. This allowed Lee to abandon his defense
of Richmond, and concentrate his full Army of Northern Virginia on Pope.
It was his plan to meet Pope and defeat him before McClellan's Army could
reinforce him. Longstreet's Corps was ordered to march. By the 15th of August,
Lee had his entire Army, approximately 55M men, massed around Gordonsville.
Only a few miles away, on the Cedar Mountain battlefield, sat Pope's Army,
approximately the same size. But with additional corps from McClellan's 90M
man Army on the way, Lee knew he had to act quickly if he was to defeat Pope.
On the afternoon of the 15th, Hill's men were on the move again. Learning
that Lee had his full force a few miles away, Pope pulled his men back across
the Rappahanack River. Jackson hoped to swing around and strike the Union
right flank. But by the time his main force reached it, the Rappahanack was
flooding, trapping two of his lead brigades on the other side.
While the flooded river kept the two armies at bay for a few days, it did
fall just in time for Jackson's two brigades to escape two advancing corps
under Sigel and Banks. Lee knew he was fast losing his opportunity to do
battle with Pope before reinforcements from McClellan's forces joined him.
On the 24th he met with his generals. His plan - for Jackson to swing around
the Union right flank and attack Pope from the rear, while Longstreet masked
this movement from the front. On the 25th, Jackson's Corps was on the move
again. Shortly after sunrise on the 27th, in one of the war's greatest flanking
movements, Jackson's Corps arrived at Manassas Junction, completely behind
Pope's Amy. In 36 hours, his nearly 24M men had marched 54 miles completely
around Pope. With Pope's Army now numbering nearly 75M men to his south,
between him and the rest of Lee's Army, and two more federal corps just 30
miles northeast defending Washington DC, and more of McClellan's force enroute,
Jackson's was in a very dangerous position. Longstreet was enroute, following
Jackson's path, but his arrival would not be for a few days.
Meanwhile, investigating why his telegraph lines had gone dead, Pope learned
that Jackson's Army was behind him in Manassas Junction. Realizing that Lee's
Army was now split, Pope felt he could destroy Jackson before Longstreet
joined him, whom his cavalry had advised was now moving also. On the 27th,
as Jackson's men plundered his supplies at Manassas Junction, Pope issued
orders for his men, intending to wedge in between Jackson's and Longstreet's
Corps and destroy them individually. During the day after some probing by
small Union elements, Jackson decided to find some ground he could defend
against the expected attack by Pope. At one in the morning of the 28th, he
had his corps on the move again toward some high ground behind Groveton,
Virginia called Stony Ridge, near Sudley Springs. If Longstreet held to the
original plan he would arrive very close to this position, the next day.
For the Union Army, the next day would be total confusion. Having decided
to march on Manassas Junction and take Jackson head on, Pope's forces abandoned
their position at Gainesville, only five miles from where Jackson was now
positioning himself. Arriving later to find Jackson gone, the only intelligence
Pope could obtain was that Hill's men had been seen marching due north to
Centerville. His corps was then put in pursuit, assuming it was Jackson's
entire force. But in fact, Hill's division was taking the long route to Jackson's
position. Due north to Centerville, then back southwest to Sudley Springs.
The only Union division left in Gainesville, immediately marched due northeast
along the Warrenton Turnpike, the fastest route to reach Centerville. Five
miles later, this division stumbled onto Jackson's entire force, who quickly
attacked him. Learning of Jackson's location that evening, Pope wrongly assumed
that Jackson was now retreating westward in an effort to join up with Longstreet,
who had been momentarily stalled during the day by Union forces under Rickett,
but was now only 10 miles from Jackson's forces. By the morning of the 29th,
with his Army spread from Centerville, south to Bristoe Station, Pope's Army
was moving toward Jackson. The closest, under Union General Franz Sigel,
and John Reynolds, were ordered to attack at daybreak.
During that same night Jackson was preparing for an attack. For 3000 yards
along an old railroad bed running in front of a ridge, Jackson's Corps formed.
Most concerning to him was the left flank, held by Gregg, Thomas and Field,
with Archer, Pender, and Branch stacked behind them in support. Here the
treeline came up right to his line, with an open field to the left. Jackson
had more to be concerned about than even he was aware of. In a severe blunder
on Hill's part, an area about 125 years wide was left unmanned between Gregg's
South Carolinian's and Thomas' Georgian's. Worst yet, the area in front of
this gap was naturally protected by a chasm that blocked approaching Union
soldiers from view. This would play a key factor in the upcoming battle.
As Jackson had thought, the first movement by the Federal forces under Sigel,
was an attempt to turn his left flank. This put Gregg's troops into action
first, and their response to the assault, was to surprise the two German
brigades, and charge them. On the Union left flank, Thomas and Field's men
had a fire fight with 3 regiment's under Gen Birney, that proved to be mostly
a waste of ammunition for both sides. By noon, Gregg was back in his position,
the Union brigades had fallen back, and dead and wounded littered the ground.
Later that afternoon, Thomas right flank was skirmishing with elements of
Joseph Carr's New Jersey troops, hidden in the trees. Movement was seen to
the left, in the area in front of the gap between Thomas' and Gregg's brigades,
and the 49th and 45th Georgia regiments prepared to meet them. Unknown to
Thomas' Georgian's though, was that the troops approaching them were being
led by West Point graduate Brigadier General Cuvier Grover. Grover realized
that, while the modern rifles of the Civil War had made the old Napoleonic
theory of bayonet charges ineffectual, the tree line being so close to the
opposing Confederate line, afforded him an opportunity to make such a charge.
His troops, including the 1st,
and 16th Massachusetts, 2nd New Hampshire, and 26th Pennsylvania regiments,
crept forward, their bayonets fixed. As they cleared the trees, only a few
yards from the railroad excavation, Thomas' Georgian's rose from behind the
railroad embankment and greeted them with a volley. Ducking behind the dirt
to reload and escape the anticipated return volley, Thomas' Georgian's were
suddenly astonished to hear the Yankee's charging at them. At such close
range, few had time to reload, although many in the center regiment, the
45th, attempted to. But most, especially the 49th on the left, found themselves
in the middle of the charging Union brigade before they had time to realize
what was happening. Some surrendered, some feigned death where they lay,
while other attempted to resist, and were killed or wounded. Most realized
quickly they were being overwhelmed and retreated, as one 45th Georgia soldier
remembered, at "triple quick time". Grover's men pushed onward, and
in their pursuit of the fleeing Georgian's, lost their formations. Thomas
lined up his second line of resistance, a regiment (either the 14th or 35th
Georgia), and remnants of those who had fled the front lines the fastest.
Meeting the onslaught, the Confederates lowered their rifles and fired. But
the Union troops, as if convinced the entire war could be won solely on their
forward movement, could not be stopped. They crashed into the Georgia line
and after some hand to hand combat, these Georgian's too fell back.
Officers of the Civil War
While it seemed nothing could stop them, Grover realized his 1500 men could
not defeat the entire Jackson Corps, and he needed support quickly. But none
came. Pender to Thomas' rear, seeing the dire situation, sent his brigades
forward to stop Grover's advance. Unsupported, and their forward momentum
now checked, Grover's men put up a strong fight. Regiments now only yards
apart, fired volleys into one another. Outnumbered, and their flanks under
serious attack by Pender's men on the left, and Gregg's on the right, the
30 minute assault was checked and Grover's men streamed back to the shelter
of the trees. They left behind them nearly 1/3 of their force, dead or wounded.
Their departure was not a pleasant one. Recrossing the railroad cut they
were hit with flanking fire and profane demands for surrender.
Henry Blake of the 11th Mass wrote of this battle "The rebel skirmishers
were driven in upon their reserve behind the bank of an unfinished railroad.
The awful volleys did not impede the storming party that pressed on over
the bodies of the dead and dying; while the thousands of bullets which flew
through the air seemed to create a breeze that made the leaves upon the trees
rustle, and a shower of small boughs and twigs fell upon the ground. The
railroad bank was gained, and the column, with cheers, passed over it and
advanced over the groups of slain and mangled rebels who had rolled down
the declivity when they had lost their strength. The second line was broken;
scattered through the woods; and victory appeared to be certain, until the
last support, that had rested upon their breasts on the ground, suddenly
rose up and delivered a destructive volley, which forced the brigade, that
had already lost more than one third of its number in killed and wounded,
"Return to Bull Run" by John J Hennessy
(author's opinion, the best written book on Second Manassas)
on their heels in pursuit was Pender's men. It was now the pursuer being
pursued as Pender's North Carolinian's followed Grover's men into the woods.
This was a risky move, because the woods were filled with Union regiments.
The few that were met though, among them the 4th Maine, seemed to collapse
quickly under the pressure of Grover's frightened men running through them,
followed closely by the yelling forces of Pender. Some simply got out of
the way themselves, and other regiments lined up perpendicular to the railroad
cut, which allowed Pender's pursuit to continue. Finally breaking clear of
the trees, Pender's men were turned back by the sight of superior Union forces
bearing down on them, and Union artillery fire that raked them. Creeping
back through the enemy infested woods, Pender's men made their way back to
the Confederate line.
It was now late afternoon and many of the Union forces were just arriving
on the scene. To the right, Longstreet's Corps had arrived and was positioning
itself. Hill's men on the left of Jackson's line, had bore the brunt of the
action so far. Gregg's brigade on the farthest left flank was badly beaten
up, having lost approximately a third of its men. They had faced, and beaten
back two separate large scale attacks, including the last by Grover, which
hit them on their right flank. The Georgian's, of Thomas' brigade, were bloodied
and shaken from the last surprise assault. Pender's men were exhausted and
bruised from their defense from and assault on Grover's men.
Grover had pulled off a spectacular military feat, and with the proper support
could have put Jackson's entire force in serious jeopardy. Hand to hand combat
was rare during the Civil War, and this was one time the bayonet had proved
worth more than the candleholder, it was mostly used for. Thanks to a lack
of reinforcements, and the skill of Hill's men, the attack had been repelled.
But the day still had much action to see, and Hill's men had little time
to rest. Running desperately low on ammunition, some ventured over the railroad
bern and searched amongst the Union dead and wounded.
To the right, a strong force smacked into the Confederate line, but skirmish
fire was the only trouble Thomas' men endured as they returned to their original
position at the rail line, scavenging for ammunition as they went. Pender's
men had moved to the right of Thomas' regiment, who had moved to their left
to protect the gap, but were soon advised Archer's men would relieve them.
It was now about 5 pm. Pender's men had moved back, and Archer was assembling
his men to the right of Thomas' Georgians, when he noticed Federals in strength
in his front. For some reason, Archer did not advise his troops, deciding
instead to let them complete their formation. This would prove to be a serious
mistake, as troops during manuevers were seriously vulnerable to attack.
Opposing him, were division forces under Union General Phillip Kearney. Kearney
was not about to wait for Archer to get set, and ordered Gen David Bell Birney
to shift his 63rd Pennsylvanian's to his left, and called for a charge. Archer,
caught off guard, successfully beat off the initial attack, but the issue
was in doubt for a time. At about the same time, the 105th Pennsylvania and
3rd Michigan hit the extreme left flank of Gregg's men. Under heavy fire,
Gregg's men fell back. As Gregg's left appeared to be crumbling, more forces
appeared in front of Thomas' brigade and Gregg's right. In front of Gregg's
forces advanced the 40th New York, and against Thomas came Birney's 101st
New York and the 4th Maine, with the 20th Indiana behind them as support.
The Maine regiment, having recovered from Pender's earlier charge, were looking
for some pay back and had attached themselves to the far left of Kearney's
Officers of the Civil War
The advancing Union forces attacked and volley's from both sides ripped through
the air. Gregg's forces, already suffering a severe shortage of manpower,
and losing their left flank began to fall back gradually. Many, completely
out of ammunition met their attackers with rocks. The Union forces made charge
after charge. Thomas' men, now with their left flank exposed, also fell back,
but successfully beat off one near breakthrough when the 49th Georgia rushed
to their aide. The situation became serious on Gregg's far left flank as
the onslaught threatened to break the line completely. A division from Branch's
brigade was dispatched to help, but the question became, would they arrive
in time. With Gregg's forces crumbling, in some places in a panic, and Thomas'
men now slowly being pushed back, Kearney put in new forces against Thomas'
right and Archer. Smashing into Archer's position, part of the brigade broke
and the Union forces piled through the hole. Fearing that pushing in too
far would expose his flanks, the Union regiment leader held his men at the
railroad cut, and fired volley after volley into Archer's men. Branch, who
had held his brigade in relief all day, now responded to the emergency. More
division's were sent to Gregg's assistance, and two regiments were sent to
bolster Archer's forces.
But the left continued to barely hold on under the repeated Union charges.
Hill, seeing the seriousness of the situation, asked for help from Early.
Jubal Early's Virginia troops had started the morning on Jackson's far right,
but when Longstreet had moved in next to Jackson's forces, Early's men had
been pulled back to act as reserve's. When he received the plea for assistance
at about 5:30 pm, he quickly responded. With his seven division's, and picking
up two additional on the way, he formed his brigade behind Gregg's, Thomas'
and Archer's battle line, who were too busy fighting to notice them. At the
command of forward, the nine regiments let out a Rebel yell, that frightened
the embattled Confederate forces to their front as much as it worried their
Union aggressors. Streaming through the three battered brigades, Early's
men charged the Union aggressors. Running low on ammunition, having been
in constant battle for nearly an hour, and with their ranks seriously depleted,
Kearney's men could not handle this attack and fell back. In some places
they moved back slowly and paid a heavy cost. In most though, it was running
as fast as one could. Early's men followed the Union troops into the woods,
but fell back to the railroad embankment, as darkness was falling and the
woods were thick with Union regiments. One Georgia soldier, farther down
Jackson's line, would later describe "Such a contest with rocks and butt
ends of muskets I have never seen or read of before or since. The maddened
men, the flying stones, the clubbed muskets, the shouts, yells, smoke, dust,
din, and rattle of that scene passes
description."("Two Boys in the Civil War and After" by WR &
MB Houghton 1912)
"Return to Bull Run" by John J Hennessy
Hill's men were devastated. Gregg's brigade, on the far right, was nearly
non-existant. His casualties ran 3 to 1 of that of other Hill regiment's.
Thomas', Branch's, and Archer's brigade had been hit hard so far. Field's
was still in fighting order, and Pender's, having been in reserve during
the last battle, was bloodied but in fair shape. But they had given as good
as they got. The Union had paid for their last assault dearly. The 101st
New York, that had faced Thomas' Georgian's, would suffer nearly 74% casualties.
This would go down in the records as the third highest casualty percentile
in one Union regiment during a single engagement. One member of this NY regiment,
Private John Mahay, wounded in the charge, would suffer for over a year in
Walt Whitman, one of those that visited him in the
hospital, wrote "One scene at his bedside will suffice for the agonies
of nearly two years. The bladder had been perforated by a bullet going entirely
through him. The water ran out of his eyes from the intense pain, and the
muscles of his face were distorted, but he utter'd nothing except a low groan
now and then. Poor Mahay, a mere boy in age, but old in misfortune. He never
knew the love of parents, was placed in infancy in one of the New York charitable
institutions, and subsequently bound out to a tyrannical master in Sullivan
county, (the scars of whose cowhide and club remain'd yet on his back.) His
wound here was a most disagreeable one, for he was a gentle, cleanly, and
As dusk began to fall, Hill's men, now completely out of ammunition and running
low on rocks, prayed for darkness to come. It finally did, and the fighting
was silenced except for occasional firing by frightened skirmisher's, stuck
out in the woods to warn of any attack.
Thomas' men got little sleep that night, as Hill rotated his forces, allowing
them to visit the rear and restock their ammunition for the next day. Dead
and wounded were thick, and men scurried into the darkness to pull moaning
wounded to cover. The men of the 35th Georgia were becoming accustomed to
the horrible sounds of the night on a battlefield. Wounded men moaned and
cried out in pain, some pleding for assistance, while others, delirious from
injuries, spoke softly in self conversation, trying to avoid the loneliness
and horror of laying wounded amongst so many dead. Some comforted themselves
by praying aloud, and others hummed old songs until they could sing no more.
Young men wept, knowing their short life would soon be over. If these sounds
weren't enough for those alive to endure, the woods crackled as Union troops
were re-shuffled. Night attacks were extremely rare during the war, but the
possibility kept the Confederate troops on alert late into the night.
The following morning, everything remained quiet except for sporadic fire
from forward skirmisher's. It seemed as if their would be no further fighting,
and Hill relieved some of his troops of the front line to got o the rear
and eat. Amongst these were Archer's brigade on Thomas' right, and Early's
left. Suddenly an attack was made on Early's men about 2 PM, and Archer's
brigade rushed back to fill the void. This assault was followed by an even
stronger assault on Jackson's right. Thomas' men were not involved in this
engagement, as it raged to their right. This would be the final major Union
assault. In one of quickest flip flop battles in Civil War history, the tide
suddenly turned against Pope's Army, when Longstreet's Corps, whom Pope had
seemingly forgotten about, decided to take the offensive. In what would follow
during the remainder of the day, like a huge door opening, the entire Confederate
Army would swing out and send Pope's Army running. Thomas' regiment's, would
be one of the final brigades to join this chase, as Hill's position held
the hinge to the door swinging out from their right.
For two days, Pope had slammed against the outnumbered Confederates in seemingly
uncoordinated and unsupported attacks. On two occasions the previous day,
he appeared to have let prime opportunities slip through his hands, when
momentary breakthrough's had been made on the left against Hill's men. But
the tenacious troops of the Light Division had held strong, and with support,
had beaten off these attacks. Now a day later, Pope's Army was fleeing for
its life. That night, in heavy rains, Lee's exhausted and victorious Army
slept among the dead of what would be known as Second Manassas, or the Second
further reading on Jackson's flanking movement, official reports of the Second
Manassas battle, and Chantilly, visit
Thomas Jackson's Report