BATTLE REPORT OF SECOND MANASSAS CAMPAIGN
Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia
June 8, 1863
General: I have the honor to transmit herewith the report of the operations of this army from the time it crossed the Rappahannock thriough the battle of Mansass. Many of the sub-reports of these operations I have been obliged to retain, because they contain the narrative in part of the latter operations of the campaign. Of those operations succeeding the battle of Manassas I have not yet made a report, as I have not yet received full reports from Jackson's corps.
I am with the greatest respect, your obedient servant
R E Lee
Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia
June 5, 1863
The victory at Cedar Run effectually checked the progress of the enemy for the time, but it soon became apparent that his army was being largely increased.
The corps of Major General Burnside from North Carolina which had reached Fredericksburg, was reported to have moved up the Rappahannock a few days after the battle to unite with General Pope, and a part of General McClellan’s army was believed to have left Westover for the same purpose. It therefore seemed that active operations on the James were no longer contemplated and that the most effectual way to relieve Richmond from any danger of attack from that quarter would be to reinforce General Jackson and advance upon General Pope.
Accordingly on the 13th August Major General Longstreet with his division, and the two brigades under General Hood were ordered to proceed to Gordonsville. At the same time General Stuart was directed to move with the main body of his cavalry to that point, leaving a sufficient force to observe the enemy still remaining in Fredericksburg, and to guard the railroad. General R. H. Anderson was also directed to leave his position on James River and to follow Longstreet.
On the 16th the troops began to move from the vicinity of Gordonsville towards the Rapidan on the north side of which, extending along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad in the direction of Culpeper Court House, the Federal Army lay in great force.
It was determined with the cavalry to destroy the railroad bridge over the Rappahannock in rear of the enemy while Longstreet and Jackson crossed the Rapidan and attacked his left flank.
The movement as explained in the following order was appointed for the 18th August, but the necessary preparations not having been completed, its execution was postponed to the 20th. In the interval the enemy, being appraised of our design, hastily retired beyond the Rappahannock.
General Longstreet crossed the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford, and preceded by Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry brigade arrived early in the afternoon near Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock where Lee had a sharp and successful skirmish with the rear guard of the enemy, who held the north side of the river in strong force.
Jackson passed the Rapidan at Somerville Ford and moved towards Brandy Station, Robertson’s brigade of cavalry, accompanied by General Stuart in person leading the advance. Near Brandy Station a large body of the enemy’s cavalry was encountered, which was gallantly attacked and driven across the Rappahannock by Robertson’s command. General Jackson halted for the night near Stevensburg, and on the morning of the 21st moved upon Beverly’s Ford on the Rappahannock.
The 5th Virginia Cavalry under Colonel [Thomas L.] Rosser, was sent forward by General Stuart to seize the north bank of the river at this point and gallantly accomplished the object, capturing a number of prisoners and arms. General Stuart subsequently arrived and being furnished by General Jackson with a section of artillery, maintained his position for several hours, skirmishing warmly with the enemy.
General Robertson who had crossed the river above Beverly’s Ford, reported that the enemy was advancing in large force upon the position held by General Stuart, and as it had been determined in the mean time not to attempt the passage of the river at that point with the army, that officer withdrew to the south side. The enemy soon afterwards appeared in great strength on the opposite bank, and an animated fire was kept up during the rest of the day between his artillery and the batteries attached to Jackson’s leading division under Brigadier General Taliaferro.
As our positions on the south bank of the Rappahannock were commanded by those of the enemy who guarded all the fords, it was determined to seek a more favorable place to cross higher up the river, and thus gain the enemy’s right.
Accordingly General Longstreet was directed to leave Kelly’s Ford on the 21st and take the position in front of the enemy in the vicinity of Beverly’s Ford and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad bridge, then held by Jackson, in order to mask the movement of the latter, who was instructed to ascend the river.
On the 22nd Jackson crossed Hazel River at Welford’s Mill and proceeded up the Rappahannock, leaving Trimble’s brigade near Freeman’s Ford to protect his trains. In the afternoon Longstreet sent General Hood with his own and Whiting’s brigade under Colonel [Evander M.] Law to relieve Trimble. Hood had just reached the position when he and Trimble were attacked by a considerable force which had crossed at Freeman’s Ford. After a short but spirited engagement the enemy was driven precipitately over the river with heavy loss.
General Jackson arrived at Warrenton Springs Ford in the afternoon and immediately began to cross his troops to the north side, occupying the Springs and the adjacent heights. He was interrupted by a heavy rain, which caused the river to rise so rapidly that the ford soon became impassable for infantry and artillery. Under these circumstances it was deemed advisable to withdraw the troops who had reached the opposite side, and they recrossed during the night of the 23d on a temporary bridge constructed for the purpose.
General Stuart who had been directed to cut the railroad in rear of General Pope’s army, crossed the Rappahannock on the morning of the 22d, about six miles above the Springs, with parts of Lee’s and Robertson’s brigades. Passing through Warrenton, he reached Catlett’s Station at night, but was prevented from destroying the railroad bridge at that point by the same storm that had arrested Jackson’s movements. He captured more than three hundred prisoners, including a number of officers. Becoming apprehensive of the effect of the rain upon the streams which separated him from the main body of the army, he retired firing the enemy’s camp and recrossed the Rappahannock at Warrenton Springs.
On the 23d General Longstreet directed Colonel [John B.] Walton with part of the Washington Artillery and other batteries of his command to drive back a force of the enemy that had crossed to the south bank of the Rappahannock near the railroad bridge upon the withdrawal of General Jackson on the previous day. Fire was opened about sunrise and continued with great vigor for several hours, the enemy being compelled to withdraw with loss. Some of the batteries of Colonel S. D. Lee’s battalion were ordered to aid those of Colonel Walton, and under their united fire the enemy was forced to abandon his position on the north side of the river, burning in his retreat the railroad bridge and the neighboring dwellings.
The rise of the river rendering the lower fords impassable, enabled the enemy to concentrate his main body opposite General Jackson, and on the 24th Longstreet was ordered to proceed to his support. Although retarded by the swollen condition of Hazel River and other tributaries of the Rappahannock he reached Jeffersonton in the afternoon.
General Jackson’s command lay between that place and the [Warrenton] Springs Ford, and a warm cannonade was progressing between the batteries of General A. P. Hill’s division and those of the enemy.
The enemy was massed between Warrenton and the Springs, and guarded the fords of the Rappahannock as far above as Waterloo.
The army of General McClellan had left Westover. Part of it had already marched to join General Pope, and it was reported that the rest would soon follow. The captured correspondence of General Pope confirmed this information, and also disclosed the fact that the greater part of the army of General [Jacob D.] Cox had been withdrawn from the Kanawha Valley for the same purpose.
Two brigades of D. H. Hill’s division under General Ripley had already been ordered from Richmond, and the remainder under General D. H. Hill in person, with the division of General McLaws, two brigades under General Walker, and Hampton’s cavalry brigade, were now directed to join this army and were approaching.
BATTLE OF MANASSAS
In pursuance of the plan of operations determined upon, Jackson was directed on the 25th to cross above Waterloo and move around the enemy’s right so as to strike the Orange and Alexandria Railroad in his rear.
Longstreet in the mean time was to divert his attention by threatening him in front, and to follow Jackson as soon as the latter should be sufficiently advanced.
General Jackson crossed the Rappahannock at Hinson’s Mill about four miles above Waterloo, and passing through Orleans encamped on the night of the 25th near Salem, after a long and fatiguing march. The next morning, continuing his route with his accustomed vigor and celerity, he passed the Bull Run Mountains at Thoroughfare Gap, and proceeding by way of Gainesville, reached the railroad at Bristoe Station after sunset. At Gainesville he was joined by General Stuart with the brigades of Robertson and Fitzhugh Lee was continued with him during the rest of his operations, vigilantly and effectually guarding both his flanks. General Jackson was now between the large army of General Pope and the Federal capital. Thus far no considerable force of the enemy had been encountered, and he did not appear to be aware of his situation.
Upon arriving at Bristoe the greater part of the guard at that point fled. Two trains of cars coming from the direction of Warrenton were captured and a few prisoners were taken. Notwithstanding the darkness of the night and the long and arduous march of the day, General Jackson determined to lose no time in capturing the depot of the enemy at Manassas Junction, about seven miles distant on the road to Alexandria. General Trimble volunteered to proceed at once to that place with the 21st North Carolina and the 21st Georgia Regiments. The offer was accepted and to render success more certain General Jackson directed General Stuart to accompany the expedition with part of his cavalry, and as ranking officer, to assume the command. Upon arriving near the Junction, General Stuart sent Colonel [William C. Wickham] with his regiment, the 4th Virginia Cavalry, to get in rear of the enemy, who opened with musketry and artillery upon our troops as they approached. The darkness of the night and ignorance of the enemy’s position and numbers made it necessary to move cautiously, but about midnight the place was taken with little difficulty, those that defended it being captured or dispersed. Eight pieces of artillery, with their horses, ammunition and equipments were taken. More than three hundred prisoners, one hundred and seventy-five horses besides those belonging to the artillery, two hundred new tents, and immense quantities of commissary and quartermaster’s stores fell into our hands.
General Jackson left Ewell’s division, with the 5th Virginia Cavalry under Colonel Rosser at Bristoe Station, and with the rest of his command proceeded to the Junction where he arrived early in the morning. Soon afterwards a considerable force of the enemy under Brigadier General [George W.] Taylor approached from the direction of Alexandria and pushed forward boldly to recapture the stores that had been lost.
After a sharp engagement the enemy was routed and driven back, leaving his killed and wounded on the field, General Taylor himself being mortally wounded during the pursuit.
The troops remained at Manassas Junction during the rest of the day, supplying themselves with everything they required from the captured stores.
In the afternoon the enemy advanced upon General Ewell at Bristoe from the direction of Warrenton Junction. They were attacked by three regiments and the batteries of Ewell’s division, and two columns of not less than a brigade each were broken and repulsed. Their places were soon supplied by fresh troops, and it was apparent that the Federal commander had now become aware of the situation of affairs, and had turned upon General Jackson with his whole force.
In pursuance of instructions to that effect, General Ewell upon perceiving the strength of the enemy, withdrew his command, part of which was at the time engaged, and rejoined General Jackson at Manassas Junction, having first destroyed the railroad bridge over Broad Run. The enemy halted at Bristoe.
General Jackson’s force being much inferior to that of General Pope, it became necessary for him to withdraw from Manassas and take a position west of the turnpike road from Warrenton to Alexandria, where he could more readily unit with the approaching column of Longstreet. Having fully supplied the wants of his troops, he was compelled for want of transportation, to destroy the rest of the captured property. This was done during the night of the 27th, and fifty thousand pounds of bacon, one thousand barrels of corned beef, two thousand barrels of salt pork, and two thousand barrels of flour, besides other property of great value were burned. Taliaferro’s division moved during the night by the road to Sudley, and crossing the turnpike near Groveton, halted on the west side near the battle field of July 21st , 1861, where it was joined on the 28th by the divisions of Hill and Ewell.
Perceiving during the afternoon that the enemy approaching from the direction of Warrenton, was moving down the turnpike towards Alexandria, thus exposing his left flank, General Jackson advanced to attack him. A fierce and sanguinary conflict ensued which continued until about 9 o’clock p.m. when the enemy slowly fell back and left us in possession of the field. The loss on both sides was heavy, and among our wounded were Major General Ewell and Brig General Taliaferro, the former severely.
The next morning the 29th the enemy had taken a position to interpose his army between General Jackson and Alexandria, and about 10 a.m. opened with artillery upon the right of Jackson’s line. The troops of the latter were disposed in rear of Groveton along the line of the unfinished branch of the Manassas Gap Railroad and extended from a point a short distance west of the turnpike.
Jackson’s division under Brig General [William E.] Starke being on the right, Ewell’s under Brigadier General Lawton in the center, and A. P. Hill’s on the left.
The Federal Army was evidently concentrating upon Jackson with the design of overwhelming him before the arrival of Longstreet.
The latter officer left his position opposite Warrenton Springs on the 26th, being relieved by General R. H. Anderson’s division, and marched to join Jackson. He crossed at Hinson’s Mill in the afternoon and encamped near Orleans that night. The next day he reached the White Plains, his march being retarded by the want of cavalry to ascertain the meaning of certain movements of the enemy from the direction of Warrenton, which seemed to menace the right flank of his column.
On the 28th, arriving at Thoroughfare Gap he found the enemy prepared to dispute his progress. General D. R. Jones’ division being ordered to force the passage of the mountain, quickly dislodged the enemy’s sharpshooters from the trees and rocks, and advanced into the gorge. The enemy held the eastern extremity of the pass in large force, and directed a heavy fire of artillery upon the road leading through it and upon the sides of the mountain. The ground occupied by Jones afforded no opportunity for the employment of artillery.
Hood, with his two brigades, and Wilcox with three, were ordered to turn the enemy’s right, the former moving over the mountain by a narrow path to the left of the pass and the latter further to the north by Hopewell Gap. Before these troops reached their destinations the enemy advanced and attacked Jones’ left under Brigadier General G. T. Anderson. Being vigorously repulsed he withdrew to his position at the eastern end of the Gap, from which he kept up an active fire of artillery until dark and then retreated.
Generals Jones and Wilcox bivouacked that night east of the mountain, and on the morning of the 29th the whole command resumed the march, the sound of cannon at Manassas announcing that Jackson was already engaged.
Longstreet entered the turnpike near Gainesville, and moving down towards Groveton, the head of his column came upon the field in rear of the enemy’s left, which had already opened with artillery upon Jackson’s right as previously described. He immediately placed some of his batteries in position, but before he could complete his dispositions to attack the enemy withdrew, not however without loss from our artillery.
Longstreet took position on the right of Jackson, Hood’s two brigades supported by [Nathan G.] Evans being deployed across the turnpike and at right angles to it. These troops were supported on the left by three brigades under General Wilcox and by a like force on the right under General [James L.] Kemper. D. R. Jones’ division formed the extreme right of the line, resting on the Manassas Gap Railroad.
The cavalry guarded our right and left flanks, that on the right being under General Stuart in person.
After the arrival of Longstreet, the enemy changed his position and began to concentrate opposite Jackson’s left, opening a brisk fire of artillery, which was responded to with effect by some of General A. P. Hill’s batteries.
Colonel Walton placed a part of his artillery upon a commanding position between the lines of Generals Jackson and Longstreet, by order of the latter, and engaged the enemy vigorously for several hours. Soon afterwards General Stuart reported the approach of a large force of the enemy from the direction of Bristoe Station, threatening Longstreet’s right. The brigades under General Wilcox were sent to reinforce General Jones, but no serious attack was made, and after firing a few shots the enemy withdrew. While this demonstration was being made on our right a large force advanced to assail the left of Jackson’s position, occupied by the division of General A. P. Hill. The attack was received by his troops with their accustomed steadiness, and the battle raged with great fury. The enemy was repeatedly repulsed, but again pressed on to the attack with fresh troops.
Once he succeeded in penetrating an interval between General Gregg’s brigade on the extreme left and that of General Thomas, but was quickly driven back with great slaughter by the 14th South Carolina Regiment, then in reverse, and the 44th [49th] Georgia of Thomas’ brigade. The contest was close and obstinate, the combatants sometimes delivering their fire at ten paces. General Gregg, who was most exposed, was reinforced by Hays’ brigade under Colonel Forno and successfully and gallantly resisted the attacks of the enemy until the ammunition of his brigade being exhausted and all its field officers but two killed or wounded it was relieved after several hours of severe fighting, by Early’s brigade and the 8th Louisiana Regiment.
General Early drove the enemy back with heavy loss and pursued about two hundred yards beyond the line of battle when he was recalled to the position on the railroad where Thomas, Pender and Archer had firmly held their ground against every attack.
While the battle was raging on the left, General Longstreet ordered Hood and Evans to advance, but before the order could be obeyed, Hood was himself attacked and his command at once became warmly engaged. General Wilcox was recalled from the right and ordered to advance on Hood’s left, and one of Kemper’s brigades under Colonel [Eppa] Hunton moved forward on his right. The enemy was repulsed by Hood after a severe contest and fell back closely followed by our troops.
The battle continued until 9 p.m., the enemy retreating until he reached a strong position, which he held with a large force. The darkness of the night put a stop to the engagement, and our troops remained in their advanced position until early next morning when they were withdrawn to their first position.
One piece of artillery, several stands of colors, and a number of prisoners were captured.
Our loss was severe in this engagement. Brigadier Generals Field and Trimble, and Colonel Forno commanding Hays’ brigade, were severely wounded, and several other valuable officers killed or disabled, whose names are mentioned in the accompanying reports.
On the morning of the 30th the enemy again advanced and skirmishing began along the line. The troops of Jackson and Longstreet maintained their positions of the previous day. Fitzhugh Lee with three regiments of his cavalry was posted on Jackson’s left, and R. H. Anderson’s division which arrived during the forenoon was held in reserve near the turnpike.
The batteries of Colonel S. D. Lee took the position occupied the day before by Colonel Walton, and engaged the enemy actively until noon, when firing ceased, and all was quiet for several hours. About 3 p.m. the enemy having massed his troops in front of General Jackson, advanced against his position in strong force. His front line pushed forward until engaged at close quarters by Jackson’s troops, when its progress was checked and a fierce and bloody struggle ensued.
A second and third line of great strength moved up to support the first, but in doing so came within easy range of a position a little in advance of Longstreet’s left. He immediately ordered up two batteries, and two others being thrown forward about the same time by Colonel S. D. Lee, under their well directed and destructive fire the supporting lines were broken and fell back in confusion. Their repeated efforts to rally were unavailing, and Jackson’s troops being thus relieved from the pressure of overwhelming numbers, began to press steadily forward, driving the enemy before them. He retreated in confusion, suffering severely from our artillery which advanced as he retired.
General Longstreet, anticipating the order for a general advance, now threw his whole command against the Federal center and left. Hood’s two brigades closely followed by Evans’ led the attack. R. H. Anderson’s division came gallantly to the support of Hood, while the three brigades under Wilcox moved forward on his left and those of Kemper on his right. D. R. Jones advanced on the extreme right, and the whole line swept steadily on, driving the enemy with great carnage from each successive position until 10 p.m. when darkness put an end to the battle and the pursuit.
During the latter part of the engagement General Wilcox with his own brigade was ordered to the right, where the resistance of the enemy was most obstinate, and rendered efficient assistance to the troops engaged on that part of the line. His other two brigades acted with General Jackson’s command, maintaining their position in line.
The obscurity of night and the uncertainty of the fords of Bull Run rendered it necessary to suspend operations until morning, when the cavalry, being pushed forward, discovered that the enemy had escaped to the strong position of Centreville, about four miles beyond Bull Run.
The prevalence of a heavy rain which began during the night threatened to render Bull Run impassable and impeded our movements. Longstreet remained on the battle field to engage the attention of the enemy and cover the burial of the dead and the removal of the wounded, while Jackson proceeded by Sudley Ford to the Little River turnpike to turn the enemy’s right and intercept his retreat to Washington.
Jackson’s progress was retarded by the inclemency of the weather and the fatigue of his troops, who, in addition to their arduous marches, had fought three severe engagements in as many days.
He reached Little River turnpike in the evening, and the next day, September 1st, advanced by the road towards Fairfax Court House.
The enemy in the meantime was falling back rapidly towards Washington, and had thrown out a strong force to Germantown on the Little River turnpike, to cover his line of retreat from Centreville. The advance of Jackson’s column encountered the enemy at Ox Hill near Germantown about 5 p.m. Line of battle was at once formed, and two brigades of A. P. Hill’s division, those of Branch and Field under Colonel [John M.] Brockenbrough, were thrown forward to attack the enemy and ascertain his strength and position. A cold and drenching rain storm drove in the faces of our troops as they advanced and gallantly engaged the enemy. They were subsequently supported by the brigades of Gregg, Thomas, and Pender, also of Hill’s division, which with part of Ewell’s became engaged. The conflict was obstinately maintained by the enemy until dark, when he retreated, having lost two general officers, one of whom Major General Kearny was left dead on the field.
Longstreet’s command arrived after the action was over, and the next morning it was found that the enemy had conducted his retreat so rapidly that the attempt to intercept him was abandoned.
The proximity of the fortifications around Alexandria and Washington rendered further pursuit useless, and our army rested during the 2d near Chantilly, the enemy being followed only by the cavalry, who continued to harass him until he reached the shelter of his entrenchments.
In the series of engagements on the plains of Manassas more than seven thousand prisoners were taken, in addition to about two thousand wounded left in our hands. Thirty pieces of artillery, upwards of twenty thousand stand of small arms, numerous colors, and a large amount of stores, besides those taken by General Jackson at Manassas Junction, were captured.
The history of the achievements of the army from the time it advanced from Gordonsville leaves nothing to be said in commendation of the courage, fortitude and good conduct of both officers and men.
The accompanying report of the Medical Director will show the number of our killed and wounded. Among them will be found the names of many valuable and distinguished officers, who bravely and faithfully discharged their duty, and with the gallant soldiers who fell with them, have nobly deserved the love and gratitude of their countrymen.
The reports of the several commanding officers must necessarily be referred to for the names of those whose services were most conspicuous. The list is too long for enumeration here.
During all these operations the cavalry under General Stuart, consisting of the brigades of Generals Robertson and Fitzhugh Lee, rendered most important and valuable service. It guarded the flanks of the army, protected its trains, and gave information of the enemy’s movements.
Besides engaging the cavalry of the enemy on several occasions, with uniform success, a detachment under the gallant and lamented Major [William] Patrick, assisted by Stuart’s horse artillery under Major [John] Pelham, effectually protected General Jackson’s trains against a body of the enemy who penetrated to his rear on the 29th, before the arrival of General Longstreet.
Towards the close of the action on the 30th, General Robertson, with the 2d Virginia Regiment under Colonel [Thomas T.] Munford, supported by the 7th and 12th made a brilliant charge upon a brigade of the enemy’s cavalry, Colonel Munford leading with great gallantry, and completely routed it. Many of the enemy were killed and wounded, more than three hundred prisoners were captured, and the remainder pursued beyond Bull Run.
The reports of General Stuart and the officers under his command, as well as that of General Jackson, are referred to for more complete details of these and other services of the cavalry.
R E Lee
Source: The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, edited by Clifford Dowdey and Louis Manarin, pp. 275-285
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 September 8