Battle of Second Bull Run Conclusion

 

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Stonewall Jackson Free Online Books | Stonewall Jackson in Civil War | Stonewall Jackson Biography | Stonewall Jackson Obituary | Stonewall Jackson's Last Words | Stonewall Jackson Birthday | Stonewall Jackson Quotes

STONEWALL JACKSON
Chapter XVII
Second Manassas Conclusion

Stonewall Jackson Index | Stonewall Jackson at West Point | Stonewall Jackson and Mexican War | Stonewall Jackson Lexington | Stonewall Jackson and Secession | Stonewall Jackson and Harper's Ferry | Stonewall Jackson at Battle of Bull Run | Stonewall Jackson at Romney | Stonewall Jackson at Kernstown | Battle of McDowell | Battle of Winchester | Battle of Cross Keys and Port Republic | Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign | The Seven Days Battle | Battle of Frayser's Farm and Malvern Hill | Battle of Cedar Run | Second Battle of Bull Run | Battle of Second Bull Run Conclusion | Battle of Harper's Ferry | Battle of Sharpsburg | Battle of Fredericksburg | The Army of Northern Virginia | Stonewall Jackson's Winter Quarters | Battle of Chancellorsville | Battle of Chancellorsville Conclusion


During the night of August 30 the long line of camp-fires on the heights above Bull Run, and the frequent skirmishes along the picket line, told General Lee that his enemy had no intention of falling back behind the stream. And when morning broke the Federal troops were observed upon every ridge.

August 30   The Confederate leader, eager as he had been to force the battle to an issue on the previous afternoon, had now abandoned all idea of attack. The respite which the enemy had gained might have altogether changed the situation. It was possible that the Federals had been largely reinforced. Pope and McClellan had been given time, and the hours of the night might have been utilised to bring up the remainder of the Army of the Potomac. Lee resolved, therefore, to await events. The Federal position was strong; their masses were well concentrated; there was ample space, on the ridges beyond Young’s Branch, for the deployment of their numerous artillery, and it would be difficult to outflank them. Moreover, a contingent of fresh troops from Richmond, the divisions of D. H. Hill, McLaws, and Walker, together with Hampton’s brigade of cavalry, and part of the reserve artillery, 20,350 men in all, had crossed the Rappahannock.1 Until this force should join him he determined

D. H. Hill
McLaws
Walker
Hampton
Artillery

7,000
6,850
4,000
1,500
1,000
———
20,350

POPE  168

to postpone further manœuvres, and to rest his army. But he was not without hope that Pope might assume the initiative and move down from the heights on which his columns were already forming. Aware of the sanguine and impatient temper of his adversary, confident in the moral of his troops, and in the strength of his position, he foresaw that an opportunity might offer for an overwhelming counterstroke.

Meanwhile, the Confederate divisions, still hidden in the woods, lay quietly on their arms. Few changes were made in the dispositions of the previous day. Jackson, despite his losses, had made no demand for reinforcements; and the only direct support afforded him was a battery of eighteen guns, drawn from the battalion of Colonel S. D. Lee, and established on the high ground west of the Douglass House, at right angles to his line of battle. These guns, pointing north-east, overlooked the wide tract of undulating meadow which lay in front of the Stonewall and Lawton’s divisions, and they commanded a field of fire over a mile long. The left of the battery was not far distant from the guns on Jackson’s right, and the whole of the open space was thus exposed to the cross-fire of a formidable artillery.


Battle of Groveton and Second Manassas Map

To the right of the batteries, Stuart’s Hill was strongly occupied by Longstreet, with Anderson’s division as general reserve; and this wing of the Confederate army was gradually wheeled up, but always under cover, until it was almost perpendicular to the line of the unfinished railroad. The strength of Lee’s army at the battle of Manassas was hardly more than 50,000 of all arms. Jackson’s command had been reduced by battle and forced marches to 17,000 men. Longstreet mustered 30,000, and the cavalry 2,500.

But numbers are of less importance than the confidence of the men in their ability to conquer,1 and the spirit of the Confederates had been raised to the highest pitch. The keen

1  Hood’s Texans had a hymn which graphically expressed this truism:—

“The race is not to him that’s got
     The longest legs to run,
  Nor the battle to those people
     That shoot the biggest gun.”

POPE  169

critics in Longstreet’s ranks, although they had taken no part in the Manassas raid, or in the battles of August 28 and 29, fully appreciated the daring strategy which had brought them within two short marches of Washington. The junction of the two wings, in the very presence of the enemy, after many days of separation, was a manœuvre after their own hearts. The passage of Thoroughfare Gap revealed the difficulties which had attended the operations, and the manner in which the enemy had been outwitted appealed with peculiar force to their quick intelligence. Their trust in Lee was higher than ever; and the story of Jackson’s march, of the capture of Manassas, of the repulse of Pope’s army, if it increased their contempt for the enemy, inspired them with an enthusiastic determination to emulate the achievements of their comrades. The soldiers of the Valley army, who, unaided by a single bayonet, had withstood the five successive assaults which had been launched against their position, were supremely indifferent, now Longstreet was in line, to whatever the enemy might attempt. It was noticed that notwithstanding the heavy losses they had experienced Jackson’s troops were never more light-hearted than on the morning of August 30. Cartridge-boxes had been replenished, rations had been issued, and for several hours the men had been called on neither to march nor fight. As they lay in the woods, and the pickets, firing on the enemy’s patrols, kept up a constant skirmish to the front, the laugh and jest ran down the ranks, and the unfortunate Pope, who had only seen “the backs of his enemies,” served as whetstone for their wit.

By the troops who had revelled in the spoils of Winchester Banks had been dubbed “Old Jack’s Commissary General.” By universal acclamation, after the Manassas foray, Pope was promoted to the same distinction; and had it been possible to penetrate to the Federal headquarters, the mirth of those ragged privates would hardly have diminished. Pope was in an excellent humour, conversing affably with his staff, and viewing with pride the martial aspect of his massed divisions. Nearly his whole force

POPE  170

was concentrated on the hills around him, and Porter, who had been called up from the Manassas road, was already marching northwards through the woods.

10.15 p.m.   Banks still was absent at Bristoe Station, in charge of the trains and stores which had been removed from Warrenton; but, shortly after ten o’clock, 65,000 men, with eight-and-twenty batteries, were at Pope’s disposal. He had determined to give battle, although Franklin and Sumner, who had already reached Alexandria, had not yet joined him; and he anticipated an easy triumph. He was labouring, however, under an extraordinary delusion. The retreat of Hood’s brigades the preceding night, after their reconnaissance, had induced him to believe that Jackson had been defeated, and he had reported to Halleck at daybreak; “We fought a terrific battle here yesterday with the combined forces of the enemy, which lasted with continuous fury from daylight until dark, by which time the enemy was driven from the field, which we now occupy. The enemy is still in our front, but badly used up. We lost not less than 8,000 men killed and wounded, but from the appearance of the field the enemy lost at least two to one. The news has just reached me from the front that the enemy is retreating towards the mountains.”

If, in these days of long-range weapons, Napoleon’s dictum still stands good, that the general who is ignorant of his enemy’s strength and dispositions is ignorant of his trade, then of all generals Pope was surely the most incompetent. At ten o’clock on the morning of August 30, and for many months afterwards, despite his statement that he had fought “the combined forces of the enemy” on the previous day, he was still under the impression, so skilfully were the Confederate troops concealed, that Longstreet had not yet joined Jackson, and that the latter was gradually falling back on Thoroughfare Gap. His patrols had reported that the enemy’s cavalry had been withdrawn from the left bank of Bull Run. A small reconnaissance in force, sent to test Jackson’s strength, had ascertained that the extreme left was not so far forward as it had been yesterday; while two of the Federal generals, reconnoitring beyond the turn-

POPE  171

pike, observed only a few skirmishers. On these negative reports Pope based his decision to seize the ridge which was held by Jackson. Yet the woods along the unfinished railroad had not been examined, and the information from other sources was of a different colour and more positive. Buford’s cavalry had reported on the evening of the 29th that a large force had passed through Thoroughfare Gap. Porter declared that the enemy was in great strength on the Manassas road. Reynolds, who had been in close contact with Longstreet since the previous afternoon, reported that Stuart’s Hill was strongly occupied. Ricketts, moreover, who had fought Longstreet for many hours at Thoroughfare Gap, was actually present on the field. But Pope, who had made up his mind that the enemy ought to retreat, and that therefore he must retreat, refused credence to any report whatever which ran counter to these preconceived ideas.

12 noon   Without making the slightest attempt to verify, by personal observation, the conclusions at which his subordinates had arrived, at midday, to the dismay of his best officers, his army being now in position, he issued orders for his troops to be “immediately thrown forward in pursuit of the enemy, and to press him vigorously.”

Porter and Reynolds formed the left of the Federal army. These generals, alive to the necessity of examining the woods, deployed a strong skirmish line before them as they formed for action. Further evidence of Pope’s hallucination was at once forthcoming. The moment Reynolds moved forward against Stuart’s Hill he found his front overlapped by long lines of infantry, and, riding back, he informed Pope that in so doing he had had to run the gauntlet of skirmishers who threatened his rear. Porter, too, pushing his reconnaissance across the meadows west of Groveton, drew the fire of several batteries. But at this juncture, unfortunately for the Federals, a Union prisoner, recaptured from Jackson, declared that he had “heard the rebel officers say that their army was retiring to unite with Longstreet.” So positively did the indications before him contradict this statement, that Porter, on sending the man

POPE  172

to Pope, wrote: “In duty bound I send him, but I regard him as either a fool or designedly released to give a wrong impression. No faith should be put in what he says.” If Jackson employed this man to delude his enemy, the ruse was eminently successful. Porter received the reply: “General Pope believes that soldier, and directs you to attack;” Reynolds was dismissed with a message that cavalry would be sent to verify his report; and McDowell was ordered to put in the divisions of Hatch and Ricketts on Porter’s right.

During the whole morning the attention of the Confederates had been directed to the Groveton wood. Beyond the timber rose the hill north-east, and on this hill three or four Federal batteries had come into action at an early hour, firing at intervals across the meadows. The Confederate guns, save when the enemy’s skirmishers approached too close, hardly deigned to reply, reserving their ammunition for warmer work. That such work was to come was hardly doubtful. Troops had been constantly in motion near the hostile batteries, and the thickets below were evidently full of men.

12.15 p.m.   Shortly after noon the enemy’s skirmishers became aggressive, swarming over the meadows, and into the wood which had seen such heavy slaughter in the fight of yesterday. As Jackson’s pickets, extended over a wide front, gave slowly back, his guns opened in earnest, and shell and shrapnel flew fast over the open space. The strong force of skirmishers betrayed the presence of a line of battle not far in rear, and ignoring the fire of the artillery, the Confederate batteries concentrated on the covert behind which they knew the enemy’s masses were forming for attack. But, except the pickets, not a single man of either the Stonewall or Lawton’s division was permitted to expose himself. A few companies held the railroad, the remainder were carefully concealed. The storm was not long in breaking. Jackson had just ridden along his lines, examining with his own eyes the stir in the Groveton wood, when, in rear of the skirmishers, advancing over the highroad, appeared the serried ranks of the line

THE FEDERALS ADVANCE  173

of battle. 20,000 bayonets, on a front which extended from Groveton to near Bull Run, swept forward against his front; 40,000, formed in dense masses on the slopes in rear, stood in readiness to support them; and numerous batteries, coming into action on every rising ground, covered the advance with a heavy fire.

Pope, standing on a knoll near the Stone House, saw victory within his grasp. The Confederate guns had been pointed out to his troops as the objective of the attack. Unsupported, as he believed, save by the scattered groups of skirmishers who were already retreating to the railroad, and assailed in front and flank, these batteries, he expected, would soon be flying to the rear, and the Federal army, in possession of the high ground, would then sweep down in heavy columns towards Thoroughfare Gap. Suddenly his hopes fell. Porter’s masses, stretching far to right and left, had already passed the Dogan House; Hatch was entering the Groveton wood; Ricketts was moving forward along Bull Run, and the way seemed clear before them; when loud and clear above the roar of the artillery rang out the Confederate bugles, and along the whole length of the ridge beyond the railroad long lines of infantry, streaming forward from the woods, ran down to the embankment. “The effect,” said an officer who witnessed this unexpected apparition, “was not unlike flushing a covey of quails.”

Instead of the small rear-guard which Pope had thought to crush by sheer force of overwhelming numbers, the whole of the Stonewall division, with Lawton on the left, stood across Porter’s path.

Reynolds, south of the turnpike, and confronting Longstreet, was immediately ordered to fall back and support the attack, and two small brigades, Warren’s and Alexander’s, were left alone on the Federal left. Pope had committed his last and his worst blunder. Sigel with two divisions was in rear of Porter, and for Sigel’s assistance Porter had already asked. But Pope, still under the delusion that Longstreet was not yet up, preferred rather to weaken his left than grant the request of a subordinate.

THE FEDERALS ADVANCE  174

Under such a leader the courage of the troops, however vehement, was of no avail, and in Porter’s attack the soldiers displayed a courage to which the Confederates paid a willing tribute. Morell’s division, with the two brigades abreast, arrayed in three lines, advanced across the meadows. Hatch’s division, in still deeper formation, pushed through the wood on Morell’s right. Nearer Bull Run were two brigades of Ricketts; and to Morell’s left rear the division of regulars moved forward under Sykes.


Map of the approximate positions in the attack on Stonewall Jackson

Morell’s attack was directed against Jackson’s right. In the centre of the Federal line a mounted officer, whose gallant bearing lived long in the memories of the Stonewall division, rode out in front of the column, and, drawing his sabre, led the advance over the rolling grass-land. The Confederate batteries, with a terrible cross-fire, swept the Northern ranks from end to end. The volley of the infantry, lying behind their parapet, struck them full in face. But the horse and his rider lived through it all. The men followed close, charging swiftly up the slope, and then the leader, putting his horse straight at the embankment, stood for a moment on the top. The daring feat was seen by the whole Confederate line, and a yell went up from the men along the railroad, “Don’t kill him! don’t kill him!” But while the cry went up horse and rider fell in one limp mass across the earthwork, and the gallant Northerner was dragged under shelter by his generous foes.

With such men as this to show the way what soldiers would be backward? As the Russians followed Skobeleff’s grey up the bloody slopes of Plevna, so the Federals followed the bright chestnut of this unknown hero, and not till the colours waved within thirty paces of the parapet did the charge falter. But, despite the supports that came thronging up, Jackson’s soldiers, covered by the earthwork, opposed a resistance which no mere frontal attack could break. Three times, as the lines in rear merged with the first, the Federal officers brought their men forward to the assault, and three times were they hurled back, leaving hundreds of their number dead and wounded on the blood-

MORELL’S ATTACK  175

soaked turf. One regiment of the Stonewall division, posted in a copse beyond the railroad, was driven in; but others, when cartridges failed them, had recourse, like the Guards at Inkermann, to the stones which lay along the railway-bed; and with these strange weapons, backed up by the bayonet, more than one desperate effort was repulsed. In arresting Garnett after Kernstown, because when his ammunition was exhausted he had abandoned his position, Jackson had lost a good general, but he had taught his soldiers a useful lesson. So long as the cold steel was left to them, and their flanks were safe, they knew that their indomitable leader expected them to hold their ground, and right gallantly they responded. For over thirty minutes the battle raged along the front at the closest range. Opposite a deep cutting the colours of a Federal regiment, for nearly half an hour, rose and fell, as bearer after bearer was shot down, within ten yards of the muzzles of the Confederate rifles, and after the fight a hundred dead Northerners were found where the flag had been so gallantly upheld.

Hill, meanwhile, was heavily engaged with Hatch. Every brigade, with the exception of Gregg’s, had been thrown into the fighting-line; and so hardly were they pressed, that Jackson, turning to his signallers, demanded reinforcements from his colleague. Longstreet, in response to the call, ordered two more batteries to join Colonel Stephen Lee; and Morell’s division, penned in that deadly cockpit between Stuart’s Hill and the Groveton wood, shattered by musketry in front and by artillery at short range in flank, fell back across the meadows. Hatch soon followed suit, and Jackson’s artillery, which during the fight at close quarters had turned its fire on the supports, launched a storm of shell on the defeated Federals. Some batteries were ordered to change position so as to rake their lines; and the Stonewall Division, reinforced by a brigade of Hill’s, was sent forward to the counter-attack. At every step the losses of the Federals increased, and the shattered divisions, passing through two regiments of regulars, which had been sent forward to support them, sought shelter in the woods. Then Porter and Hatch, under cover of their artillery, withdrew their

MORELL’S ATTACK  176

infantry. Ricketts had fallen back before his troops arrived within decisive range. Under the impression that he was about to pursue a retreating enemy, he had found on advancing, instead of a thin screen of skirmishers, a line of battle, strongly established, and backed by batteries to which he was unable to reply. Against such odds attack would only have increased the slaughter.


Bull Run Map

It was after four o’clock. Three hours of daylight yet remained, time enough still to secure a victory. But the Federal army was in no condition to renew the attack. Worn with long marches, deprived of their supplies, and oppressed by the consciousness that they were ill-led, both officers and men had lost all confidence. Every single division on the field had been engaged, and every single division had been beaten back. For four days, according to General Pope, they had been following a flying foe. “We were sent forward,” reported a regimental commander with quiet sarcasm, “to pursue the enemy, who was said to be retreating; we found the enemy, but did not see them retreat.”

Nor, had there been a larger reserve in hand, would a further advance have been permitted. The Stonewall division, although Porter’s regiments were breaking up before its onset, had been ordered to fall back before it became exposed to the full sweep of the Federal guns. But the woods to the south, where Longstreet’s divisions had been lying for so many hours, were already alive with bayonets. The grey skirmishers, extending far beyond Pope’s left, were moving rapidly down the slopes of Stuart’s Hill, and the fire of the artillery, massed on the ridge in rear, was increasing every moment in intensity. The Federals, just now advancing in pursuit, were suddenly thrown on the defensive; and the hand of a great captain snatched control of the battle from the grasp of Pope.

As Porter reeled back from Jackson’s front, Lee had seen his opportunity. The whole army was ordered to advance to the attack. Longstreet, prepared since dawn for the counterstroke, had moved before the message

LEE’S COUNTERSTROKE  177

reached him, and the exulting yells of his soldiers were now resounding through the forest. Jackson was desired to cover Longstreet’s left; and sending Starke and Lawton across the meadows, strewn with the bloody débris of Porter’s onslaught, he instructed Hill to advance en échelon with his left “refused.” Anticipating the order, the commander of the Light Division was already sweeping through the Groveton wood.

The Federal gunners, striving valiantly to cover the retreat of their shattered infantry, met the advance of the Southerners with a rapid fire. Pope and McDowell exerted themselves to throw a strong force on to the heights above Bull Run; and the two brigades upon the left, Warren’s and Alexander’s, already overlapped, made a gallant effort to gain time for the occupation of the new position.

But the counterstroke of Lee was not to be withstood by a few regiments of infantry. The field of Bull Run had seen many examples of the attack as executed by indifferent tacticians. At the first battle isolated brigades had advanced at wide intervals of time. At the second battle the Federals had assaulted by successive divisions. Out of 50,000 infantry, no more than 20,000 had been simultaneously engaged, and when a partial success had been achieved there were no supports at hand to complete the victory. When the Confederates came forward it was in other fashion; and those who had the wit to understand were now to learn the difference between mediocrity and genius, between the half-measures of the one and the resolution of the other. Lee’s order for the advance embraced his whole army. Every regiment, every battery, and every squadron was employed. No reserves save the artillery were retained upon the ridge, but wave after wave of bayonets followed closely on the fighting-line. To drive the attack forward by a quick succession of reinforcements, to push it home by weight of numbers, to pile blow on blow, to keep the defender occupied along his whole front, and to provide for retreat, should retreat be necessary, not by throwing in fresh troops, but by leaving the enemy so crippled that he would be powerless

LEE’S COUNTERSTROKE  178

to pursue—such were the tactics of the Confederate leader.

The field was still covered with Porter’s and Hatch’s disordered masses when Lee’s strong array advanced, and the sight was magnificent. As far as the eye could reach the long grey lines of infantry, with the crimson of the colours gleaming like blood in the evening sun, swept with ordered ranks across the Groveton valley. Batteries galloped furiously to the front; far away to the right fluttered the guidons of Stuart’s squadrons, and over all the massed artillery maintained a tremendous fire. The men drew fresh vigour from this powerful combination. The enthusiasm of the troops was as intense as their excitement. With great difficulty, it is related, were the gunners restrained from joining in the charge, and the officers of the staff could scarcely resist the impulse to throw themselves with their victorious comrades upon the retreating foe.

The advance was made in the following order:

Wilcox’ division, north of the turnpike, connected with Jackson’s right. Then came Evans, facing the two brigades which formed the Federal left, and extending across the turnpike. Behind Evans came Anderson on the left and Kemper on the right. Then, in prolongation of Kemper’s line, but at some interval, marched the division of D. R. Jones, flanked by Stuart’s cavalry, and on the further wing, extending towards Bull Run, were Starke, Lawton, and A. P. Hill. 50,000 men, including the cavalry, were thus deployed over a front of four miles; each division was formed in at least two lines; and in the centre, where Anderson and Kemper supported Evans, were no less than eight brigades one in rear of the other.

The Federal advanced line, behind which the troops which had been engaged in the last attack were slowly rallying, extended from the Groveton wood to a low hill, south of the turnpike and east of the village. This hill was quickly carried by Hood’s brigade of Evans’s division. The two regiments which defended it, rapidly outflanked, and assailed by overwhelming numbers, were routed with the loss of nearly half their muster. Jackson’s attack

THE CHARGE OF THE VALLEY SOLDIERS  179

through the Groveton wood was equally successful, but on the ridge in rear were posted the regulars under Sykes; and, further east, on Buck Hill, had assembled the remnants of four divisions.

Outflanked by the capture of the hill upon their left, and fiercely assailed in front, Sykes’s well-disciplined regiments, formed in lines of columns and covered by a rear-guard of skirmishers, retired steadily under the tremendous fire, preserving their formation, and falling back slowly across Young’s Branch. Then Jackson, reforming his troops along the Sudley road, and swinging round to the left, moved swiftly against Buck Hill. Here, in addition to the infantry, were posted three Union batteries, and the artillery made a desperate endeavour to stay the counterstroke.

But nothing could withstand the vehement charge of the Valley soldiers. “They came on,” says the correspondent of a Northern journal, “like demons emerging from the earth.” The crests of the ridges blazed with musketry, and Hill’s infantry, advancing in the very teeth of the canister, captured six guns at the bayonet’s point. Once more Jackson reformed his lines; and, as twilight came down upon the battle-field, from position after position, in the direction of the Stone Bridge, the division of Stevens, Ricketts, Kearney, and Hooker, were gradually pushed back.

On the Henry Hill, the key of the Federal position, a fierce conflict was meanwhile raging. From the high ground to the south Longstreet had driven back several brigades which, in support of the artillery, Sigel and McDowell had massed upon Bald Hill. But this position had not been occupied without a protracted struggle. Longstreet’s first line, advancing with over-impetuosity, had outstripped the second; and before it could be supported was compelled to give ground under the enemy’s fire, one of the brigades losing 62 officers and 560 men. Anderson and Kemper were then brought up; the flank of the defenders was turned; a counterstroke was beaten back, ridge after ridge was mastered, the edge of every wood was stormed; and as the sun set

THE CHARGE OF THE VALLEY SOLDIERS  180

behind the mountains Bald Hill was carried. During this fierce action the division of D. R. Jones, leaving the Chinn House to the left, had advanced against the Henry Hill.

6 p.m.   On the very ground which Jackson had held in his first battle the best troops of the Federal army were rapidly assembling. Here were Sykes’ regulars and Reynolds’ Pennsylvanians; where the woods permitted batteries had been established; and Porter’s Fifth Army Corps, who at Gaines’ Mill and Malvern Hill had proved such stubborn fighters, opposed a strong front once more to their persistent foes.

Despite the rapid fire of the artillery the Southerners swept forward with unabated vigour. But as the attack was pressed the resistance of the Federals grew more stubborn, and before long the Confederate formation lost its strength. The lines in rear had been called up. The assistance of the strong centre had been required to rout the defenders of Bald Hill; and although Anderson and Wilcox pressed forward on his left, Jones had not sufficient strength to storm the enemy’s last position. Moreover, the Confederate artillery had been unable to follow the infantry over the broken ground; the cavalry, confronted by Buford’s squadrons and embarrassed by the woods, could lend no active aid, and the Federals, defeated as they were, had not yet lost all heart. Whatever their guns could do, in so close a country, to relieve the infantry had been accomplished; and the infantry, though continually outflanked, held together with unflinching courage. Stragglers there were, and stragglers in such large numbers that Bayard’s cavalry brigade had been ordered to the rear to drive them back; but the majority of the men, hardened by months of discipline and constant battle, remained staunch to the colours. The conviction that the battle was lost was no longer a signal for “the thinking bayonets” to make certain of their individual safety; and the regulars, for the second time on the same field, provided a strong nucleus of resistance.

Thrown into the woods along the Sudley–Manassas road, five battalions of the United States army held the extreme left, the most critical point of the Federal line, until

THE FEDERALS STAND FAST  181

the second brigade relieved them. To their right Meade and his Pennsylvanians held fast against Anderson and Wilcox; and although six guns fell into the hands of the Confederate infantry, and four of Longstreet’s batteries, which had accompanied the cavalry, were now raking their left, Pope’s soldiers, as twilight descended upon the field, redeemed as far as soldiers could the errors of their general. Stuart, on the right flank of the Confederate line, charged down the opposing cavalry1 and crossed Bull Run at Lewis’ Ford; but the dark masses on the Henry Hill, increased every moment by troops ascending from the valley, still held fast, with no hope indeed of victory, but with a stern determination to maintain their ground. Had the hill been lost, nothing could have saved Pope’s army. The crest commanded the crossings of Bull Run. The Stone Bridge, the main point of passage, was not more than a mile northward, within the range of artillery, and Jackson was already in possession of the Matthew Hill, not fourteen hundred yards from the road by which the troops must pass in their retreat.

7.30 p.m.   The night, however, put an end to the battle. Even the Valley soldiers were constrained to halt. It was impossible in the obscurity to distinguish friend from foe. The Confederate lines presented a broken front, here pushed forward, and here drawn back; divisions, brigades, and regiments had intermingled; and the thick woods, intervening at frequent intervals, rendered combination impracticable. During the darkness, which was accompanied by heavy rain, the Federals quietly withdrew, leaving thousands of

1  This was one of the most brilliant cavalry fights of the war. Colonel Munford, of the 2nd Virginia, finding the enemy advancing, formed line and charged, the impetuosity of the attack carrying his regiment through the enemy’s first line, with whom his men were thoroughly intermingled in hand-to-hand conflict. The Federals, however, who had advanced at a trot, in four successive lines, were far superior in numbers; but the 7th and 12th Virginia rapidly came up, and the charge of the 12th, constituting as it were a last reserve, drove the enemy from the field. The Confederates lost 5 killed and 40 wounded. Munford himself, and the commander of the First Michigan (Union) cavalry were both wounded by sabre-cuts, the latter mortally. 300 Federals were taken prisoners, 19 killed, and 80 wounded. Sabre, carbine, and revolver were freely used.

THE FEDERALS STAND FAST  182

wounded on the field, and morning found them in position on the heights of Centreville, four miles beyond Bull Run.

Pope, with an audacity which disaster was powerless to tame, reported to Halleck that, on the whole, the results of the battle were favourable to the Federal army. “The enemy,” he wrote, “largely reinforced, assailed our position early to-day. We held our ground firmly until 6 o’clock p.m., when the enemy, massing very heavy forces on our left, forced that wing back about half a mile. At dark we held that position. Under all the circumstances, with horses and men having been two days without food, and the enemy greatly outnumbering us, I thought it best to move back to this place at dark. The movement has been made in perfect order and without loss. The battle was most furious for hours without cessation, and the losses on both sides very heavy. The enemy is badly whipped, and we shall do well enough. Do not be uneasy. We will hold our own here.”

Pope’s actions, however, were invariably at variance with Pope’s words. At 6 p.m. he had ordered Franklin, who was approaching Bull Run from Alexandria with 10,000 fresh troops, to occupy with his own command and whatever other troops he could collect, the fortifications round Centreville, and hold them “to the last extremity.” Banks, still at Bristoe Station, was told to destroy all the supplies of which he was in charge, as well as the railway, and to march on Centreville; while 30 guns and more than 2,000 wounded were left upon the field. Nor were Pope’s anticipations as to the future to be fulfilled. The position at Centrevile was strong. The intrenchments constructed by the Confederates during the winter of 1861 were still standing. Halleck had forwarded supplies; there was ammunition in abundance, and 20,000 infantry under Franklin and Sumner—for the latter also had come up from Washington—more than compensated for the casualties of the battle. But formidable earthworks, against generals who dare manœuvre, are often a mere trap for the unwary.

August 31   Before daylight Stuart and his troopers were in the saddle;

POPE’S RETREAT  183

and, picking up many stragglers as they marched, came within range of the guns at Centreville. Lee, accompanied by Jackson, having reconnoitred the position, determined to move once more upon the Federal rear. Longstreet remained on the battle-field to engage the attention of the enemy and cover the removal of the wounded; while Jackson, crossing not by the Stone Bridge, but by Sudley Ford, was entrusted with the work of forcing Pope from his strong position.

The weather was inclement, the roads were quagmires, and the men were in no condition to make forced marches. Yet before nightfall Jackson had pushed ten miles through the mud, halting near Pleasant Valley, on the Little River turnpike, five miles north-west of Centreville. During the afternoon Longstreet, throwing a brigade across Bull Run to keep the enemy on the qui vive, followed the same route. Of these movements Pope received no warning, and Jackson’s proclivity for flank manœuvres had evidently made no impression on him, for, in blissful unconsciousness that his line of retreat was already threatened, he ordered all waggons to be unloaded at Centreville, and to return to Fairfax Station for forage and rations.

Sept. 1   But on the morning of September 1, although his whole army, including Banks, was closely concentrated behind strong intrenchments, Pope had conceived a suspicion that he would find it difficult to fulfil his promise to Halleck that “he would hold on.” The previous night Stuart had been active towards his right and rear, capturing his reconnoitring parties, and shelling his trains. Before noon suspicion became certainty. Either stragglers or the country people reported that Jackson was moving down the Little River turnpike, and Centreville was at once evacuated, the troops marching to a new position round Fairfax Court House.

Jackson, meanwhile, covered by the cavalry, was advancing to Chantilly—a fine old mansion which the Federals had gutted—with the intention of seizing a position whence he could command the road. The day was sombre, and a tempest was gathering in the mountains. Late in the

POPE’S RETREAT  184

afternoon, Stuart’s patrols near Ox Hill were driven in by hostile infantry, the thick woods preventing the scouts from ascertaining the strength or dispositions of the Federal force. Jackson at once ordered two brigades of Hill’s to feel the enemy. The remainder of the Light Division took ground to the right, followed by Lawton; Starke’s division held the turnpike, and Stuart was sent towards Fairfax Court House to ascertain whether the Federal main body was retreating or advancing.

Reno, who had been ordered to protect Pope’s flank, came briskly forward, and Hill’s advanced guard was soon brought to a standstill. Three fresh brigades were rapidly deployed; as the enemy pressed the attack a fourth was sent in, and the Northerners fell back with the loss of a general and many men. Lawton’s first line became engaged at the same time, and Reno, now reinforced by Kearney, made a vigorous effort to hold the Confederates in check. Hays’ brigade of Lawton’s division, commanded by an inexperienced officer, was caught while “clubbed” during a change of formation, and driven back in disorder; and Trimble’s brigade, now reduced to a handful, became involved in the confusion. But a vigorous charge of the second line restored the battle. The Federals were beginning to give way. General Kearney, riding through the murky twilight into the Confederate lines, was shot by a skirmisher. The hostile lines were within short range, and the advent of a reserve on either side would have probably ended the engagement. But the rain was now falling in torrents; heavy peals of thunder, crashing through the forest, drowned the discharges of the two guns which Jackson had brought up through the woods, and the red flash of musketry paled before the vivid lightning. Much of the ammunition was rendered useless, the men were unable to discharge their pieces, and the fierce wind lashed the rain in the faces of the Confederates. The night grew darker and the tempest fiercer; and as if by mutual consent the opposing lines drew gradually apart.1

1  It was at this time, probably, that Jackson received a message from a brigade commander, reporting that his cartridges were so wet that he feared he could not maintain his position. “Tell him,” was the quick reply, “to hold his ground; if his guns will not go off, neither will the enemy’s.”

POPE DISAPPEARS  185

On the side of the Confederates only half the force had been engaged. Starke’s division never came into action, and of Hill’s and Lawton’s there were still brigades in reserve. 500 men were killed or wounded; but although the three Federal divisions are reported to have lost 1,000, they had held their ground, and Jackson was thwarted in his design. Pope’s trains and his whole army reached Fairfax Court House without further disaster. But the persistent attacks of his indefatigable foe had broken down his resolution. He had intended, he told Halleck, when Jackson’s march down the Little River turnpike was first announced, to attack the Confederates the next day, or “certainly the day after.”

Sept. 2   The action at Chantilly, however, induced a more prudent mood; and, on the morning of the 2nd, he reported that “there was an intense idea among the troops that they must get behind the intrenchments [of Alexandria]; that there was an undoubted purpose, on the part of the enemy, to keep on slowly turning his position so as to come in on the right, and that the forces under his command were unable to prevent him doing so in the open field. Halleck must decide what was to be done.” The reply was prompt, Pope was to bring his forces, “as best he could,” under the shelter of the heavy guns.

Whatever might be the truth as regards the troops, there could be no question but that the general was demoralised; and, preceded by thousands of stragglers, the army fell back without further delay to the Potomac. It was not followed except by Stuart. “It was found,” says Lee, in his official dispatch, ”that the enemy had conducted his retreat so rapidly that the attempt to interfere with him was abandoned. The proximity of the fortifications around Alexandria and Washington rendered further pursuit useless.”

On the same day General McClellan was entrusted with the defence of Washington, and Pope, permitted to resign, was soon afterwards relegated to an obscure

POPE DISAPPEARS  186

command against the Indians of the North-west. His errors had been flagrant. He can hardly be charged with want of energy, but his energy was spasmodic; on the field of battle he was strangely indolent, and yet he distrusted the reports of others. But more fatal than his neglect of personal reconnaissance was his power of self-deception. He was absolutely incapable of putting himself in his enemy’s place, and time after time he acted on the supposition that Lee and Jackson would do exactly what he most wished them to do. When his supplies were destroyed, he concentrated at Manassas Junction, convinced that Jackson would remain to be overwhelmed. When he found Jackson near Sudley Springs, and Thoroughfare Gap open, he rushed forward to attack him, convinced that Longstreet could not be up for eight-and-forty hours. When he sought shelter at Centreville, he told Halleck not to be uneasy, convinced that Lee would knock his head against his fortified position. Before the engagement at Chantilly he had made up his mind to attack the enemy the next morning. A few hours later he reported that his troops were utterly untrustworthy, although 20,000 of them, under Franklin and Sumner, had not yet seen the enemy. In other respects his want of prudence had thwarted his best endeavours. His cavalry at the beginning of the campaign was effectively employed. But so extravagant were his demands on the mounted arm, that before the battle of Manassas half his regiments were dismounted. It is true that the troopers were still indifferent horsemen and bad horse-masters, but it was the fault of the commander that the unfortunate animals had no rest, that brigades were sent to do the work of patrols, and that little heed was paid to the physical wants of man and beast. As a tactician Pope was incapable. As a strategist he lacked imagination, except in his dispatches. His horizon was limited, and he measured the capacity of his adversaries by his own. He was familiar with the campaign in the Valley, with the operations in the Peninsula, and Cedar Run should have enlightened him as to Jackson’s daring. But he had no conception that his adversaries would cheerfully accept

LEE  187

great risks to achieve great ends; he had never dreamt of a general who would deliberately divide his army, or of one who would make fifty-six miles in two marches.

Lee, with his extraordinary insight into character, had played on Pope as he had played on McClellan, and his strategy was justified by success. In the space of three weeks he had carried the war from the James to the Potomac. With an army that at no time exceeded 55,000 men he had driven 80,000 into the fortifications of Washington.1 He had captured 30 guns, 7,000 prisoners, 20,000 rifles, and many stand of colours; he had killed or wounded 13,500 Federals, destroyed supplies and material of enormous value; and all this with a loss to the Confederates of 10,000 officers and men.

So much had he done for the South; for his own reputation he had done more. If, as Moltke avers, the junction of two armies on the field of battle is the highest achievement of military genius,2 the campaign against Pope has seldom been surpassed; and the great counterstroke at Manassas is sufficient in itself to make Lee’s reputation as a tactician. Salamanca was perhaps a more brilliant example of the same manœuvre, for at Salamanca Wellington had no reason to anticipate that Marmont would blunder, and the mighty stroke which beat 40,000 French in forty minutes was conceived in a few moments. Nor does Manassas equal Austerlitz. No such subtle manœuvres were employed as those by which Napoleon induced the Allies to lay bare their centre, and drew them blindly to their doom. It was not due to the skill of Lee that Pope weakened his left at the crisis of the battle.3

1  Sumner and Franklin had become involved in Pope’s retreat.
2  Tried by this test alone Lee stands out as one of the greatest soldiers of all times. Not only against Pope, but against McClellan at Gaines’ Mill, against Burnside at Fredericksburg, and against Hooker at Chancellorsville, he succeeded in carrying out the operations of which Moltke speaks; and in each case with the same result of surprising his adversary. None knew better how to apply that great principle of strategy, “to march divided but to fight concentrated.”
3  It may be noticed, however, that the care with which Longstreet’s troops were kept concealed for more than four-and-twenty hours had much to do with Pope’s false manœuvres.

LEE  188

But in the rapidity with which the opportunity was seized, in the combination of the three arms, and in the vigour of the blow, Manassas is in no way inferior to Austerlitz or Salamanca. That the result was less decisive was due to the greater difficulties of the battle-field, to the stubborn resistance of the enemy, to the obstacles in the way of rapid and connected movement, and to the inexperience of the troops. Manassas was not, like Austerlitz and Salamanca, won by veteran soldiers, commanded by trained officers, perfect in drill and inured to discipline. Lee’s strategic manœuvres were undoubtedly hazardous. But that an antagonist of different calibre would have met them with condign punishment is short-sighted criticism. Against an antagonist of different calibre, against such generals as he was afterwards to encounter, they would never have been attempted. “He studied his adversary,” says his Military Secretary, “knew his peculiarities, and adapted himself to them. His own methods no one could foresee-he varied them with every change in the commanders opposed to him. He had one method with McClellan, another with Pope, another with Hooker, another with Meade, and yet another with Grant.” Nor was the dangerous period of the Manassas campaign so protracted as might be thought. Jackson marched north from Jefferson on August 25. On the 26th he reached Bristoe Station. Pope, during these two days, might have thrown himself either on Longstreet or on Jackson. He did neither, and on the morning of the 27th, when Jackson reached Sudley Springs, the crisis had passed. Had the Federals blocked Thoroughfare Gap that day, and prevented Longstreet’s passage, Lee was still able to concentrate without incurring defeat. Jackson, retreating by Aldie Gap, would have joined Longstreet west of the mountains; Pope would have escaped defeat, but the Confederates would have lost nothing. Moreover, it is well to remember that the Confederate cavalry was in every single respect, in leading, horsemanship, training, and knowledge of the country, superior to the Federal. The whole population, too, was staunchly

STUART  189

Southern. It was always probable, therefore, that information would be scarce in the Federal camps, and that if some items did get through the cavalry screen, they would be so late in reaching Pope’s headquarters as to be practically useless. There can be no question that Lee, in these operations, relied much on the skill of Stuart. Stuart was given a free hand. Unlike Pope, Lee issued few orders as to the disposition of his horsemen. He merely explained the manœuvres he was about to undertake, pointed out where he wished the main body of the cavalry should be found, and left all else to their commander. He had no need to tell Stuart that he required information of the enemy, or to lay down the method by which it was to be obtained. That was Stuart’s normal duty, and right well was it performed. How admirably the young cavalry general co-operated with Jackson has already been described. The latter suggested, the former executed, and the combination of the three arms, during the whole of Jackson’s operations against Pope, was as close as when Ashby led his squadrons in the Valley.

Yet it was not on Stuart that fell, next to Lee, the honours of the campaign. Brilliant as was the handling of the cavalry, impenetrable the screen it formed, and ample the information it procured, the breakdown of the Federal horse made the task comparatively simple. Against adversaries whose chargers were so leg-weary that they could hardly raise a trot it was easy to be bold. One of Stuart’s brigadiers would have probably done the work as well as Stuart himself. But the handling of the Valley army, from the time it left Jefferson on the 25th until Longstreet reached Gainesville on the 29th, demanded higher qualities than vigilance and activity. Throughout the operations Jackson’s endurance was the wonder of his staff. He hardly slept. He was untiring in reconnaissance, in examination of the country and in observation of the enemy, and no detail of the march escaped his personal scrutiny. Yet his muscles were much less hardly used than his brain. The intellectual problem was more difficult than the physical. To march his

JACKSON’S TACTICS  190

army fifty-six miles in two days was far simpler than to maintain it on Pope’s flank until Longstreet came into line. The direction of his marches, the position of his bivouacs, the distribution of his three divisions, were the outcome of long premeditation. On the night of the 25th he disappeared into the darkness on the road to Salem leaving the Federals under the conviction that he was making for the Valley. On the 26th he moved on Bristoe Station, rather than on Manassas Junction, foreseeing that he might be interrupted from the south-west in his destruction of the stores. On the 27th he postponed his departure till night had fallen, moving in three columns, of which the column marching on Centreville, whither he desired that the enemy should follow, was the last to move. Concentrating at Sudley Springs on the 28th, he placed himself in the best position to hold Pope fast, to combine with Longstreet, or to escape by Aldie Gap; and on the 29th the ground he had selected for battle enabled him to hold out against superior numbers.

Neither strategically nor tactically did he make a single mistake. His attack on King’s division at Groveton, on the evening of the 28th, was purely frontal, and his troops lost heavily. But he believed King to be the flank-guard of a larger force, and under such circumstances turning movements were over-hazardous. The woods, too, prevented the deployment of his artillery; and the attack, in its wider aspect, was eminently successful, for the aim was not to defeat King, but to bring Pope back to a position where Lee could crush him. On the 29th his dispositions were admirable. The battle is a fine example of defensive tactics. The position, to use a familiar illustration, “fitted the troops like a glove.” It was of such strength that, while the front was adequately manned, ample reserves remained in rear. The left, the most dangerous flank, was secured by Bull Run, and massed batteries gave protection to the right. The distribution of the troops, the orders, and the amount of latitude accorded to subordinate leaders, followed the best models. The front was so apportioned that each brigadier on the fighting-line had his own reserve,

JACKSON’S TACTICS  191

and each divisional general half his force in third line. The orders indicated that counterstrokes were not to be pushed so far as to involve the troops in an engagement with the enemy’s reserves, and the subordinate generals were encouraged, without waiting for orders, and thus losing the occasion, to seize all favourable opportunities for counterstroke. The methods employed by Jackson were singularly like those of Wellington. A position was selected which gave cover and concealment to the troops, and against which the powerful artillery of a more numerous enemy was practically useless. These were the characteristics of Vimiera, Busaco, Talavera, and Waterloo. Nor did Jackson’s orders differ from those of the great Englishman.

The Duke’s subordinates, when placed in position, acted on a well-established rule. Within that position they had unlimited power. They could defend the first line, or they could meet the enemy with a counter-attack from a position in rear, and in both cases they could pursue. But the pursuit was never to be carried beyond certain defined limits. Moreover, Wellington’s views as to the efficacy of the counterstroke were identical with those of Jackson, and he had the same predilection for cold steel. “If they attempt this point again, Hill,” were his orders to that general at Busaco, “give them a volley and charge bayonets; but don’t let your people follow them too far.”

But it was neither wise strategy nor sound tactics which was the main element in Pope’s defeat; neither the strong effort of a powerful brain, nor the judicious devolution of responsibility. A brilliant military historian, more conversant perhaps with the War of Secession than the wars of France, concludes his review of this campaign with a reference to Jackson as “the Ney of the Confederate army.”1 The allusion is obvious. So long as the victories of Napoleon are remembered, the name of his lieutenant will always be a synonym for heroic valour. But the valour of Ney was of a different type from that of Jackson. Ney’s valour was animal, Jackson’s was moral, and between the two there is a vast distinction. Before the

1  Swinton. Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac.

JACKSON’S COURAGE  192

enemy, when his danger was tangible, Ney had few rivals. But when the enemy was unseen and his designs were doubtful, his resolution vanished. He was without confidence in his own resources. He could not act without direct orders, and he dreaded responsibility. At Bautzen his timidity ruined Napoleon’s combinations; in the campaign of Leipsic he showed himself incapable of independent command; and he cannot be acquitted of hesitation at Quatre Bras.

It was in the same circumstances that Ney’s courage invariably gave way that Jackson’s courage shone with the brightest lustre. It might appear that he had little cause for fear in the campaign of the Second Manassas, that he had only to follow his instructions, and that if he had failed his failure would have been visited upon Lee. The instructions which he received, however, were not positive, but contingent on events. If possible, he was to cut the railway, in order to delay the reinforcements which Pope was expecting from Alexandria; and then, should the enemy permit, he was to hold fast east of the Bull Run Mountains until Lee came up. But he was to be guided in everything by his own discretion. He was free to accept battle or refuse it, to attack or to defend, to select his own line of retreat, to move to any quarter of the compass that he pleased. For three days, from the morning of August 26 to the morning of August 29, he had complete control of the strategic situation; on his movements were dependent the movements of the main army; the bringing the enemy to bay and the choice of the field of battle were both in his hands. And during those three days he was cut off from Lee and Longstreet. The mountains, with their narrow passes, lay between; and, surrounded by three times his number, he was abandoned entirely to his own resources.

Throughout the operations he had been in unusually high spirits. The peril and responsibility seemed to act as an elixir, and he threw off much of his constraint. But as the day broke on August 29 he looked long and earnestly in the direction of Thoroughfare Gap, and

JACKSON’S COURAGE  193

when a messenger from Stuart brought the intelligence that Longstreet was through the pass, he drew a long breath and uttered a sigh of relief.1 The period of suspense was over, but even on that unyielding heart the weight of anxiety had pressed with fearful force. For three days he had only received news of the main army at long and uncertain intervals. For two of these days his information of the enemy’s movements was very small. While he was marching to Bristoe Station, Pope, for all he knew, might have been marching against Longstreet with his whole force. When he attacked King on the 28th the Federals, in what strength he knew not, still held Thoroughfare Gap; when he formed for action on the 29th he was still ignorant of what had happened to the main body, and it was on the bare chance that Longstreet would force the passage that he accepted battle with far superior numbers.

It is not difficult to imagine how a general like Ney, placed in Jackson’s situation, would have trimmed and hesitated: how in his march to Manassas, when he had crossed the mountains and left the Gap behind him, he would have sent out reconnaissances in all directions, halting his troops until he learned the coast was clear; how he would have dashed at the Junction by the shortest route; how he would have forced his weary troops northward when the enemy’s approach was reported; how, had he reached Sudley Springs, he would have hugged the shelter of the woods and let King’s division pass unmolested; and, finally, when Pope’s columns converged on his position, have fallen back on Thoroughfare or Aldie. Nor would he have been greatly to blame. Unless gifted with that moral fortitude which Napoleon ranks higher than genius or experience, no general would have succeeded in carrying Lee’s design to a successful issue. In his unhesitating march to Manassas Junction, in his deliberate sojourn for four-and-twenty hours astride his enemy’s communications, in his daring challenge to Pope’s whole army at Groveton, Jackson displayed the indomitable courage characteristic of the greatest soldiers.

1  Letter from Dr. Hunter McGuire.

“THE FOG OF WAR”  194

As suggested in the first volume, it is too often overlooked, by those who study the history of campaign, that war is the province of uncertainty. The reader has the whole theatre of war displayed before him. He notes the exact disposition of the opposing forces at each hour of the campaign, and with this in his mind’s eye he condemns or approves the action of the commanders. In the action of the defeated general he usually often sees much to blame; in the action of the successful general but little to admire. But his judgment is not based on a true foundation. He has ignored the fact that the information at his disposal was not at the disposal of those he criticises; and until he realises that both generals, to a greater or less degree, must have been groping in the dark, he will neither make just allowance for the errors of the one, nor appreciate the genius of the other.

It is true that it is difficult in the extreme to ascertain how much or how little those generals whose campaigns have become historical knew of their enemy at any particular moment. For instance, in the campaign before us, we are nowhere told whether Lee, when he sent Jackson to Manassas Junction, was aware that a portion of McClellan’s army had been shipped to Alexandria in place of Aquia; or whether he knew, on the second day of the battle of Manassas, that Pope had been reinforced by two army corps from the Peninsula. He had certainly captured Pope’s dispatch book, and no doubt it threw much light on the Federal plans, but we are not aware how far into the future this light projected. We do know, however, that, in addition to this correspondence, such knowledge as he had was derived from reports. But reports are never entirely to be relied on; they are seldom full, they are often false, and they are generally exaggerated. However active the cavalry, however patriotic the inhabitants, no general is ever possessed of accurate information of his enemy’s dispositions, unless the forces are very small, or the precautions to elude observation very feeble. On August 28 Stuart’s patrols covered the whole country round Jackson’s army, and during the

“THE FOG OF WAR”  195

whole day the Federal columns were converging on Manassas. Sigel and Reynolds’ four divisions passed through Gainesville, not five miles from Sudley Springs, and for a time were actually in contact with Jackson’s outposts; and yet Sigel and Reynolds mistook Jackson’s outposts for reconnoitring cavalry. Again, when King’s single division, the rear-guard of Pope’s army, appeared upon the turnpike, Jackson attacked it with the idea that it was the flank-guard of a much larger force. Nor was this want of accurate intelligence due to lack of vigilance or to the dense woods. As a matter of fact the Confederates were more amply provided with information than is usually the case in war, even in an open country and with experienced armies.

But if, in the most favourable circumstances, a general is surrounded by an atmosphere which has been most aptly named the fog of war, his embarrassments are intensified tenfold when he commands a portion of a divided army. Under ordinary conditions a general is at least fully informed of the dispositions of his own forces. But when between two widely separated columns a powerful enemy, capable of crushing each in turn, intervenes; when the movements of that enemy are veiled in obscurity; when anxiety has taken possession of the troops, and the soldiers of either column, striving hopelessly to penetrate the gloom, reflect on the fate that may have overtaken their comrades, on the obstacles that may delay them, on the misunderstandings that may have occurred—it is at such a crisis that the courage of their leader is put to the severest test.

His situation has been compared to a man entering a dark room full of assailants, never knowing when or whence a blow may be struck against him. The illustration is inadequate. Not only has he to contend with the promptings of his own instincts, but he has to contend with the instincts and to sustain the resolution of his whole army. It is not from the enemy he has most to fear. A time comes in all protracted operations when the nervous energy of the best troops becomes exhausted, when the most daring shrink from further sacrifice, when

TURNING MOVEMENTS  196

the desire of self-preservation infects the stoutest veterans, and the will of the mass opposes a tacit resistance to all further effort. “Then,” says Clausewitz, “the spark in the breast of the commander must rekindle hope in the hearts of his men, and so long as he is equal to this he remains their master. When his influence ceases, and his own spirit is no longer strong enough to revive the spirit of others, the masses, drawing him with them, sink into that lower region of animal nature which recoils from danger and knows not shame. Such are the obstacles which the brain and courage of the military commander must overcome if he is to make his name illustrious.” And the obstacles are never more formidable than when his troops see no sign of the support they have expected. Then, if he still moves forward, although his peril increase at every step, to the point of junction; if he declines the temptation, although overwhelming numbers threaten him, of a safe line of retreat; if, as did Jackson, he deliberately confronts and challenges the hostile masses, then indeed does the soldier rise to the highest level of moral energy.

Strongly does Napoleon inveigh against operations which entail the division of an army into two columns unable to communicate; and especially does he reprobate the strategy which places the point of junction under the very beard of a concentrated enemy. Both of these maxims Lee violated. The last because he knew Pope, the first because he knew Jackson. It is rare indeed that such strategy succeeds. When all has depended on a swift and unhesitating advance, generals renowned for their ardent courage have wavered and turned aside. Hasdrubal, divided from Hannibal by many miles and a Consular army, fell back to the Metaurus, and Rome was saved. Two thousand years later, Prince Frederick Charles, divided by a few marches and two Austrian army corps from the Crown Prince, lingered so long upon the leer that the supremacy of Prussia trembled in the balance. But the character of the Virginian soldier was of loftier type. It has been remarked that after Jackson’s death Lee never again attempted those great turning movements which had

TURNING MOVEMENTS  197

achieved his most brilliant victories. Never again did he divide his army to unite it again on the field of battle. The reason is not far to seek. There was now no general in the Confederate army to whom he dared confide the charge of the detached wing, and in possessing one such general he had been more fortunate than Napoleon.1

1  It is noteworthy that Moltke once, at Königgrätz, carried out the operation referred to; Wellington twice, at Vittoria and Toulouse; Napoleon, although he several times attempted it, and, against inferior numbers, never, except at Ulm, with complete success.

 

 

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