A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE.
BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE.
"Duty is the sublimest word in our language."
"Human virtue should be equal to human calamity." LEE. 1876
THE WAR ADVANCES NORTHWARD.
VI. The Second Battle of Manassas
Lee's order of battle for the coming action was peculiar. It resembled an open V, with the opening toward the enemy--Jackson's corps forming the left wing, and extending from near Sudley, to a point in rear of the small village of Groveton, Longstreet's corps forming the right wing, and reaching from Jackson's right to and beyond the Warrenton road which runs to Stonebridge.
The field of battle was nearly identical with that of July 21, 1861. The only difference was, that the Confederates occupied the ground formerly held by the Federal troops, and that the latter attacked, as Johnston and
Beauregard had attacked, from the direction of Manassas, and the tableland around the well-known Henry House.
The Southern order of battle seems to have contemplated a movement on one or both of
General Pope's flanks while he attacked in front. An assault on either wing would expose him to danger from the other, and it will be seen that the fate of the battle was decided by this judicious arrangement of the Confederate commander.
The action began a little after noon, when the Federal right, consisting of the troops of
Sigel, and others, advanced and made a vigorous attack on Jackson's left, under A.P. Hill. An obstinate conflict ensued, the opposing lines fighting almost bayonet to bayonet, "delivering their volleys into each other at the distance of ten paces." At the first charge, an interval between two of Hill's brigades was penetrated by the enemy, and that wing of Jackson's corps was in great danger of being driven back. This disaster was, however, prevented by the prompt stand made by two or three regiments; the enemy was checked, and a prompt counter-charge drove the Federal assaulting columns back into the woods.
The attempt to break Jackson's line at this point was not, however, abandoned. The Federal troops returned again and again to the encounter, and General Hill reported "six separate and distinct assaults" made upon him. They were all repulsed, in which important assistance was rendered by General Early. That brave officer attacked with vigor, and, aided by the fire of the Confederate artillery from the elevated ground in Jackson's rear, drove the enemy before him with such slaughter that one of their regiments is said to have carried back but three men.
This assault of the enemy had been of so determined a character, that General Lee, in order to relieve his left, had directed Hood and Evans, near his centre, to advance and attack the left of the assaulting column. Hood was about to do so, when he found a heavy force advancing to charge his own line. A warm engagement followed, which resulted in the repulse of the enemy, and Hood followed them a considerable distance, inflicting heavy loss.
It was now nearly nine o'clock at night, and the darkness rendered further operations impossible. The troops which had driven the enemy were recalled from their advanced position, the Southern line was reformed on the same ground occupied at the commencement of the action, and General Lee prepared for the more decisive struggle of the next day.
Morning came (August 30th), but all the forenoon passed without a resumption of the battle. Each of the adversaries seemed to await some movement on the part of the other, and the Federal commander made heavy feints against both the Confederate right and left, with the view of discovering some weak point, or of inducing Lee to lay himself open to attack. These movements had, however, no effect. Lee remained obstinately in his strong position, rightly estimating the advantage it gave him, and no doubt taking into consideration the want of supplies
General Pope must labor under, a deficiency which rendered a prompt assault on his part indispensable. The armies thus remained in face of each other, without serious efforts upon either side, until nearly or quite the hour of three in the afternoon.
Pope then resumed the assault on Lee's left, under Jackson, with his best troops. The charge was furious, and a bloody struggle ensued; but Jackson succeeded in repulsing the force. It fell back in disorder, but was succeeded by a second and a third line, which rushed forward at the "double-quick," in a desperate attempt to break the Southern line. These new attacks were met with greater obstinacy than at first, and, just as the opponents had closed in, a heavy fire was directed against the Federal column by Colonel S.D. Lee, commanding the artillery at Lee's centre. This fire, which was of the most rapid and destructive character, struck the enemy in front and flank at once, and seemed to sweep back the charging brigades as they came. The fire of the cannon was then redoubled, and Jackson's line advanced with cheers. Before this charge, the Federal line broke, and Jackson pressed forward, allowing them no respite.
General Lee then threw forward Longstreet, who, knowing what was expected of him, was already moving. The enemy were pressed thus in front and on their flank, as Lee had no doubt intended, in forming his peculiar line. The corps of Jackson and Longstreet closed in like two iron arms; the Federal forces were driven from position to position; the glare of their cannon, more and more distant, indicated that they had abandoned further contest, and at ten at night the darkness put an end to the battle and pursuit. General Pope was retreating with his defeated forces toward Washington.
On the next day, Lee dispatched Jackson to turn
Centreville and cut off the retreat of General Pope. The result was a severe engagement near Germantown, which was put an end to by a violent storm. General Pope, now reenforced by the commands of Generals Sumner and Franklin, had been enabled to hold his ground until night. When, on the next day (September 2d), the Confederates advanced to Fairfax Court-House, it was found that the entire Federal army was in rapid retreat upon Washington.
Such had been the fate of General Pope.