Thursday, September 1, 2011

150-Years-Ago -- Beauregard's Full Report on Blackburn's Ford (Bull Run) Skirmish

Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard
The Richmond Daily Dispatch
1 Sept. 1861

Gen. Beauregard's official report
of the
battle of Bull Run.
foughtJuly 18, 1861.
Headquarters, First corps,
army of the Potomac,
Manassas. August, 1861.


--With the general results of the engagement between several brigades of my command and a considerable force of the enemy, in the vicinity of Mitchell's and Blackburn's fords, of Bull Run, on the 18th ultimo, you were made duly acquainted at the time by telegraph. But it is my place now to submit in detail the operations of that day.

Opportunely informed of the determination of the enemy to advance on Manassas, my advanced brigades, on the night of the 16th of July, were made aware, from these headquarters, of the impending movement; and in exact accordance with my instructions, a copy of which is appended, marked "A," their withdrawal within the lines of Bull Run was effected with complete success during the day and night of the 17th ultimo, in face of and in immediate proximity to a largely superior force, despite a well-planned, well- executed effort to cut off the retreat of Bonham's brigade, first at Germantown and subsequently at Centreville, whence he withdrew, by my direction, after midnight, without collision, although enveloped on three sides by their lines. This movement had the intended effect of deceiving the enemy as to my ulterior purposes, and led him to anticipate an unresisted passage of Bull Run.

As prescribed in the first and second sections of the paper herewith marked "A," on the morning of the 18th of July, my troops resting on Bull Run, from Union Mills ford to the Stone Bridge, a distance of eight (8) miles, were posted as follows:

Ewell's brigade occupied a position in the vicinity of Union Mills ford. It consisted of Rodes' 5th and Seibel's 6th regiments of Alabama, and Seymour's 6th regiment of Louisiana volunteers, with four 12 pounder howitzers of Walton's battery, and Harrison's, Green's and Cabell's companies of Virginia cavalry.

D. R. Jones' brigade was in position in rear of McLean's ford, and consisted of Jenkins' 5th South Carolina, and Burt's 17th and Featherston's 18th regiments of Mississippi volunteers, with two brass 6 pounder guns of Walton's battery, and one company of cavalry.

Long street's brigade covered Blackburn's ford, and consisted of Moore's 1st, Garland's 11th, and Corse's 17th regiments Virginia volunteers, with two 6 pounder brass guns of Walton's battery.

Bonham's brigade held the approaches to Mitchell's ford. It was composed of Kershaw's 2d, Williams' 3d, Becon's 7th, and Cash's 8th regiments South Carolina volunteers, of Shields' and Del Kemper's batteries, and of Flood's, Radford's, Payne's, Ball's, Wickham's and Powell's companies of Virginia cavalry, under Col. Radford.

Cocke's brigade held the fords below and in the vicinity of the Stone Bridge, and consisted of Withers' 18th, Lt. Col. Strange's 19th, and R. T. Preston's 28th regiments, with Latham's battery and one company of cavalry, Virginia volunteers.

Evans held my left flank and protected the Stone Bridge crossing with Sloan's Fourth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, Wheat's Special Battalion, Louisiana Volunteers, four six pounder guns, and two companies of Virginia cavalry.

Early's Brigade, consisting of Kemper's 7th (six companies,) Early's 24th Regiment Virginia Volunteers, Hays' 7th Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, and three rifle pieces of Walton's Battery, Lieut. Squires, at first were held in position in rear of and as a support to Ewell's Brigade, until after the development of the enemy, in heavy offensive force, in front of Mitchell's and Blackburn's fords, when it was placed in rear of and nearly equi- distant between McLean's, Blackburn's and Mitchell's fords.

Pending the development of the enemy's purpose, about ten (10) o'clock A. M., I established my headquarters at a central point, McLean's farm-house, near to McLean's and Blackburn's fords, where two six pounders of Walton's Battery were in reserve; but subsequently, during the engagement, I took post to the left of my reserve.

Of the topographical features of the country thus occupied, it must suffice to say that Bull Run is a small stream, running, in this locality, nearly from west to east, to its confluence with the Occoquan River, about twelve miles from the Potomac, and draining a considerable scope of country from its source in Bull Run mountain to a short distance of the Potomac, at Occoquan. At this season habitually low and sluggish, it is however rapidly and frequently swollen by the summer rains until unfordable. The backs for the most part are rocky and steep, but abound in long used fords. The country on either side, much broken and thickly wooded, becomes gently rolling and open as it recedes from the stream. On the northern side the ground is much the highest, and commands the other bank completely. Roads traverse and intersect the surrounding country in almost every direction. Finally, at Mitchell's ford the stream is about equidistant between Centreville and Manassas, some six miles apart.

On the morning of the 18th, finding that the enemy was assuming a threatening attitude, in addition to the regiments whose positions have been already stated, I ordered up from Camp Pickens, as a reserve, in rear of Bonham's Brigade, the effective men of six companies of Kelly's Eighth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, and Kirkland's Eleventh Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, which having arrived the night before en route for Winchester, I had halted in view of the existing necessities of the service. Subsequently, the latter was placed in position to the left of Bonham's Brigade.

Appearing in heavy force in front of Bonham's position, the enemy about meridian opened fire with several 20-pounder rifle guns, from a hill over one and a half miles from Bull Run. At the same time Kemper, supported by two companies of light infantry, occupied a ridge on the left of the Centreville road, about six hundred yards in advance of the ford with two 6-pounder (smooth) guns. At first the firing of the enemy was at random; but by half-past 12 P. M., he had obtained the range of our position, and poured into the brigade a shower of shot, but without injury to us in men, horses, or guns.--From the distance, however, our guns could not reply with effect, and we did not attempt it, patiently awaiting a more opportune moment.

Meanwhile a light battery was pushed forward by the enemy, whereupon Kemper threw only six solid shot, with the effect of driving back both the battery and its supporting force. This is understood to have been Ayres' battery, and the damage must have been considerable to have obliged such a retrograde movement on the part of that officer.

The purposes of Kemper's position having now been fully served, his pieces and support were withdrawn across Michelle's ford to a point previously designated, and which commanded the direct approaches to the ford.

About half past 11 o'clock, A. M., the enemy was also discovered by the pickets of Longstreet's brigade advancing in strong columns of infantry with artillery and cavalry on Blackburn's ford.

At meridian, the pickets fell back silently before the advancing foe across the ford, which, as well as the entire southern bank of the stream for the whole front of Longstreet's brigade, was covered at the water's edge by an extended line of skirmishers, while two six pounders of Walton's Battery, under Lieutenant Garnett, were advantageously placed to command the direct approach to the ford, but with orders to retire to the rear as soon as commanded by the enemy.

The northern bank of the stream, in front of Longstreet's position, rises with a steep slope at least fifty feet above the level of the water, leaving a narrow berme in front of the ford of some twenty yards. This ridge formed for them an admirable natural parapet, behind which they could, and did approach under shelter, in heavy force, within less than one hundred yards of our skirmishers. The southern shore was almost a plain, raised but a few feet above the water for several hundred yards, then rising with a very gradual, gentle slope, and undulating back to Manassas. On the immediate bank there was a fringe of trees, but with little if any undergrowth or shelter, while, on the other shore, there were timber and much thick brush and covering. The ground in rear of cur skirmishers, and occupied by our artillery, was an old- field extending along the stream about one mile, and immediately back for about half a mile, to a border or skirting of deose second-growth pines. The whole of this ground was commanded all points by the ridge occupied by the enemy's musketry; as was also the country to the rear for a distance much beyond the range of 20 pounder rifle guns, by the range of hills on which their batteries were planted, and which, it may be further noted, commanded also all our approaches from this direction to the three threatened fords.

Before advancing his infantry, the enemy maintained a fire of rifle artillery from the batteries just mentioned for half an hour, then he pushed forward a column of over three thousand infantry to the assault, with such a weight of numbers as to be repelled with difficulty by the comparatively small force of not more than twelve hundred bayonets with which Brigadier General Longstreet met him, with characteristic vigor and intrepidity. Our troops engaged at this time were the First and Seventeenth, and four companies of the Eleventh RegimentsVirginia Volunteers. Their resistance was resolute, and maintained with a steadiness worthy of all praise. It was successful, and the enemy was repelled. In a short time, however, he returned to the content with force and determination, but was again folled and driven back by our skirmishers, and Longstreet's reserve companies, which were brought up and employed at the most vigorously points at the critical moment.

It was now that Gen. Longstreet sent for reinforcements from Early's brigade, which I had anticipated by directing the advance of Gen. Early with two regiments of infantry and two places of artillery. As these came upon the field, the enemy had advanced a third time with heavy numbers to force Longstreet's position. Hays' Regiment, 7th Louisiana Volunteers, which was in advance, was placed on the bank of the stream, under some cover, to the immediate right and left of the ford, relieving Corse's Regiment17th Virginia Volunteers. This was done under a heavy fire of musketry, with promising steadiness. The 7th Virginia, under Lt. Col. Williams, was then formed to the right, also under heavy fire, and pushed forward to the stream, relieving the 1st RegimentVirginia Volunteers At the same time two rifle guns, brought up with Early's brigade, were moved down in the field to the right of the road, so as to be concealed from the enemy's artillery by the girth of timber on the immediate bank of the stream, and there opened fire, directed only by the sound of the enemy's musketry. Unable to effect a passage, the enemy kept up a scattering fire for some time. Some of our troops had pushed across the stream, and several small parties of Corse's Regiment, under command of Captain Marye, met and drove the enemy with the bayonet, but as the road-way from the ford was too narrow for a combined movement in force, Gen. Longstreet recalled them to the south bank. Meanwhile the remainder of Early's infantry and artillery had been called up; that is, six companies of the 24th Regiment Virginia Volunteers, under Lieut. Col. Hairston, and five pieces of artillery, one rifle gun, and four 6-pounder brass guns, including two 6-pounder guns under Lieut. Garnett, which had been previously sent to the rear by Gen. Longstreet. This infantry was at once placed in position to the left of the ford, in a space unoccupied by Hays, and the artillery was unlimbered in battery to the right of the road, in a line with the two guns already in action. A scattering fire of musketry was still kept up by the enemy for a short time, but that was soon silenced.

It was at this stage of the affair that a remarkable artillery duel was commenced and maintained on our side with a long-trained professional opponent — superior in the character as well as in the number of his weapons, provided with improved munitions and every artillery appliance, and at the same time occupying the commanding position. The results were marvellous, and fitting precursors to the artillery achievements of the 21st July. In the outset our fire was directed against the enemy's infantry, whose bayonets gleaming above the tree tops alone indicated their presence and force.--This drew the attention of a battery placed on a high commanding ridge, and the duel began in earnest. For a time the aim of the adversary was inaccurate, but this was quickly corrected, and shot fell and shells burst thick and fast in the very midst of our battery, wounding in the course of the combat Captain Eschelman, five privates, and the horse of Lieutenant Richardson. From the position of our pieces, and the nature of the ground, their aim could only be directed at the smoke of the enemy's artillery. How skillfully and with what execution this was done, can only be realized by an eye-witness. For a few moments their guns were silenced, but were soon reopened. By direction of Gen. Longstreet, his battery was then advanced by hand out of the ranges now ascertained by the enemy, and a shower of spherical-case, shell, and round shot flew over the heads of our gunners; but one of our pieces had become hors du combat from an enlarged vent. From the new position our guns fired, as before, with ne other aim than the smoke and flash of their adversaries' pieces — renewed and urged the conflict with such signal vigor and effect that gradually the fire of the enemy slackened, the intervals between their discharges grew longer, finally to cease, and we fired a last gun at a baffled, flying toe, whose heavy masses in the distance were plainly seen to break and scatter in wild confusion and utter rout, strewing the ground with cast away guns, hats, blankets, and knapsacks, as our parting shell was thrown amongst them. In their retreat one of their pieces was abandoned, but from the nature of the ground it was not sent for that night, and under cover of darkness the enemy recovered it.

The guns engaged in this singular conflict, on our side, were three 6-pounder rifle pieces and four ordinary 6-pounders, all of Walton's battery, the Washington Artillery, of New Orleans. The officers immediately attached were Capt. Eschelman, Lieutenants C. W. Squires, Richardson.Garnett, and Whittington. At the same time our infantry held the bank of the stream in advance of our guns, and the missiles of the combatants flew to and fro above them as, cool and veteran-like, for more than an hour they steadily awaited the moment and signal for the advance.

While the conflict was at its height, before Blackburn's ford, about 4 o'clock P. M., the enemy again displayed himself in force before Bonham's position. At this, Col. Kershaw, with four companies of his regiment, Second South Carolina, and one piece of Kemper's Artillery, were thrown across Mitchell's ford to the ridge which Kemper had occupied that morning. Two solid shot and three spherical case, thrown among them with a precision inaugurated by that artillerist at Vienna, effected their discomfiture and disappearance, and our troops in that quarter were again withdrawn within our lines, having discharged the duty assigned.

At the close of the engagement before Blackburn's ford, I directed Gen. Longstreet to withdraw the 1st and 17th regiments, which had borne the brunt of the action, to a position in reserve, leaving Col. Early to occupy the field with his brigade and Garland's regiment.

As a part of the history of this engagement, I desire to place on record that on the 18th of July not one yard of entrenchments nor one rifle pit sheltered the men at Blackburn's ford, who, officers and men, with rare exceptions, were on that day for the first time under fire, and who, taking and maintaining every position ordered, cannot be too much commended for their soldierly behavior.

Our artillery was manned and officered by those who but yesterday were called from the civil avocations of a busy city. They were matched with the picked light artillery of the Federal regular army, company "E,"3d artillery, under Capt. Ayres, with an armament, as their own chief of artillery admits, of two ten-pounder Parrott rifle guns, two twelve-pounder howitzer and two six-pounder pieces, aided by two twenty pounder Parrott rifle guns of company "G,"5th artillery, under Lieut. Benjamin. Thus matched, they drove their veteran adversaries from the field, giving confidence in, and promise of, the coming efficiency of that brilliance arm of our service.

Having thus related the main or general results and events of the action of Bull Run, in conclusion it is proper to signalize some of those who contributed most to the satisfactory results of that day.

Thanks are due to Brig Generals Bonham and Ewell and to Col. Cocke, and the officers under them, for the ability shown in conducting and executing the retrograde movements on Bull Run, directed in my orders of the 8th July.--movements on which hung the fortunes of this army.

Brig. Gen. Longstreet, who commanded immediately the troops engaged at Blackburn's ford, on the 18th, equalled my confident expectations, and I may fitly say that, by his presence at the right place at the right moment among his men, by the exhibition of characteristic coolness, and by his words of encouragement to the men of his command, he inspired a confidence and spirit that contributed largely to the success of our arms on that day.

Col. Early brought his brigade into position, and subsequently into action, with judgment and at the proper moment. He displayed capacity for command and personal gallantry.

Col. Moore, commanding the First Virginia volunteers, was severely wounded at the head of his regiment, the command of which subsequently devolved upon Maj. Skinner, Lt. Col. Fry having been obliged to leave the field in consequence of a sun-stroke.
An accomplished, promising officer, Major Carter H. Harrison, Eleventh regiment Virginia volunteers, was lost to the service. While leading two companies of his regiment against the enemy, he fell, twice shot, mortally wounded.
Brigadier General Longstreet, while finding on all sides alacrity, ardor and intelligence, mentions his special obligations to Colonels Moore, Garland and Corse, commanding severally regiments of his brigade, and to their field officers, Lieut. Cols. Fry, Funsten and Munford, and Majors Brent and Skinner, of whom he says: "They displayed more coolness and energy than is usual among veterans of the old service."Gen. Longstreet also mentions the conduct of Capt. Marye, of the 17th Virginia Volunteers, as especially gallant on one occasion in advance of the ford.

The regiments of Early's brigade were commanded by Col. Harry Hays and Lieut. Cols. Williams and Hairston, who handled their commands in action with satisfactory coolness and skill, supported by their field officers, Lieut. Col. De Choisent and Major Penn, of the 7th Louisiana, and Major Patton, of the 7th Virginia Volunteers.

The skill, the conduct, and the soldierly qualities of the Washington Artillery engaged, were all that could be desired. The officers and men attached to the seven pieces already specified won for their battalion a distinction which, I feel assured, will never be tarnished, and which will ever serve to urge them and their corps to high endeavor. Lieutenant Squires worthily commanded the pieces in action. The commander of the battalion was necessarily absent from the immediate field, under orders in the apneas of his duties; but the fruits of his discipline, seal, instruction and capacity as an artillery commander, were present, and must redound to his reputation.
On the left, at Mitchell's ford, while no serious engagement occurred, the conduct of all was eminently satisfactory to the general officers in command.

It is due, however, to Colonel J. L. Kemper, Virginia forces, to express my sense of the value of his services in the preparation for and execution of the returns from Fairfax Court House on Bull Run. Called from the head of his regiment by what appeared to the an imperative need of the service, to take charge of the superior duties of the Quarter. master's Department, with the advance at that critical juncture, he accepted the responsibilities involved, and was eminently efficient.

For further information touching officers and individuals of the First Brigade, and the details of the retrograde movement, I have to refer particularly to the report of Brigadier General Bonham herewith.
It is proper here to state that while from the outset it had been determined, on the approach of the enemy in force, to fall back and fight him on the line of Bull Run; yet the position occupied by Gen. Ewell's Brigade, if necessary, could have been maintained against a largely superior force. This was especially the case with the position of the 5th Alabama Volunteers, Colonel Rodes, which that excellent officer had made capable of a resolute, protracted defence against heavy odds. Accordingly, on the morning of the 17th ultimo, when the enemy appeared before that position, they were checked and held at bay, with some confessed loss, in a skirmish in advance of the works, in which Major Morgan and Captain Shelley, 5th Regiment Alabama Volunteers, acted with intelligent gallantry; and the post was only abandoned under general but specific imperative orders, in conformity with a long conceived, established plan of action and battle.
Capt. E. P. Alexander, Confederate States Engineers, fortunately joined my headquarters in time to introduce the system of new field signals, which, under his skilful management, rendered me the most important service preceding and during the engagement.

The medical officers serving with the regiments engaged were at their proper posts, and discharged their duties with satisfactory skill and zeal; and on one occasion at least, under an annoying fire, when Surgeon Cullen, 1st Regiment Virginia Volunteers, was obliged to remove our wounded from the hospital, which had become the special target of the enemy's rifle guns, notwithstanding it was surmounted by the usual yellow hospital flag, but which, however, I hope, for the sake of past associations, was ignorantly mistaken for a Confederate flag. The name of each individual medical officer I cannot mention.

On the day of the engagement I was attended by my personal staff, Lt. S. W. Ferguson, A. D. C., and my volunteer Aides-de-Camp, Cols. Preston, Manning, Chestnut. Miles, Chisholm, and Beyward, of South Carolina, to all of whom I am greatly indebted for manifold essential services in the transmission of orders on the field, and in the preliminary arrangements for the occupation and maintenance of the line of Bull Run.
Col. Thomas Jordan, A. Adjutant General; Capt. C. H. Smith, Ass't Adjutant General; Col. S. Jones, Chief of Artillery and Ordnance; Major Cabell, Chief Quartermaster; Capt. W. H. Fowle, Chief of Subsistence Department; Surgeon Thomas H. Williams, Medical Director, and Ass't Surgeon Brodle, Medical Purveyor, of the general staff attached to the Army of the Potomac, were necessarily engaged, severally, with their responsible duties at my headquarters at Camp Pickens, which they discharged with an energy and intelligence for which I have to tender my sincere thanks.

Messrs. McLean, Wilcoxen, Kinchelos, and Brawner, citizens of this immediate vicinity, it is their due to say, have placed me and the country under great obligation for the information relative to this region, which has enabled me to avail myself of its defensive features and resources. They were found ever ready to give me their time without stint or reward.

Our casualties, in all 68 killed and wounded, were fifteen (including two reported missing) killed and fifty three wounded, several of whom have since died. The loss of the enemy can only be conjectured. It was unquestionably heavy. In the cursory examination which was made by details from Longstreet's and Early's Brigades on the 18th July, of that part of the field immediately contested, and near Blackburn's ford, some sixty four courses were found and buried, some few wounded and at least twenty prisoners were also picked up, besides 175 stands of arms, a large quantity of accoutrements and blankets, and quite 150 hats.
The effect of this day's conflict was to satisfy the enemy he could not force a passage across Bull Run in the face of our troops, and led him into the flank movement of the 21st July, and the battle of Manassas, the details of which will be related in another paper.
Herewith I have the honor to transmit the reports of the several Brigade Commanders engaged, and of the artillery. Also a map of the field of battle.

The rendition of this report, it is proper to say in conclusion, has been unavoidably delayed by the constantly-engrossing administrative duties of the commander of an army corps composed wholly of volunteers — duties vitally essential to its well being and future efficiency, and which I could not set aside or postpone on any account.
I have the honor to be, General,

Your ob't serv't,
G. T. Beauregard, Gen. Comd'g.
To Gen. S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General, C. S. A.

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