Saturday, August 18, 2012

150-years-ago -- The Second Battle of Manassas

Click on map to enlarge. (National Park  Service map)

Summary of Battle  from National Park Service
           In order to draw Pope’s army into battle, (Stonewall) Jackson ordered an attack on a Federal column that was passing across his front on the Warrenton Turnpike on August 28. The fighting at Brawner Farm lasted several hours and resulted in a stalemate. Pope became convinced that he had trapped Jackson and concentrated the bulk of his army against him. On August 29, Pope launched a series of assaults against Jackson’s position along an unfinished railroad grade. The attacks were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. At noon, Longstreet arrived on the field from Thoroughfare Gap and took position on Jackson’s right flank. On August 30, Pope renewed his attacks, seemingly unaware that Longstreet was on the field. When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by Fitz John Porter’s command, Longstreet’s wing of 28,000 men counterattacked in the largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war. The Union left flank was crushed and the army driven back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rearguard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster. Pope’s retreat to Centreville was precipitous, nonetheless. The next day, Lee ordered his army in pursuit. This was the decisive battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign.

General Stonewall Jackson at First Manassas. He also played a pivotal role at Second
Manassas. (Library of Congress)

[Excerpt from "Lee's Foreign Legion: A History of the 10th Louisiana Infantry" by Thomas Walter Brooks and Michael Dan Jones, Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada, 1995]
Sgt. Joseph C. LeBleu of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Colorbearer of the 10th Louisiana Infantry.
(Courtesy of  Dan Jones)
          The 10th Louisiana, with the 2nd Louisiana Brigade under General William Starke,  arrived at Manassas Junction on the 26th of August. Henry Monier of Company "I" recorded his thoughts:
           "Commissary stores exceedingly plentiful here and could be obtained by the  car load. Anyone who wanted clothing and something to eat had only to open a box, a case, or a barrel and help himself ...."
           Late in the afternoon on August 28th, a Union brigade supported by artillery, was spotted marching up the Warrenton Turnpike from the direction of Washington and heading in the direction of  Manassas. . . . Jackson ordered 6,000 men in all, to advance. One of the brigades ordered forward was William Starke's 2nd Louisiana Brigade.With it went the 10th Reigment from New Orleans. . . . It was a stand up fight with opposing lines  closing to within 75 yards of  each other. For an hour and a half, in the rapidly dimming daylight, volley  after volley was traded. The 76th New York came up in support of their beleaguered comrades of the Iron Brigade. The Federals gave as good as they got, and only slowly were they pushed back. Complete darkness brought a halt to the fighting. Under the cover of night, Pope rushed up the rest of his army. Lee did the same. Unbeknownst to Pope, Longstreet was soon to be close at hand.
           The dawn of August 29th found Company "K" of the 10th, Captain Perrodin's company, thrown well forward of the Confederate line of skirmishers. The company fell back rapidly as the Federals came on in strength. . . . The 10th  Louisiana was ordered to drive the enemy back. The men of the 10th did so, at the point of the bayonet, charging into the Union's reserve position of  the 3rd West Virginia Infantry, and the 5th and 6th New Jersey Infantry on their own impulse. The Louisianians were themselves pushed back. . . .
           On the morning of  August 30th, the 10th Louisiana was back in the railway cut with it's brigade, and indeed, with the whole of Jackson's wing. Jackson's command was ordered to hold the position at all hazards.
          Captain Henry Monier of the 10th Louisiana, writing in his journal after the event, described it thusly:
          "So  desperate was the day's fight that at one time the Confederate and Yankee standards were 20 feet apart. The ammunition gave out It was here that the Louisianians laid down their muskets and drove back the Federals with rocks. At this moment Barksdale's (Mississippi) troops came up and hastened their flight." . . .
          On the 30th, Pope continued to press his futile attacks against Jackson's position until, at about the hour of noon, Longstreet's thousands hit the Federal exposed left flank, and swept away all whom  stood before them. Pope's Army of Virginia was now in shables. . . . (Pages 31-32)

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