The Great Conspiracy

Heintzelman’s Division is coming, up from the rear, to the Union right–
Franklin’s Brigade, made up of the 5th and 11th Massachusetts, and 1st
Minnesota, with Ricketts’s splendid battery of six 10-pounder Parrotts,
forming on the right of Andrew Porter’s Brigade and Division; while
Willcox’s demi-Brigade, with its 11th (“Fire Zouaves”) and 38th New
York–having left Arnold’s Battery of four pieces, with the 1st Michigan
as its support, posted on a hill commanding Sudley’s Ford–comes in, on
the right of Franklin, thus forming the extreme right of the advancing
Union line of attack.

As our re-enforcing brigades come up, on our right, and on our left, the
Enemy falls back, more and more discouraged and dismayed. It seems to
him, as it does to us, “as though nothing can stop us.” Jackson,
however, is now hurrying up to the relief of the flying and disordered
remnants of Bee’s, Bartow’s, and Evans’s Brigades; and these
subsequently rally, with Hampton’s Legion, upon Jackson’s strong brigade
of fresh troops, so that, on a third new line, to which they have been
driven back, they soon have–6,500 Infantry, 13 pieces of Artillery, and
Stuart’s cavalry-posted in a belt of pines which fringes the Southern
skirt of the Henry House plateau–in a line-of-battle which, with its
left resting upon the Sudley road, three-quarters of a mile South of its
intersection with the Warrenton Pike, is the irregular hypothenuse of a
right-angled triangle, formed by itself and those two intersecting
roads, to the South-East of such intersection. It is within this right-
angled triangular space that the battle, now proceeding, bids fair to
rage most fiercely.

Johnston and Beauregard, riding up from their rear, reach this new
(third) line to which the Rebel troops have been driven, about noon.
They find the brigades of Bee, Bartow, and Evans, falling back in great
disorder, and taking shelter in a wooded ravine, South of the Robinson
House and of the Warrenton Pike. Hampton’s Legion, which has just been
driven backward over the Pike, with great loss, still holds the Robinson
House. Jackson, however, has reached the front of this line of defense,
with his brigade of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Virginia Infantry,
and Pendleton’s Battery–all of which have been well rested, since their
arrival, with other brigades of Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah, from
Winchester, a day or two back.

As Jackson comes up, on the left of “the ravine and woods occupied by
the mingled remnants of Bee’s, Bartow’s and Evans’s commands,” he posts
Imboden’s, Stanard’s, and Pendleton’s Batteries in line, “below the brim
of the Henry House plateau,” perhaps one-eighth of a mile to the East-
Southeastward of the Henry House, at his centre; Preston’s 4th Virginia,
and Echol’s 27th Virginia, at the rear of the battery-line; Harper’s 5th
Virginia, with Radford’s Cavalry, at its right; and, on its left,
Allen’s 2nd Virginia; with Cumming’s 33rd Virginia to the left of that
again, and Stuart’s Cavalry covering the Rebel left flank.

It is about this time that the chief Rebel generals find their position
so desperate, as to necessitate extraordinary measures, and personal
exposure, on their part. Now it is, that Jackson earns the famous
sobriquet which sticks to him until he dies.
[Bee approaches Jackson–so goes the story, according to Swinton;
he points to the disordered remnants of his own brigade mingled
with those of the brigades of Bartow and Evans huddled together in
the woods, and exclaims: “General, they are beating us back!”
“Sir,” responds Jackson, drawing himself up, severely, “We’ll give
them the bayonet!” And Bee, rushing back among his confused troops,
rallies them with the cry: “There is Jackson, standing like a Stone
wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer.”]

Now it is, that Johnston and Beauregard, accompanied by their staffs,
ride backward and forward among the Rebel ranks, rallying and
encouraging them. Now it is, that, Bee and Bartow and Hampton being
wounded, and the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Hampton Legion killed,
Beauregard leads a gallant charge of that legion in person. And now it
is, that Johnston himself, finding all the field-officers of the 4th
Alabama disabled, “impressively and gallantly charges to the front” with
the colors of that regiment at his side!

These conspicuous examples of bravery, inspire the Rebel troops with
fresh courage, at this admittedly “critical” moment.

Johnston now assigns to Beauregard the chief “command of the left” of
the Bull Run line,–that is to say, the chief command of the Enemy’s new
line of defense, which, as we have seen, is on the left of, and at right
angles to, the old Bull Run line–while he himself, riding back to the
Lewis House, resumes “the command of the whole field.”

On his way to his rear, Johnston orders Cocke to send reenforcements to
Beauregard. He also dispatches orders to hurry up to that Rebel
general’s support, the brigades of Holmes and Early from near the Union
Mills Ford, and that of Bonham from Mitchell’s Ford,–Ewell with his
brigade, being also directed to “follow with all speed” from Union
Mills Ford-making a total of over 10,000 fresh troops.

From the “commanding elevation” of the Lewis House, Johnston can observe
the position of the Union forces beyond Bull Run, at Blackburn’s Ford
and Stone Bridge; the coming of his own re-enforcing brigades from far
down the valley, toward Manassas; and the manoeuvres of our advancing
columns under McDowell.

As the battle proceeds, the Enemy’s strength on the third new line of
defense increases, until he has 22 guns, 260 Cavalry, and 12 regiments
of Infantry, now engaged. It is interesting to observe also, that, of
these, 16 of the guns, 9 of the regiments, and all of the Cavalry
(Stuart’s), belong to Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah, while only 6
guns and 3 Infantry regiments thus engaged, belong to Beauregard’s Army
of the Potomac. Thus the burden of the battle has been, and is being,
borne by Johnston’s, and not Beauregard’s troops–in the proportion of
about three of the former, to one of the latter,–which, for over two
hours, maintain their position despite many successive assaults we make
upon them.

It is after 2 o’clock P.M., when Howard’s Brigade, of Heintzelman’s
Division, reaches the battle-field, almost broken down with exhaustion.
By order of Heintzelman it has moved at double-quick for a mile of the
way, until, under the broiling heat, it can do so no longer. The last
two miles of the weary tramp, while the head of the brigade has moved at
quick time, the rear, having lost distances, moves, much of the time, at
a double-quick. As a consequence, many of Howard’s men drop out, and
absolutely faint from exhaustion.

As Howard’s Brigade approaches the field, besides the ambulances and
litters, conveying to the rear the wounded and dying, crowds of
retreating stragglers meet and tell it to hurry along; that the Enemy
has been driven back a mile; but, as it marches along, its regiments do
not feel particularly encouraged by the disorganization so prevalent;
and the fact that as they come into action, the thunders of the Rebel
Artillery do not seem to meet an adequately voluminous response–from
the Union side, seems to them, a portent of evil. Weary and fagged out,
they are permitted to rest, for a while, under cover.

Up to this time, our line, increased, as it has been, by the brigades of
Sherman and Keyes, on the left of Burnside, and of Franklin and Wilcox,
on the right of Porter, has continued to advance victoriously. Our
troops are, to be sure, considerably scattered, having been “moved from
point to point” a good deal. On our left, the Enemy has been driven
back nearly a mile, and Keyes’s Brigade is pushing down Bull Run, under
shelter of the bluffs, trying to turn the right of the Enemy’s new line,
and give Schenck’s Brigade a better chance for crossing the Stone
Bridge, still commanded by some of the Rebel guns.

Having “nothing to do” there, “several of the Union regiments” are
coming over, from our left toward our right, with a view of overlapping,
and turning, the Enemy’s left.

It is about half past 2 o’clock. The batteries of Griffin and Ricketts
have already been advanced as far as the eminence, upon our right, upon
which stands the Dogan House. Supported by Lyons’s gallant 14th New
York Chasseurs, Griffin’s and Ricketts’s Batteries are still pouring a
terribly destructive fire into the batteries and columns of the Enemy,
now behind the brow of the Henry House hill, wherever exposed, while
Palmer’s seven companies of Union Cavalry are feeling the Enemy’s left
flank, which McDowell proposes to turn. The flags of eight Union
regiments, though “borne somewhat wearily” now point toward the hilly
Henry House plateau, beyond which “disordered masses of Rebels” have
been seen “hastily retiring.”

There is a lull in the battle. The terrible heat is exhausting to the
combatants on both sides. Griffin and Ricketts have wrought such havoc
with their guns, that “nothing remains to be fired at.” Victory seems
most surely to be ours.

Away down at his headquarters at the Lewis House, the Rebel General
Johnston stands watching the progress of the battle, as it goes against
him. Nervously he glances, every now and then, over his left shoulder,
as if expecting something. An officer is galloping toward him, from
Manassas. He comes from the office of Beauregard’s Adjutant-General, at
that point. He rides up and salutes. “General,” says he, breathlessly,
“a United States Army has reached the line of the Manassas Gap railroad,
and is now but three or four miles from our left flank!”

Johnston clenches his teeth nervously. Thick beads of perspiration
start from his forehead. He believes it is Patterson’s Army that has
followed “upon his heels” from before Winchester, faster than has been
anticipated; and, as he thinks of Kirby Smith, who should long since
have arrived with Elzey’s Brigade–all, of his own “Army of the
Shenandoah,” that has not yet followed him to Manassas,–the exclamation
involuntarily bursts from his lips: “Oh, for four regiments!”

[Says a correspondent and eye-witness of the battle, writing to the
Richmond Dispatch, from the battle-field, July 23d: “Between two
and three o’clock large numbers of men were leaving the field, some
of them wounded, others exhausted by the long struggle, who gave us
gloomy reports; but, as the firing on both sides continued
steadily, we felt sure that our brave Southerners had not been
conquered by the overwhelming hordes of the North. It is, however,
due to truth to say that the result at this hour hung trembling in
the balance. We had lost numbers of our most distinguished
officers. Gens. Barlow and Bee had been stricken down; Lieut; Col.
Johnson of the Hampton Legion had been killed; Col. Hampton had
been wounded. But there was at hand a fearless general whose
reputation was staked on this battle: Gen. Beauregard promptly
offered to lead the Hampton Legion into action, which he executed
in a style unsurpassed and unsurpassable. Gen. Beauregard rode up
and down our lines, between the Enemy and his own men, regardless
of the heavy fire, cheering and encouraging our troops. About this
time, a shell struck his horse, taking its head off, and killing
the horses of his aides, Messrs. Ferguson and Hayward. * * * Gen.
Johnston also threw himself into the thickest of the fight, seizing
the colors of a Georgia (Alabama) regiment, and rallying then to
the charge. * * * Your correspondent heard Gen. Johnston exclaim
to Gen. Cocke, just at the critical moment, ‘Oh, for four
regiments!’ His wish was answered; for in the distance our re-
enforcements appeared. The tide of battle was turned in our favor
by the arrival of Gen. Kirby Smith, from Winchester, with 4,000 men
of Gen. Johnston’s Division. Gen. Smith heard, while on the
Manassas Railroad cars, the roar of battle. He stopped the train,
and hurried his troops across the fields to the point just where he
was most needed. They were at first supposed to be the Enemy,
their arrival at that point of the field being entirely unexpected.
The Enemy fell back, and a panic seized them. Cheer after cheer
from our men went up, and we knew the battle had been won.”

Another Rebel correspondent who, as an officer of the Kentucky
battalion of General Johnston’s Division of the Rebel Army,
participated in the battle, wrote to the Louisville Courier from
Manassas, July 22, an account of it, in which, after mentioning
that the Rebel Army had been forced back for two miles, he
continues; “The fortunes of the day were evidently against us.
Some of our best officers had been slain, and the flower of our
Army lay strewn upon the field, ghastly in death or gaping with
wounds. At noon, the cannonading is described as terrific. It was
an incessant roar for more than two hours, the havoc and
devastation at this time being fear ful. McDowell * * * had nearly
outflanked us, and they were just in the act of possessing
themselves of the Railway to Richmond. Then all would have been
lost. But most opportunely–I may say Providentially–at this
juncture, Gen. Johnston, [Kirby Smith it should be] with the
remnant of Johnston’s Division–our Army, as we fondly call it, for
we have been friends and brothers in camp and field for three
months–reappeared, and made one other desperate struggle to obtain
the vantage-ground. Elzey’s Brigade of Marylanders and Virginians
led the charge; and right manfully did they execute the work,”]

“The prayer of the wicked availeth not,” ’tis said; yet never was the
prayer of the righteous more quickly answered than is that of the Rebel
General-in-chief! Johnston himself, alluding to this exigent moment,
afterward remarks, in his report: “The expected reenforcements appeared
soon after.” Instead of Patterson’s Union Army, it is Kirby Smith,
coming up, with Elzey’s Brigade, from Winchester!

Satisfied of the safe arrival of Kirby Smith, and ordering him up, with
Elzey’s Brigade, Johnston directs Kershaw’s 2nd and Cash’s 8th South
Carolina Regiments, which have just come up, with Kemper’s Battery, from
Bonham’s Brigade, to strengthen the Rebel left, against the attempt
which we are still making to reach around it, about the Sudley road, to
take it in reverse. Fisher’s 6th North Carolina Regiment arriving about
the same time, is also hurried along to help Beauregard.

But during the victorious lull, heretofore alluded to, something is
happening on our side, that is of very serious moment. Let us see what
it is:

The batteries of Griffin and Ricketts, at the Dogan House, having
nothing to fire at, as we have seen, are resting, pleased with the
consciousness of their brilliant and victorious service against the
Rebel batteries and Infantry columns, when they are ordered by McDowell
–who, with his staff, is upon elevated ground to the rear of our
right,–to advance 1,000 yards further to the front, “upon a hill near
the Henry House.”

Ricketts considers this a perilous job–but proceeds to execute the
order as to his own battery. A small ravine is in his front. With
Ricketts gallantly leading, the battery dashes across the ravine at full
gallop, breaking one wheel as it goes, which is at once replaced. A
fence lies across the way. The cannoniers demolish it. The battery
ascends the hill near the Henry House, which is full of the Enemy’s
sharpshooters.

[For this, and what immediately follows, see the testimony of
Ricketts and others, before the Committee on the Conduct of the
War.]

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