The Great Conspiracy

Soon as Ricketts gets his guns in battery, his men and horses begin to
fall, under the fire of these sharpshooters. He turns his guns upon the
Henry House,–and “literally riddles it.” Amid the moans of the
wounded, the death scream of a woman is heard! The Enemy had permitted
her to remain in her doomed house!

But the execution is not all on one side, by any means. Ricketts is in
a very hot place–the hottest, he afterward declares, that he has ever
seen in his life–and he has seen fighting before this.

The Enemy is behind the woods, at the front and right of Ricketts’s
Battery. This, with the added advantage of the natural slope of the
ground, enables him to deliver upon the brave Union artillerists a
concentrated fire, which is terribly destructive, and disables so many
of Rickett’s horses that he cannot move, if he would. Rickett’s own
guns, however, are so admirably served, that a smooth-bore battery of
the Enemy, which has been stubbornly opposing him, is driven back,
despite its heavy supports.

And Griffin’s Battery now comes rapidly up into position on the left of,
and in line with, Ricketts. For Griffin also has been ordered from the
Dogan House hill, to this new, and dangerously exposed, position.

But when Major Barry, General McDowell’s Chief of Artillery, brings him
the order, Griffin hesitates–for he has no Infantry support.

“The Fire Zouaves–[The 11th New York]–will support you,” says Barry,”
They are just ready to follow you at the double-quick!”

“Then why not let them go and get in position on the hill,” says
Griffin; “then, let Ricketts’s and my batteries come into battery
behind; and then, let them (the Zouaves) fall back?”

Griffin advises, also, as a better position for his own battery, a hill
500 yards in the rear of the Henry House hill. But advice is thrown
away. His artillery-chief is inflexible.

“I tell you,” says Griffin again, “the Fire Zouaves won’t support us.”

“They will,” replies Barry. “At any rate it is General McDowell’s order
to go there!”

That settles the business. “I will go,” responds Griffin; “but mark my
words, they will not support us!”

Griffin’s Battery, indeed, starts first, but, owing to the mistake of
one of his officers, it has to be countermarched, so that Ricketts’s is
thrown to the front, and, as we have seen, first reaches the crest of
the Henry House hill.

Griffin, as he comes up with his guns, goes into battery on the left of
Ricketts, and at once opens briskly on the Enemy. One of Griffin’s guns
has a ball lodged in the bore, which cannot be got in or out. His other
five guns, with the six guns of Ricketts, make eleven pieces, which are
now side by side-all of them driving away at the Enemy’s (Stonewall
Jackson’s) strong batteries, not more than 300 yards away.

They have been at it half an hour perhaps, when Griffin moves two of his
pieces to the right of Ricketts, and commences firing with them. He has
hardly been there five minutes, when a Rebel regiment coming out of the
woods at Griffin’s right front, gets over a rail fence, its Colonel
steps out between his regiment (now standing up to the knees in rank
grass) and the battery, and commences a speech to his men!

Griffin orders one of his officers to load with canister, and let drive
at them. The guns are loaded, and ready to fire, when up gallops Barry,
exclaiming: “Captain, don’t fire there; those are your battery-

At this supreme moment, Reynolds’s gorgeous looking Marines are sitting
down in close column, on the ground, to the left of the Union batteries.
The showy 11th New York “Fire Zouaves” are a little to the rear of the
right of the guns. The gallant 14th New York Chasseurs, in their dust-
covered red uniforms, who had followed Griffin’s Battery, at some
distance, have, only a little while since, pushed finely up, from the
ravine at the rear of our batteries, into the woods, to the right of
Griffin and Ricketts, at a double-quick. To the left of the batteries,
close to the battalion of Marines, Heintzelman bestrides his horse, near
some of his own Division.

To Major Barry’s startling declaration, Captain Griffin excitedly
shouts: “They are Confederates! Sure as the world, they are

But Barry thinks he knows better, and hastily responds: “I know they are
your battery-support.”

Griffin spurs toward his pieces, countermands his previous order, and-
firing is resumed in the old direction.

Andew Porter, has just ridden up to Heintzelman’s side, and now catches
sight of the Rebel regiment. “What troops are those?” he asks of
General Hientzelman, pointing in their direction.

While Heintzelman is replying, and just as Averell drops his reins and
levels his field-glass at them, “down come their pieces-rifles and
muskets,–and probably,” as Averell afterward said, “there never was
such a destructive fire for a few minutes. It seemed as though every
man and horse of that battery just laid right down, and died right off!”

It is a dreadful mistake that has been made. And there seems to have
been no excuse for it either. The deliberateness of the Rebel colonel
has given Barry abundant time to have discovered his error. For Griffin
subsequently declared, under oath, that, “After the officer who had been
talking to the regiment had got through, he faced them to the left,
marched them about fifty yards to the woods, then faced them to the
right again, marched them about forty yards toward us, then opened fire
upon us–and that was the last of us!”

It is a terrible blunder. For, up to this moment, the battle is
undeniably ours. And, while the Rebel colonel has been haranguing his
brave men, there has been plenty of time to have “passed the word” along
the line of our batteries, and poured canister into the Rebel regiment
from the whole line of eleven guns, at point-blank range, which must
inevitably have cut it all to pieces. The fate of the day hung balanced
right there and then–with all the chances in favor of McDowell. But
those chances are now reversed. Such are the fickle changes in the
fortunes of battle!

Instead of our batteries cutting to pieces the Rebel Infantry regiment,
the Rebel Infantry regiment has mowed down the gallant artillerists of
our batteries. Hardly a man of them escapes. Death and destruction
reap a wondrous and instant harvest. Wounded, dying, or dead, lie the
brave cannoniers at their guns, officers and men alike hors du combat,
while wounded horses gallop wildly back, with bounding caissons, down
the gentle declivity, carrying disorder, and further danger, in their
mad flight.

The supporting Fire Zouaves and Marines, on the right and left of our
line of guns, stand, with staring eyes and dumb open-mouths, at the
sudden turn of affairs. They are absolutely paralyzed with
astonishment. They do not run at first. They stand, quaking and panic-
stricken. They are urged to advance upon the Rebel regiment–“to give
them a volley, and then try the bayonet.” In vain! They fire perhaps
100 scattering shots; and receive in return, as they break and run down
the hill to the rear, volley after volley, of deadly lead, from the
Rebel muskets.

But, as this Rebel regiment (Cummings’s 33rd Virginia) advances to seize
the crippled and defenceless guns, it is checked, and driven back, by
the 1st Michigan Regiment of Willcox’s Brigade, which has pushed forward
in the woods at our extreme right.

Meanwhile, having been ordered by McDowell to support Ricketts’s
Battery, Howard has formed his four tired regiments into two lines–
Berry’s 4th Maine, and Whitney’s 2nd Vermont, on the right and left of
the first; and Dunnell’s 5th, and his own 3rd Maine, under Staples, in
the second line. Howard himself leads his first line up the elevated
plateau of the Henry House. Reaching the crest, the line delivers its
fire, volley after volley, despite the concentrated hail of the Enemy’s
Artillery and muskets. As the second line advances, a Rebel cannon-
ball, and an unfortunate charge of our own Cavalry, scatters most of the
5th Maine. The 2nd Vermont, which has advanced 200 yards beyond the
crest, rapidly firing, while the Enemy retires, is now, in turn, forced
back by the Enemy’s hot fire, and is replaced by the 3rd Maine, while
the remnant of the 5th moves up to the extreme right of Howard’s now
single line. But the Rebel fire grows hotter and hotter, and owing to
this, and a misunderstood order, Howard’s line begins to dissolve, and
then retires in confusion,–Howard and others vainly striving to rally
his own utterly exhausted men.

Sherman’s Brigade, too, has come over from our left, and now advances
upon the deadly plateau, where lie the disabled Union batteries–the
prizes, in full sight of both Armies, for which each seems now to be so
desperately striving.

Quinby’s 13th New York Rifles, in column of companies, leads the
brigade, followed by Lieutenant-Colonel Peck’s 2d Wisconsin, Cameron’s
79th New York (Highlanders), and Corcoran’s 69th New York (Irish), “in
line of battle.” Down the slope, across the ravine, and up, on the
other side, steadily presses Quinby, till he reaches the crest. He
opens fire. An advancing Rebel regiment retires, as he pushes up to
where the Union batteries and cannoniers lie wounded and dying–the
other three regiments following in line-of-battle until near the crest,
when the fire of the Enemy’s rifles and musketry, added to his heavy
cannonading, grows so severe that the brigade is forced back to shelter
in a roadway leading up the plateau.

Peck’s 2nd Wisconsin, now emerges from this sheltered roadway, and
steadily mounts the elevation, in the face of the Enemy’s severe fire-
returning it, with spirit, as it advances. But the Rebel fire becomes
too galling. The gray-clad Wisconsin boys return to the sheltered road
again, while the cry goes up from Sherman’s ranks: “Our own men are
firing at them!” Rallying at the road, the 2nd Wisconsin again returns,
with desperate courage, to the crest of the hill, delivers its fire, and
then, unable to withstand the dreadful carnage, falls back once more, in

At this, the 79th (Highland) Regiment springs forward, to mount the brow
of the fatal hill, swept as it is, with this storm of shot and shell and
musket-balls. Up, through the lowering smoke, lit with the Enemy’s
incessant discharges in the woods beyond, the brave Highlanders jauntily
march, and, with Cameron and their colors at their head, charge
impetuously across the bloody hill-crest, and still farther, to the
front. But it is not in human nature to continue that advance in the
teeth of the withering fire from Jackson’s batteries, strengthened, as
they are, by Pelham’s and Kemper’s. The gallant fellows fall back,
rally again, advance once more, retire again, and at last,–the heroic
Cameron being mortally wounded,–fall back, in confusion, under the
cover of the hill.

And now, while Quinby’s Regiment, on another ridge, more to the left, is
also again engaging the Enemy, the 69th New York, led by the fearless
Corcoran, dashes forward, up the Henry House hill, over the forbidding
brow, and beyond. As the brave Irishmen reach the abandoned batteries,
the hoarse roar of cannon, the sharp rattle of musketry-volleys, the
scream of shot and shell, and the whistling of bullets, is at once
deafening and appalling, while the air seems filled with the iron and
leaden sleet which sweeps across the scorched and blasted plateau of the
Henry House. Nobly the Irish Regiment holds its ground for a time; but,
at last, it too falls back, before the hurtling tempest.

The fortunes of the day are plainly turning against us. Time is also
against us–as it has been all along–while it is with the Enemy. It is
past 3 o’clock.

Since we last looked at Beauregard’s third new defensive line, there
have been material accessions to it. The remains of the brigades of
Bee, Evans, and Bartow, have been reformed on the right of Jackson’s
Brigade–Bee on his immediate right, Evans to the right of Bee, and
Bartow to the right of Evans, with a battery which has been engaging
Schenck’s Brigade on the other side of Bull Run near the Stone Bridge;
while Cocke’s Brigade watches Bull Run to the rear of Bartow. On the
left of Jackson’s. Brigade, is now to be seen a part of Bonham’s
Brigade (Kershaw’s 2nd South Carolina, and Cash’s 8th South Carolina)
with Kemper’s Battery on its left. Kirby Smith has reached the front,
from Manassas, and–in advancing from his position on the left of
Bonham’s demi-Brigade, just West of the Sudley road, with Elzey’s
Brigade, in a counter-attack upon our right-is wounded, and carried to
the rear, leaving his command to Elzey. Stuart’s Cavalry are in the
woods, still farther to the Enemy’s left, supporting Beckham’s Battery.
Early’s Brigade is also coming up, from Union Mills Ford, not far to the
rear of the Enemy’s left, with the design of coming into line between
Elzey’s Brigade and Beckham’s Battery, and out-flanking and attacking
our right. But let us bring our eyes back to the bloody contest, still
going on, for the possession of the batteries of Griffin and Ricketts.

Arnold’s Battery has raced up on our right, and is delivering shot,
shell, spherical case, and canister, with effect, although exposed to a
severe and accurate fire from the Enemy. Wilcox, with what is left of
the 1st Michigan, after once retaking the batteries on the plateau, from
the 7th Georgia, has got around the Enemy’s left flank and is actually
engaged with the Enemy’s rear, while that Enemy’s front is engaged with
Franklin and Sherman! But Hobart Ward’s 38th New York, which Wilcox has
ordered up to support the 1st Michigan, on our extreme right, in this
flanking movement, has been misdirected, and is now attacking the
Enemy’s centre, instead of his left; and Preston’s 28th Virginia–which,
with Withers’s 18th Virginia, has come up to the Rebel left, from
Cocke’s Brigade, on the Enemy’s right–finding the 1st Michigan broken,
in the woods, attacks it, and wounds and captures Wilcox. Withers’s
Regiment has, with a yell–the old “Rebel yell,” now rising everywhere
from Rebel throats, and so often heard afterward,–charged the 14th New
York Chasseurs, in the woods; and the Chasseurs, though retiring, have
fired upon it with such precision as to throw some of their assailants
into disorder.

[Says General Keyes, who had kept on down the Run, “on the extreme
left of our advance–having separated from Sherman on his right:–I
thought the day was won about 2 o’clock; but about half past 3
o’clock a sudden change in the firing took place, which, to my ear,
was very ominous. I knew that the moment the shout went up from
the other side, there appeared to be an instantaneous change in the
whole sound of the battle. * * * That, as far as I can learn, was
the shout that went up from the Enemy’s line when they found out
for certain that it was Johnston [Kirby Smith] and not Patterson,
that had come.”]

Meanwhile McDowell is making one more effort to retrieve the misfortunes
of the day. Lawrence’s 5th, and Clark’s 11th Massachusetts, with
Gorman’s 1st Minnesota,–all belonging to Franklin’s Brigade–together
with Corcoran’s 69th New York, of Sherman’s Brigade, have been brought
into line-of-battle, by the united efforts of Franklin, Averell, and
other officers, at our centre, and with the remnants of two or three
other regiments, are moving against the Enemy’s centre, to support the
attack of the Chasseurs-rallied and led forward again by Heintzelman
upon the Rebel left, and that of the 38th New York upon the Rebel left
centre,–in another effort to recapture the abandoned batteries.

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