The anniversary of the battle of Second Manassas, or 2nd Bull Run as it is also called, is here and I wanted to comment on it.
In August, 2008, I sold a ‘human-interest’ article to Weider History Group, to be published in one of their Civil War magazines. It is the story of 3 young boys who tented together during Major General John Pope’s summer campaign of 1862 which culminated in the 2nd battle of Bull Run. Recently I inquired if the article had acquired a publication date and was told it had not. The editors were still seeking a feature article to run it with, either about the battle itself, or about teen soldiers. The publishers want to show off my article in its best light. I agree with their decision although I’m disappointed in the publication delay.
I’m of the impression this bloody campaign of the Civil War is given less attention by scholars, in part because it was overshadowed by the much more historically significant action at Antietam 2 ½ weeks later. But one historian, John J. Hennessy, in his masterful book, ‘Return to Bull Run’, relates in a gripping narrative why this campaign is historically important. I highly recommend it to those interested in learning more about the campaign.
It was newly appointed Confederate Commander in Chief, General R.E. Lee’s first daring plan. In its execution Lee discovered his subordinate generals’ strengths and weaknesses. Its unqualified success inspired the invasion into Maryland. On the other side, the campaign demonstrated the tenacity of Union soldiers, who with no confidence in their leaders, still bravely and faithfully obeyed orders and charged into battles that proved as ferocious as any in the war. The fight is full of tragedy and heroism inherent in any battle; - the iron brigades tenacious fight against Stonewall Jackson’s surprise attack at Brawner Farm August 28; exhausted Confederates throwing rocks at the advancing Yankees at the railroad cut August 30th; and, Confederate General Longstreet’s sweeping corps attack upon Pope’s left flank at Chinn Ridge the afternoon of August 30th.
This is one of the focal points of my Civil War research because it was the first major engagement in which the soldiers of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers played an active part, and, because my Great-Great Grandfather William Henry Forbush was there.
To set the stage, it was late August 1862. In two days time Confederate General Stonewall Jackson had made a remarkable 50 mile flanking march around General Pope’s army, screened by the Bull Run mountains of the Shenandoah Valley, destroyed the railroad at Catlett’s station cutting off Pope’s supply line, and ransacked Pope’s supply base at Manassas in a daring surprise attack. After feasting on Pope’s captured rations Jackson led his men away in 3 columns to rendezvous along a railroad cut near Grovetown, site of the old Bull Run Battlefield; fought the previous year in July 1861. Initially caught off guard, General Pope soon saw this as an opportunity to gather his scattered forces at Manassas and destroy Jackson’s lone army before Lee could re-connect with it. By August 29th the armies of Pope and Jackson were fighting it out along the railroad cut Jackson had selected as the best place to await the arrival of General Lee’s army. Jackson chose wisely of course, and beat back every attack that Pope directed against him.
On August 30th Pope (pictured) continued to believe he could capture Jackson’s whole force. What he didn’t acknowledge, - though warned by his subordinate Generals, John Reynolds, Fitzjohn Porter, and Franz Sigel, was that a large body of Confederates had arrived on the scene and made a junction with Jackson. It was General Lee and General Longstreet, coolly poised on Pope’s left flank awaiting an opportunity to strike. That opportunity came about 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon of August 30th when General Pope removed even more troops from his scantily defended left flank, so as to make yet another strike at Jackson. This left only 2,200 Union soldiers between Longstreet’s 25,000 men and their objective; the high ground of the battlefield, Henry Hill, two miles distant, in the rear of Pope’s lines. If a Confederate force could get there before dark, they would encircle, capture and destroy Pope’s entire army. At about 4 p.m. Longstreeet’s entire corps stepped off to attack.
Directly in front of Henry Hill, Longstreet’s objective, was Chinn Ridge, held by 1,200 Ohioans; (4 regiments) with six cannon, commanded by Colonel Nathan McLean. About 800 yards in front of them due west, were another 1,000 men in Col. G.K. Warren’s New York brigade. That was all that stood in the way of Longstreet. Warren’s men were not so much strategically deployed as they were placed to protect a Union battery nearby. Six companies of the 10th New York deployed as skirmishers were the first to learn of Longstreet’s attack as Confederate General John Hood’s Texas brigade swept them from the piece of woods they had occupied. On a little rise of ground facing the woods, five hundred men of the 5th NY Zouaves heard the shots and came to attention. They could not yet fire at the enemy, still unseen in the woods, because the retreating skirmishers of the 10th New York were re-forming their line in the little hollow between the woods and the hill, directly in front of the Zouaves. Realizing the situation Colonel Warren desperately tried to clear the men out of the way but by the time they had moved the Texans had reached the edge of the woods and fired. They sent out a deadly volley that dropped at least 100 of the 5th New York Zouaves in 2 minutes. After a short futile stand the Zouaves retreated off the small rise of ground toward Henry Hill. The Texans gained the hill and massacred the retreating Union soldiers. Three hundred men of this one regiment were shot. When the 5th NY re-formed on Henry Hill, Colonel Warren could only muster 60 men. It was about 4:45 p.m. On Chinn Ridge Nathanial McLean watched and waited with his 1200 Ohioans. When would re-enforcements come?
Hood’s Texans were joined by Evans Confederate Brigade. They attacked McLean’s 4 Ohio regiments, while 3 more Confederate brigades (at least 4 regiments each) approached from the south and west. For about ½ an hour McLean’s brigade battled it out alone on Chinn Ridge.
The first of General Pope’s commanders to realize what was happening was General Irvin McDowell. He knew re-enforcements must be sent to Chinn Ridge immediately to support McLean. He knew they had to be the closest troops available. He knew if they failed the Union army would be surrounded. The closest troops were the two brigades of General Zealous Tower and Col. John W. Styles. The 13 Mass were with Styles. Though they were not aware of the purpose of their charge, these troops were ordered onto the ridge to delay the Confederate attack in order to buy time for General Pope to disengage his troops from the enemy on the right, and reform his lines on the high ground of Henry Hill, - before Longstreet got there.
Styles was just filling in as brigade commander. Brigadier General George Lucas Hartsuff, a very capable officer had been so worn down from the difficult marches and skirmishes of the prior week his surgeon forced him to the hospital. A flaring up of old wounds received in the Seminole wars, more than 10 years earlier, had incapacitated him. General Tower led his own brigade up the ridge to deploy first, temporarily leaving Styles behind. All was confusion on the ridge. McLean’s men were being attacked from two sides, with 3 more Confederate brigades about to join the fight. McLean’s line broke near 5:15 or 5:30 p.m., just as Tower’s men formed their lines. The six Union cannon were also leaving the field to save their guns; they plowed through the ranks of the newly arrived infantry. Meanwhile, a battery accompanying Tower deployed to the right a few hundred yards from the enemy. While the 13th Mass., in Styles brigade, waited on the sidelines and watched, General McDowell himself rode up. Cursing in anger to see them standing idly by, he personally led them up onto Chinn Ridge. The thin Union line was attacked from three sides now. The men were jumbled up on the ridge, unable to see because of the smoke from the rifles. They deployed as best they could. Shells burst overhead with bits of railroad iron flying through the air. Major Jacob Parker Gould commanded the 13th Mass troops.
Colonel Leonard, of the 13th Mass was away from the regiment, down with Rheumatism at Washington. He had been commanding from an ambulance up until Saturday morning, the day of the battle. Lt. Colonel Batchelder, who was not ill, accompanied Leonard to Washington. Major Gould alone commanded the regiment. Gould was from a prominent family in Stoneham, Mass., and a graduate of Norwich Military Academy in Vermont. Perhaps because he was not from Boston his position as major was unpopular with the other officers. Described as a little slow and nervous, he kept to himself, confident in his own abilities. He proved his mettle this day, (and again two weeks later at Antietam), shouting encouragement to his men on the front lines of battle.
John B. Noyes of Company B wrote “Many officers were not in the fight, and many others did not encourage the men, and keep them in line, as they should have done, but still most of us fired from six to ten shots before we were compelled to fall back before fearful odds.” The entire stand lasted 20 – 30 minutes. Hennessy claims it would have been a futile stand if more re-enforcements hadn’t come up just in time. The second wave of Union re-enforcements came to Chinn Ridge just as Tower’s two brigades were falling back. They were troops from General Sigel’s corps that McDowell had rushed to the scene. The Confederate onslaught continued to gain ground, and the Yankees were steadily pushed off the ridge. But, before the action ended, the retreating Federals had accomplished their primary objective; General Pope bought the time he needed to reform his lines on Henry Hill and stop the Confederate advance. The army was saved.
Thirty eight men of the 13th Mass were killed or died of their wounds on the ridge. (approximately 500 from the regiment joined the battle). Warren Freeman of Company A wrote: “Major Gould had made an official report of the loss in our regiment. The whole number of killed, wounded, and missing is 189 men.” This number was revised upward as time passed. For the wounded the ordeal was not over. Because the victorious Confederate Army held the battle-ground, the wounded men of the Union army would languish a week on the battlefield, without food; in the cold and rain; without care for their wounds. Many died during that week The battle was fought on a Saturday. It was not until the following Saturday that Federal Ambulances arrived to carry those that could survive the trip, to the hospitals in Washington 40 miles away.
Politics played a large part in this campaign which was so disastrous for the Union troops. General George McClellan had just been defeated before Richmond on the Peninsular. He saw General John Pope as a rival and threat to his command. For weeks when ordered to re-enforce Pope’s little army McClellan stalled, and when he did comply, he sent the re-enforcements at a snail’s pace hoping Pope’s army would fail; then the country would have no recourse but to call on McClellan again. Pope himself was blinded by his personal ambition to bag Stonewall Jackson’s army and made egregious tactical errors. He ignored reports from his subordinates that Lee and Longstreet had linked up with Jackson on the 29th of August and chose instead to interpret events as he desired them to be. In fact, John Hennessy suggests General Pope did not have to fight at Bull Run at all. He could have moved his army back toward the defences of Washington D.C., and linked his army up with McClellan’s. Pope’s primary objective was to protect Washington. That is why his little army of Virginia was organized.
President Lincoln was not without blame. He was angry with McClellan. Gen. Pope blamed his defeat on McClellan’s ally and friend Gen. Fitz-john Porter, whose Corps was sent from Washington to assist Pope at Manassas. Pope claimed Porter failed to attack when ordered to do so. General Pope’s defeat was his own fault, but President Lincoln went along with Pope and prosecuted Gen. Fitz-john Porter in order to strike a blow against McClellan. Porter was kicked out of the army and spent most of the rest of his life trying to clear his name. He eventually succeeded. Even President Grant apologized to Porter for not reviewing the case during his two administrations. General Fitz-John Porter, pictured.
The campaign demolished the morale of the Union Soldiers. Sergeant Austin C. Stearns, of Company K, 13th Mass, (the same company as William Henry Forbush) summed it up succinctly when he wrote in his memoirs :
“The men had no relish to be taken in and slaughtered by detail because one officer did not like the other. Men in our command Hurrahed for the Southern Confederacy and said, “If this is the way we are to be used, lets go home and give the South what they want.”
He concluded the chapter in his memoirs about the battle :
“The life of a private soldier was not of much account with some of the officers. “Save the life of a mule for they cost money, but let the soldier be killed for he costs nothing.” “two mules and another soldier killed,” said another.”
My G. G. Grandfather, William Henry Forbush was wounded in the left hand at this engagement. He survived the war serving out his 3 year term of enlistment with the 3rd US Artillery. Needless to say, if he had been killed none of his descendants would be alive today.
William Henry Forbush pictured, joined the Westboro Rifles in April, 1861 just before his 18th birthday.
The 40 men listed killed from the rosters of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry are listed below. I have added information about the soldier when available.
Action at Thoroughfare Gap, Aug. 28, 1862:
Daniel R. Jackson; age 18, Roxbury, Co. E
George Clarke; age 18, Co. E
Of this engagement, Private John B. Noyes of Company B, wrote: “As we were right upon the mill a deadly fire from miscreants in the mill and wooded sides of the mountain opened upon us. Two men fell dead, one almost beside me, and several were wounded.”
George Hill wrote: “Col. Leonard said he wanted his skirmishers to go up first and find out how the enemy was situated. Gen. Ricketts insisted upon our going however and so we pushed on. There was a large mill which we had to pass and just as the right of our company was opposite to it the rebels opened fire upon us from it. Strange to say no one from our company was hit but two of Co E’s boys who had lagged behind and who were just in front of me were shot dead. We kept on however and sought shelter behind a stone wall about 50 yards from the Mill.”
Manassas, Aug. 30:
Paul E Fielder; age 24, born Anaberg, Germany, Corporal, Co. A, KIA
Fielder could be the man mentioned in George Paine’s memoirs when he wrote: “ My left hand mate whirled, shot through the shoulder, F. went down with a bullet through the face.” … “S. was swearing “like mad,” shot through the thigh. A man I did not recognize dropped just in front. I heard the bullets chug into his body; it seemed half a dozen struck him. I shall never forget the look on his face as he turned over and died.”
Albert S. Estes; age 24, private Co. A, KIA
Henry A. Holden; age 19 Co. A.
Warren H. Freeman of Company A wrote in a letter dated March 11, 1864 : “It is very strange, as well as painful, to see how little is thought of death in the army; it is rarely alluded to. I remember one of our boys, - he was in the same mess with me; he used to speak about some statistics of other wars, how many pounds of lead and iron it took to kill a man, and how few were killed in proportion to the number engaged, and what a good chance there was to get off whole, - his name was Henry Holden, and he was the first man killed in my company at Bull Run.”
Sam Webster of Co. D wrote in his diary: “The left wing dashed forward a hundred yards or so before the right got the order. Then they went also. My gun proving not good, I stopped and got that of Harry Holden of Co. A, who was wounded, and lying on the field, and followed them up.”
William R. Porter; age 20, priv. Co. A, mustered out Dec. 9, ’61; commissioned 1st Lt. 11th Mass., KIA (according to the roster Porter, a former member of the 13th was serving with the 11th Mass. I don’t know why his death is listed here.)
Loring Bigelow; age 22, Corporal, Co. B, died of wounds October 18th 1862.
John B. Noyes of Co. B wrote:
“Corp. Bigelow, Beaumont, Blanchard run over by a rebel regiment, but after remaining two hours in the field, walked into our lines. Very severe wound.”
Capt. Cary of Co. B wrote Bigelow was wounded on the ankle.
From Bigelow’s Funeral from The Dedham, Mass. Gazette; Nov. 1st: -The services at the church were conducted by the pastor, Rev. Mr. Wells, Asst. by Rev. N. D. Gaylord, the Chaplain of the 13th Regiment. The speaker referred to the integrity of the deceased, his affectionate disposition and his sense of duty to his country, which caused him to forsake the comforts of a good home and bright prospects for the trials, privations and fatigues of the soldier. Corporal Bigelow died at Fairfax Seminary Hospital, on the 18th inst., from the effects of wounds received in the battle of Bull Run, on the 30th of August last. His remains were interred in the old burial ground opposite the stone church. He was twenty-three years and ten months old.
Charles B. Mills; age 18, (17?) provision-dealer, priv. Co. B, KIA.
Mills & Albert Curtis were friends. When Mills was shot in the knees by an enemy volley, Curtis rushed to his aid. Curtis was shot in the temple while giving comfort to Mills. They died in each others arms.
Albert O. Curtis; age 19, Boston, clerk, priv. Co. B, KIA, shot in the temple while giving aid to his fallen friend Charles B. Mills.
George H. Hill of Company B wrote to his father following the battle: “Three of our company was killed 14 wounded and 10 we do not know what became of them. One of the killed Charley Mills was an only child his father keeps a provision store under Boylston Market. Another Albert O. Curtis was our bugler and a good boy he was, and the other was married, Williams, he was also a favorite of the company.”
Jacob H. Littlefield; age 19, born Boston, teamster, priv. Co. B, died of wounds Nov. 19th.
Henry S. Sanborn, age 22, b. Wakefield NH, shipper, private Co. B, KIA
Frederick A. Williams, age 24, born Suffolk, Ma. Clerk, private Co. B, KIA.
Lyman H. Low of Company A, recalled in a 1911 letter: “Among the very first to fall was a comrade directly in front of me. I saw a piece of his scalp drop from the back of his head; he went down in a heap, and as his face came into view it showed that the fatal bullet had entered the center of his forehead. He was bathed in blood, which rose high from his wound, falling back over his face. I was never able to ascertain who it was, though I have always thought it might have been Fred Williams, who was killed in the battle, and stood beside me when the fighting began.”
Also see George Hill’s comment for Albert O. Curtis above.
Charles T. Linfield, age 21, born S. Weymouth, conductor, priv. Co. B; joined the regiment August 8th 1862, died of wounds Aug. 30th.
Warren A. Blanchard; age 23, priv. Co. C, KIA
Elias H. Bennet, age 20, priv. Co. C, KIA
Frederick A Dickenson, age 23, b. Deerfield, Mass. clerk, private Co. C, KIA
John E. Keith, age 19, b. Brooklyn, NY, draughtsman, private, Co. C, died Nov. 2nd, 1862 from wounds rec’d at Manassas, Aug. 30.
John Mitchell; age 22, born Edinburgh, Scotland, priv. Co. C. KIA
Charles E. Page; pianoforte; age 29; priv. Co. C; Charles Edward Page, KIA;
“His comrades latter reported his wound was in his neck and when last seen he was attempting to stop the bleeding with gun cotton, sitting on the ground with his back against a stone wall.”
William D. Dorey, age 21; born Boston, stevedore; mustered in as private, Co. D, August 9, 1862; wounded at Manassas, Aug. 30, 1862, and died of his wounds, Oct. 2 following, at Philadelphia.
John E. Dowling, age 22, b. Boston, clerk, private Co. D, missing since Aug. 30, 1862; probably killed.
Sam Webster of Company D wrote in his diary, Aug. 31st : “We fear Morris and Jack Dowling have gone up, but can’t tell. The whole army is completely done up, scattered, and played out. (Note after. …Total loss of the regiment supposed to be 193 killed , wounded and missing.)
Picture of Chinn Ridge near where the 13th Mass fought. Manassas National Battlefield.
Albert Hazeltine; age 24 Co. D; died of wounds Nov. 15.
Edwin F. Morris, age 19, clerk, priv. Co. D, KIA.
(see Sam Webster’s comment for John Dowling above.)
Chauncy L. Peck; age 33, priv. Co. D; a Mexican War veteran. KIA
Sam Webster, Co. D wrote in his diary: “Find Peck and others to be killed, among them some of the late recruits.”
Ira Bowman; age 32, silversmith, priv. Co. D, died of wounds Oct. 6th.
Edwin N. Welch, age 25, Marlboro, Mass. carpenter, private Co. F, died of wounds rec’d Aug. 30th.
Hollis L. Johnson, age 23, b. Berlin, Mass. shoemaker, private Co. F, KIA
Washington I. Lothrop, age 23, b. Weymouth, shoemaker, private Co. F, KIA
William H. Baker; age 20, student, private Co. H, joined the regiment as a recruit Aug. 5th 1862. Killed August 30th, 1862.
Charles H. Coggins; age 26, b. Natick, Ma. Shoemaker, priv. Co. H, KIA
George R. Markham; age 19, Boston, Shoemaker, priv. Co. H; joined the regiment Feb. 24, 1862; KIA
Alfred G. Howe; age 36, of Marlboro, Sergt. Co. I, KIA Aug. 30th.
George F. D. Paine of Company A recalled in an article he wrote on the battle: "Our boys dropped like tenpins before an expert player. Ten feet to my left the tall sergeant of company F sank down in a heap, shot squarely through the head. I saw the brain ooze out.” Sergeants Alfred G. Howe & Frank J. Wood, both of Company 'I' died this day in battle. No sergeants of Co. F were killed this day. Company I and Company F were both raised in Marlboro, Mass. and I think frequently confused. I’m guessing Paine is referring to the death of Sergeant Howe or Sgt. Wood.
Franklin J. Wood, age 21, b. Northboro, Sergeant., Company I, KIA. (see comment for Alfred G. Howe above).
Edward E. Bond; age 17, farmer, priv. Co. I, KIA
Isaac B. Crowell; age 20, b. Yarmouth, Mass. printer, private Co. I, KIA
Peter Flynn; age 26, b. Ireland, shoemaker, private Co. I, KIA.
William H. P. Christopher; age 19, born Brookfield, N.S. clerk, mustered in as private Company I, July 21, ’62; died Sept 18th, 1862 from wounds rec’d at Manassas.
Thomas Copeland; age 18, born Ireland, laborer, priv. Co. K, mustered in July 16, 1861. KIA
Austin Stearns of Company K wrote: “K had only two men killed, and their bodies were left on the field – Thomas Copeland and Hollis Fairbanks.”
Hollis H. Fairbanks, age 18, b. Shrewsbury, Ma, shoemaker, private Co. K. KIA.
His twin brother Henry A. Fairbanks was in the 13th Mass. and survived the war though wounded at Antietam 2 ½ weeks later. The twin’s father served for a year in the Union Army as did 3 additional brothers.
Leonard Serratt; age 25, b. Boston, porter, priv. Co. D, KIA, Aug. 30, 1862. Buried in Wyoming Cemetery, Melrose, Mass. Many years later Leonard’s younger brother joined the 13th Mass Regt. association to stay in touch with his brother’s comrades.
“So Costly A Sacrifice Upon the Altar of Freedom:” The Story of the Sheehan Brothers of Fermoy & Vancouver - I have recently been researching Irish-born men and women who served in North American forces during the Second World War. A little over a year ago, whil...
1 week ago