«MAJ. GEN. CHARLES S. HAMILTON HISTORY of THE THIRD REGIMENT of WISCONSIN VETERAN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY 1861 — 1865. BY EDWIN E. BRYANT Late Adjutant. ...»
In this march the rebels shelled the column from various points. Approaching the Springs it was found that one division (that of Early) of Jackson’s command had come over on our side of the river. The water had raised so they could not return and were in peril. But as a precaution they had checked Sigel’s advance by destroying all the bridges across Great Run, an eastern branch of the river, between them and our column. By the 24th Jackson had bridged the river behind Early and let him out of his trap; and that day Sigel moved up to Waterloo. Our corps halted between the Springs and Waterloo, Reno followed Sigel, and Rickett’s [sic] division of McDowell’s corps was four miles east of Waterloo bridge. King’s division was between Sulphur Springs and Warrenton.
Pope and his command were turning anxious eyes eastward for the promised reinforcements, which were moving in slowly to join us. Porter with his corps was coming up from Aquia Creek, supposing he would find Pope at or near Kelly’s Ford. Heintzleman’s [sic] corps, which had landed at Alexandria, was moving westward toward us, and Kearny’s division of that corps had been sent by rail to Manasses [sic] and moved thence down toward Warrenton Junction.
Stuart’s raid had scared the railroad service. Confusion began to reign.
Between Pope in the field and Halleck in the War Department, the marching The battery was the Washington artillery, and it lost there, according to the commander’s report, 21 horses and 13 men.
-86to and fro, the irregularity of arrival of McClellan’s forces, the subordinate commanders seemed to lose confidence. On the night of the 24th Heintzleman’s [sic] corps and Sturges’ [sic] first brigade — which had been organized at Washington — reached Warrenton Junction. Pope was mystified by Lee’s strategy, and anticipated and was preparing for an attack in his front, or at least an effort to turn Lee’s right along the river. He seems to have forgotten or neglected Thoroughfare Gap. But all was plain and simple on the Confederate side. Their strategy was controlled by one man, and he in the field with all his forces in hand. Lee had conceived the daring movement, which none could execute better than Jackson, such as made Napoleon so successful in his campaigns — such as made Grant’s Vicksburg campaign so brilliant in strategy. It was no less than sending Jackson by a wide detour and forced marches over by-ways and secluded paths to strike Pope in his rear.
On the 25th, at day break, Jackson’s forces were in motion. He withdrew from the river, out of observation, passing west through the little village of Amissville he hurried his columns westward, while Longstreet masked the fords, then turning north he pushed his way up a secluded country across Hedgeman’s Creek, an upper tributary of the Rappahannock, under the western shadow of the Bull Run mountains to the little hamlet of Orleans, thence northwest of Thoroughfare Gap. This point he reached at midnight, after a mos tiresome march, and by day’s dawn his column again was moving southeast into the narrow defiles of Thoroughfare Gap. Strange oversight on the part of Pope, this side-door to his right and rear had not been closed!
Jackson pressed on and found the pass undefended. At the same time Stuart’s cavalry had moved on his right through fields and paths, crossed the Bull Run mountains by a winding, rocky road south of Thoroughfare Gap and debouched upon the eastern plains just as Jackson’s column emerged from the mouth of the gap; and a cordon of cavalry was thrown about the infantry to hide and protect it against approach from any quarter. Subsisting on a few biscuits, green corn and unripe apples the Confederates hurried on and by the afternoon of the 26th approached the region of Manassas. When Gainesville was reached, with Stuart’s cavalry on his right flank, Jackson turned down southeast to the nearest station of the railroad, Bristoe. There a small guard was captured or driven away after sunset. A train passed going toward Alexandria, was fired into, and ordered to stop, but it escaped. General Ewell, who let the column, then placed obstructions on the track, and wrecked the next train, capturing those upon it.
Jackson was now completely in our rear and had severed our line of railroad communication. Our reinforcements from McClellan’s army had only in part arrived. The Confederate leader set about doing all the mischief he could. Though his men had marched fifty mile sin thirty-six hours a force was at once sent up to Manassas Junction, seven miles northeast, where an
-87immense supply depot, but slightly guarded, contained the subsistence and stores collected for the troops of Pope. Marching there, Gen. Trimble with infantry and Stuart with cavalry soon drove off, in a night attack, the raw troops which guarded this prize. The rebels had rich booty there for starving men. Flour, forage, 50,000 pounds of bacon, 1,000 barrels of salt beef, hundreds of sutler’s wagons laden with dainties so tempting to the soldier were soon the pillage of these ravenous men. The rest of Jackson’s command, save a division, moved up there next morning to fill themselves with the valuable supplies. What could not be eaten or taken was destroyed in a huge bonfire; and Pope’s army was doomed to emptiness during the stirring times to follow.
Turn now to Pope. While this shrewd move of Jackson to his rear was in progress, the Union General, blissfully ignorant of it, was making dispositions to a battle somewhere along the Rappahannock or in that neighborhood, and even had in view the crossing of the river at Rappahannock Station to strike the enemy. McDowell had been moved to Warrenton. Banks’ corps, in support, was sent to near Fayetteville, about half way between Warrenton and Rappahannock Station. These movements were made on the 26th. Sigel also had been ordered to Warrenton. Reno had been sent to a point three miles east of Warrenton, and Porter, who had reached Bealeton Station, was ordered to join Reno. Heintzleman’s [sic] corps had come up and was at Warrenton Junction, and Pope’s plan was to sent it to Greenwich, on the turnpike running from Warrenton to Manassas and some three or four miles southeast of Gainesville.
But on the night of the 26th he heard with amazement that his rear was gained and communication interrupted. Still more amazed was he when he learned during the night that this enemy in his rear was something more than a raiding party of cavalry. He saw at once that his course was to turn upon Jackson, to get in between him and Washington or to surround him and overwhelm him. As he said, he meant “to bag the whole crowd.” On the morning of the 27th he issued orders to meet the new emergency. McDowell, with Sigel and Reynolds’ division, were to move from Warrenton to Gainesville, Heintzleman [sic] and Reno were to march to Greenwich that night, Porter was to stay at Warrenton Junction till Banks came up from Fayetteville and Bealeton, then to move towards Greenwich and Gainesville to assist the operations.
General Banks was to move at once to Warrenton Junction. The order
was as follows:
“Major General Banks, as soon as he arrives at Warrenton Junction will assume the charge of the trains and cover their movement toward Manassas Junction. The train of his own corps, under escort of two regiments of infantry and a battery of artillery will pursue the road south of the railroad which conducts into the rear of Manassas Junction. As soon as all the trains have passed
-88Warrenton Junction he will take post behind Cedar Run, covering the fords and bridges of that stream and holding his position as long as possible. He will cause all the railroad trains to be loaded with the public and private stores now there, and run them back toward Manassas Junction as far as the railroad is practicable. Wherever a bridge is burned, so as to prevent the further passage of the railroad trains, he will assemble them all, as near together as possible, and protect them with his command until the bridges are rebuilt. If the enemy is too strong before him before the bridge can be repaired, he will be careful to destroy entirely the trains, locomotives and stores before he falls back in the direction of Manassas Junction. He is, however, to understand that he is to defend his position as long as possible, keeping himself in constant communication with Gen.
Porter on his right. If any sick now in hospital at Warrenton Junction are not provided for and able to be transported, he will have them loaded into the wagon trains of his own corps, even should this necessitate the destruction of much baggage and regimental property, and carried to Manassas Junction.” Such was our assignment to duty; and it was ruefully received by the officers of rank, who wished to participate in the field fights which the other corps were to move in quest of.93 On the 27th, Banks’ column moved upon Warrenton Junction. The Third Wisconsin started on this march at 3 A. M.
Pope, at the head of Hooker’s division, moved from Warrenton up the road to Manassas. In a word, Pope drew his army back from the line of the Rappahannock and turned on Jackson. The latter soon found himself in a position of peril. He was menaced from the east. From the southwest Hooker fell upon Ewell’s division, near Bristoe station, and, after a sharp fight, drove him back upon Manassas Junction, where Jackson then was. This warned the wily Confederate; and he put his command in motion from Manassas northward. Part of it, Hill’s corps, went to Centerville. Jackson moved to a point about a mile west of the old Bull Run battle ground; and there Hill joined him at night. In this position he meant to hold our forces at bay, until Longstreet could come through Thoroughfare Gap and join him; and, if hard pressed, he could retire up the right bank of the Bull Run and dodge through the Gap at Aldie.
McDowell and Sigel had been ordered on the night of the 27th to move next morning early toward Manassas Junction, but although he got the orders at 2 A. M. of the 28th Sigel, who headed the column, had not cleared Gainesville until half past seven. This delay had the effect to bring King’s This felling is well expressed by Gordon, our brigade commander- He says: “To McDowell we owe it that our command, respectable in numbers, undaunted by defeat at Cedar Mountain, willing and courageous, was diverted from that pathway which would have thrown us with Hooker, Reno, Porter, Sigel, Reynolds, Ricketts and King upon Jackson and Longstreet on the battlefield of Manassas. To repair bridges and mend highways for the safe passage of horse equipments, salt pork and hard bread is undoubtedly military duty. But to send, under the circumstances in which pope found himself, a whole corps along a road upon which no enemy appeared, and where there was no reason to apprehend that he would appear, to defend wagon trains, instead of using it to oppose the enemy, was, as we now know, an error of judgment arising from McDowell’s over caution.
-89division, while moving according to orders, into unexpected collisions with Jackson’s right. A fierce contest ensued, known as the battle of Gainesville.
It is not within the scope of this narrative to give a detailed account of this fight. The brunt of it on the Union side was borne by Gibbon’s brigade of King’s division, since known as the “Iron Brigade,” in which were the Second, Sixth, and Seventh Wisconsin Regiments. The gallant behavior of this brigade in its first pitched battle extorted admiration from the enemy. General
Jackson in his report says:
“The conflict here was fierce and sanguinary. ~ ~ ~ Both lines stood exposed to the discharges of musketry and artillery until about 9 o’clock.” He claims that the Federals yielded the field, but the fact is they did not leave the field until long after the fight. Six regiments — four of Gibbon’s including the three above named, and two of Doubleday’s — sustained for over an hour the fire of two of Ewell’s brigades. Most of the time the lines were not more than seventy-five yards apart. General Pope in his report says: “Gibbon’s brigade consisted of some of the best troops in the service, and the conduct of both men and officers was gallant and distinguished.”94 While King’s division was thus in hot encounter at Gainesville, Col.
Wyndham was having a sharp engagement with Longstreet in the wild, romantic pass of Thoroughfare Gap. No sooner had Pope withdrawn from the Rappahannock than lee, with Longstreet’s command, followed on after Jackson by the same route; and by the evening of the 28th was at the eastern mouth of the Gap. Wyndham with Federal cavalry and artillery was there to check them. General Ricketts had been sent there to oppose; but he seems to have got there too late, and to have made but little effort to stop Longstreet.
A small force resisted him in the pass and some batteries guarded the mouth of the Gap at the east; but Longstreet soon put them aside by passing part of his command through Hopewell Gap, three miles north, over a rough mountain road, and a part by a nearer mountain path. These turned the right of the force placed to stop up the mouth of the Gap. By this means he The Compte de Paris [sic & NB: see earlier footnote] tells the story of this fight with enthusiasm” “Stark’s brigade of Taliaferro’s, supported by the fire of three batteries, advanced first as skirmishers; but the Federal guns soon silenced those of the Confederates. The rest of the divisions, supported on the left by two of Ewell’s brigades, came up to restore the fortunes of the fight. Gallantly led by their chiefs, these six brigades combined their efforts against Gibbon’s Union brigade, which had vigorously taken the offensive, and which, with the help of Doubleday’s brigade, maintained its position in a vast orchard, situated on a commanding height, where it defended itself with great stubbornness. The Confederate division commanders were severely wounded. Ewell lost a leg while charging at the head of his soldiers. The latter, however, despite their efforts and numerical superiority, could not succeed in dislodging their adversaries[.] Night alone put an end to the battle.” The loss in Gibbon’s brigade was 133 killed, 539 wounded, and 79 missing; total 751, more than one-third of his command. The Confederates admit their loss to be heavy, but do not report it separately from that in the battles of the succeeding two days.