Thursday, July 21, 2011

10:30 am: BG Beauregard (CS) makes a decision

Beauregard and Johnston were handed another disturbing message from Porter Alexander. To the west he had seen a large dust cloud, like one thrown up by a column of troops. Johnston’s army hadn’t all arrived, but most were coming by train. But it also could be the army of Maj. General Robert Patterson, duped by Johnston in Winchester. It wouldn’t arrive fast enough to decide the current battle, but if the Confederates successfully defeated McDowell at Centreville, they would find themselves between two armies.

The arrival of Dick Ewell at headquarters further exacerbated the issue. Most of his brigade had crossed Bull Run and he was waiting for the promised further orders to begin the attack on Centreville. Beauregard waffled as Johnston became more disturbed. Finally, the Louisianan decided to delay the attack and recall the brigades north of the river.

Writing in 1863, Beauregard described his situation:
I thus had suddenly or on the spur of the moment to change my whole plan of battle, with troops which had never yet fought and could scarcely maneuver. My heart for a moment failed me!... But I soon rallied, and I then solemnly pledged my life that I would that day conquer or die!
Matthew’s Hill
While Beauregard vacillated, the fight was thickening to the north. While the 2nd New Hampshire bumbled (made worse when Colonel Marston was shot in the shoulder and had to be carried off on a stretcher), Burnside hurried forward his own 1st Rhode Island Militia to support their sister regiment, which was wavering. In short order Colonel Slocum was hit by musketballs in his ankle and skull, and a cannonball smashed his leg. His men did not have time to remove him from the field the fighting was becoming so desperate and if the damage to his brain did not kill him outright, then he shortly bled to death.

Burnside rode to the other brigade commander, Andrew Porter, and begged him for the use of his battalion of regular U.S. Army soldiers. Porter agreed and Burnside rode up and down their column, urging them to jog briskly down Sudley Road to keep the Rhode Island men from being overwhelmed.

Stone Bridge
Daniel Tyler decided not to cross the First Division over Stone Bridge after all. He could hear the firing of the fight on Matthew’s Hill, but still believed there was probably a large number of Confederates in front of him, and after being chastised so severely for the fight at Blackburn Ford on July 18, was not about to charge the bridge head on. Instead he sent Schenck down river to look for a ford (he would find none, Cocke had them all guarded) and Sherman upriver to look for one. He had just the spot in mind already.
Early in the day, when reconnoitering the ground, I had seen a horseman descend from a bluff in our front, cross the stream, and show himself in the open field, and, inferring we could cross over at the same point, I sent forward a company as skirmishers, and followed with the whole brigade, the New York Sixty-ninth leading. We found no difficulty in crossing over, and met no opposition in ascending the steep bluff opposite with our infantry, but it was impassable to the artillery… Captain Ayers [therefore] did not cross Bull Run, but remained with the remainder of your division.
Key People and Sources

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