Thursday, July 21, 2011

9:00 am: 2nd Div (US) attack begins from Sudley Ford

Stone Bridge
Shortly before 9:00 am, a horseman thundered up to Evans’ headquarters at top speed. According to some accounts the general was already beginning his strange habit of distributing whiskey to men who were hurt or needed some courage (and to himself) from a barrel on the back of one of his aides. The horseman was from one of Evans’ two companies of cavalry that he had stretched all the way to Sudley Ford to warn him of anyone was coming that way. He reported that the cavalry had been chased off by Union cavalry, a sign that someone was coming that direction.

At that moment a note was handed to him from the Stone Bridge signal station. It was the message from Alexander. “Look out for your left. You are flanked.” Evans dashed off a quick note to Cocke that he was leaving only a few companies of the 4th South Carolina as a distraction at Stone Bridge and hurried the rest of the regiment and the Tigers three-quarters of a mile west towards a ravine next to Buck Hill, just north of the Warrenton Turnpike. He sent another message to Bee, just arriving at Henry Hill, that he needed reinforcements immediately.

Sudley Ford
Burnside’s lead regiments collapsed in gratitude for a quick break when they reached Sudley Ford. While Burnside ate a quick bite of food, the Second Division’s commander, David Hunter, chatted to him about their plan. Only the 2nd Rhode Island had fully arrived, two hours late and exhausted. Burnside encouraged them to begin crossing so as not to hold up the line.

They were interrupted by a furious McDowell, who had ridden to the front of the line personally to see what was occurring.
On reaching the ford at Sudley Springs, I found part of the leading brigade of Hunter’s division (Burnside’s) had crossed, but the men were slow in getting over, stopping to drink. As at this time the clouds of dust from the direction of Manassas indicated the immediate approach of a large force [Bee and Bartow], and fearing it might come down on the head of the column before the division could all get over and sustain it, orders were sent back to the heads of the regiments to break from the column, and come forward separately as fast as possible.
Rather than march down the road, McDowell was ordering the men to form up for battle and expect to cross the ford in a fight. His chief of staff, Bvt. Captain James Fry, described McDowell’s arrival at Sudley Ford differently:
He gazed silently and with evident pride upon the gay regiments as they filed briskly but quietly past in the freshness of the early morning, and then, remarking to his staff, “Gentlemen, that is a big force,” he mounted and moved forward to the field by way of Sudley Springs.
Whether either or both accounts actually occurred, the decision to prepare for battle was made. One of the aides sent riding at top speed by the order approached Lt. Colonel Fiske of the 2nd New Hampshire further down the farm path. “An officer from the front came galloping back and asked for Colonel Marston. ‘Tell him to have his men ready, for we shall soon meet the enemy in large force,’ he shouted, and continued on his way to other regiments.”

Key to People and Sources

No comments:

Post a Comment