Thursday, July 21, 2011



The Victors
Porter Alexander rode the battlefield that he had only seen from a distance.
Across the Pike I noticed a well marked row of the enemy’s dead showing where a regiment had fought. I noticed on their accoutrements that they were the 2nd Vermont. As I rode by one of the “Louisiana Tigers” of Wheat’s battalion was going from man to man stooping over each one. He had doubtless caught on to the fact that dead men’s pockets sometimes had money, watches, & other valuables in them, but he had the decency to pretend that he was searching their cap boxes for caps as I came near him. I knew he was lying, but I said nothing.
Afterwards, he was asked to guide Johnston back to Manassas Junction for the evening, but was quickly joined by Beauregard and Davis.

They returned to the army headquarters and feasted on whatever leftovers they could find. The President was ecstatic at their victory and hoped to follow up with a march on Washington the next day (which would be impossible with heavy rain the next day and the Union army still in Martinsburg). Johnston good-naturedly gave Beauregard complete credit for the victory, and Davis sat down at the kitchen table and wrote out a commission for the Cajun to full general, the only recorded instance of a battlefield promotion in the American Civil War.

The Vanquished
Fry summarized his commanding officer and their army:
McDowell in person reached Centreville before sunset, and found there Miles’s division with Richardson’s brigade and 3 regiments of Runyon’s division, and Hunt’s, Tidball’s, Ayres’s, and Greene’s batteries and 1 or 2 fragments of batteries, making about 20 guns. It was a formidable force, but there was a lack of food and the mass of the army was completely demoralized… McDowell consulted the division and brigade commanders who were at hand upon the question of making a stand or retreating. The verdict was in favor of the latter, but a decision of officers one way or the other was of no moment; the men had already decided for themselves and were streaming away to the rear, in spite of all that could be done. They had no interest or treasure in Centreville, and their hearts were not there. Their tents, provisions, baggage, and letters from home were upon the banks of the Potomac, and no power could have stopped them short of the camps they had left less than a week before.
McDowell spent the night in Fairfax Court House, sending telegram accounts to Winfield Scott, who tried to reinstall hope in the army by bravely saying “We are not discouraged.”
McDowell was so tired that while sitting on the ground writing a dispatch he fell asleep, pencil in hand, in the middle of a sentence. His adjutant-general [Fry himself] aroused him; the dispatch was finished, and the weary ride to the Potomac resumed. When the unfortunate commander dismounted at Arlington next forenoon in a soaking rain, after 32 hours in the saddle, his disastrous campaign of 6 days was closed.
  Hope everyone enjoyed.

1 comment:

  1. Sherman, your ability to provide this account in a way that somehow puts me "inside the hearts and minds" of those who participated and witnessed this battle is amazing. Both sides were fairly "green" at this stage and it showed in their apprehension and failures. It does give me a new appreciation of the area--and I'll be especially mindful during my next Bull Run hike. Thanks, Pops.