King had gathered his brigade commanders together in one place to talk about the evening. Of them, John Gibbon had carried out almost the entire battle. His black-hatted men would earn the nickname “Iron Brigade” because of their fierce resistance. Abner Doubleday had performed well in support, sending two regiments to plug the hole in Gibbon’s line, and his last to help guard Gibbon’s artillery. Disappointingly, senior brigadier John Hatch had worked two batteries of the division artillery and contributed one regiment to help guard Gibbon’s, but the bulk of his brigade had remained under cover and out of the battle. Marsena Patrick had been even worse, with his men and batteries pulled back to the intersection of Pageland Road and Warrenton Turnpike [US 29] and entirely unengaged (he insisted no one had ever asked him for assistance).
King laid out the situation for the four men. Numbering somewhere around 7,000 men before the battle, King’s division faced potentially ten times as many Confederates. Reynolds could double their force by daylight. Ricketts was somewhere between Haymarket and Gainesville, and messages to him to march to Brawner’s hadn’t been returned, so it was unclear when he could bring the Third Corps, Army of Virginia to full strength. No one could find McDowell.
Then the brigadiers reported. Gibbon, no doubt still a bit hot, reported he had lost a third of his brigade during the battle and his men were exhausted. Similarly Doubleday’s two regiments that had joined Gibbon’s line were depleted. That left King’s effective force closer to 5,000, with no knowledge of the enemy in front of them, and no knowledge of the terrain around them.
The brigadiers were unanimous: fall back on Manassas Junction to reconstitute the corps. Pope’s orders to the contrary had never arrived. King consented and sent notice to Ricketts, Reynolds, Pope, and McDowell, wherever he was.
East of the Lower Fords
Just before 10:00, John Pope put the final touches on his third plan of battle for the day. Completely unaware of the unfinished railroad, Pope had labored under the delusion that Jackson was much closer to Bull Run, centered on Matthews’ Ridge. The force King had fought with, he assumed, had been the vanguard of Jackson’s men retreating from Centreville, on the run from Kearny.
He sent orders to McDowell (he assumed he was with King) to concentrate his corps on King’s division, blocking further movement to the west on the Warrenton Turnpike [US 29]. “Unless [Jackson] can escape by passes leading to the north tonight, he must be captured,” Pope breathlessly explained in his orders to Phil Kearny. He continued
I desire you to move forward at 1 o’clock to-night, even if you can carry with you no more than 2,000 men, though I trust you will carry the larger part of your division. Pursue the turnpike from Centreville to Warrenton. The enemy is not more than 3.5 miles from you. Seize any of the people of the town to guide you. Advance cautiously and drive in the enemy’s pickets to-night, and at early dawn attack him vigorously. Hooker shall be close behind you. Extend your right well in the attack. Be sure to march not later than 1 with all the men you can take.
Hooker, who was next to Bull Run, not anywhere near Centreville, received orders through Sam Heintzelman, his corps commander, to march in reserve of Kearny at 3:00 am, in defiance of any logic of time and distance. Like Kearny, Pope wanted Hooker to march at the exact time specified “even if he should have to do so with one-half of his men. I shall rely upon this.”
Jesse Reno with the two divisions that comprised the Ninth Corps was to follow Hooker, though that vital information is missing from Pope’s order to Heintzelman, who presumably would want to coordinate with Reno. Also missing from orders to Heintzelman and Kearny was the information that Pope had ordered Franz Sigel to launch an attack across Warrenton Turnpike [US 29] at first light, into the heart of Jackson’s perceived formation. In Pope’s mind, with Sigel assaulting Jackson would have to fight, and McDowell and Heintzelman could squeeze him in a vice between them.