One of two things happened at 2:00 pm. Longstreet’s advanced skirmishers either drove the First New Jersey from their position in the Gap, or Percy Wyndham lost his nerve. Longstreet records in his memoirs no organized attempt to drive them from the Gap until much later in the day, but the New Jersey men recorded falling back to the hills east of the Gap, to new positions to wait out Ricketts’ slow division. Either way, the Gap now appeared clear for the Confederates.
Ricketts was trying to reach the Gap, but having a hard time of it. The delay caused first by Sigel and then by Bushrod Johnson’s skirmishers at Gainesville had lost precious time. At Haymarket, Ricketts ordered the troops to drop their knapsacks so they could move faster.
“Fully realizing the importance of gaining this point I pressed the division forward,” Ricketts wrote later, “Although in a wearied condition, determined to effect the object if possible.”
South of Gainesville and unable to find Sigel, McDowell halted King’s division and began to reconsider his situation. He had one division on the turnpike, intermittently in contact with a small force of the enemy that was acting like a rearguard covering a retreat, he had one just a few miles south of Gainesville, and he had one detached on its way to Thoroughfare Gap.
McDowell decided the best solution was to march with all haste to Manassas Junction with the force he had. He sent orders to Reynolds to cease chasing Johnson’s Confederates, and instead turn south at the next crossroads for Manassas Junction.
With the end of Reynolds’ advance Jackson reconsidered his troop positions. Wrote Taliaferro:
After marching some 2 ½ miles in the direction of Gainesville, and coming to the open fields to the right of Groveton, I discovered that the enemy had abandoned his intention of attempting to cross at Sudley, and was moving off to the right of the Warrenton Turnpike [US 29]; that the troops he had thrown forward had been recalled, and that the whole force which had crossed the turnpike were falling back and recrossing. At the same time I received orders to halt my command. The enemy in great force could now be discovered leaving the turnpike to their left and apparently making for the railroad about Manassas Junction.
Jackson placed Taliaferro back behind the unfinished railroad at Brawner’s Farm and Ewell to his left, stretching to the Groveton-Sudley Road [Featherbed Lane]. A.P. Hill’s arrival from Centreville with the Light Division let Jackson stretch his line from the road back to Sudley Springs.