Wednesday, August 29, 2012

5am: With dawn, Jackson prepares to hold until Longstreet joins him


The sky began to lighten at 5:08 on Friday, August 29, 1862 in Prince William County. The sun rose at 5:36 am.


At first light, Jackson began the repositioning of his units. The Stonewall Brigade and supporting brigades who had fought the previous night’s battle had slept (more likely passed out, if they got any shut-eye) with their weapons ready for the return of King’s division. In the gray light of pre-dawn, they fell back to the unfinished railroad grade north of Brawner’s Farm, but not without Union artillerists lobbing shells at the moving masses.

Jackson wanted his old division, now commanded by William Starke, as the right flank of the railroad grade. But he was worried about a Union column advancing from Manassas Junction up Pageland Lane (the route King had retreated on the night before, unknown to Jackson) flanking him. So he split Ewell’s division (now led by Alexander Lawton), leaving half of it to the left of Starke along the unfinished railroad, but sending Jubal Early with his brigade and the Louisiana Brigade far out to the right, across Pageland Lane, with a large gap between it and the rest of the line.

Chinn Ridge and Henry Hill

Sigel got his artillery firing from Chinn Ridge just as soon as they could make out masses of men moving in the distance at Brawner’s Farm. The First Corps, Army of Virginia was second smallest in Pope’s army after Jesse Reno’s Ninth Corps, with only six brigades. It was mostly made up of German and Eastern European immigrants, many who could not speak English, and its structure reflected its ad hoc assembly.

Robert Schenck led its First Division of two brigades (one of which was the corps’ only non-majority immigrant unit) and was the first to step off on the morning of August 29. Confederate artillery had opened up in response to Sigel’s bombardment, and Schenck advanced half his men under their fire to the Turnpike until they were covered by Dogan’s Ridge, but let the other half advance to the same spot unharassed on the far side of Chinn Ridge.

Sigel wanted Schenck to march west, down either side of the Warrenton Turnpike [US 29], with the independent brigade of Robert Milroy extending his line to the left. Meanwhile, Sigel’s Third Division under Lincoln’s close friend Carl Schurz, would sweep down from Henry Hill and join into line, clearing out skirmishers that Sigel believed were in the woods. McDowell would meet him at Brawner’s Farm, coming from the other direction, effectively creating a miniature version of the book-slamming maneuver Pope had first envisioned.

Further south of Henry Hill, a bedraggled Irvin McDowell found his Third Division commander, John Reynolds, having breakfast at the Conrad House [on the campus of NOVA], the Pennsylvania Reserves camped on the grounds. Reynolds gave McDowell an account of the fight at Brawner’s Farm, based on his conversations with King the night before, as well as Pope’s orders for the morning that had never reached McDowell.

McDowell recognized as well as Reynolds that Pope’s maneuver was useless without any of the Third Corps, Army of Virginia between Jackson and Gainesville, and that he had to retake that ground promptly. Ricketts’ division was still somewhere between Thoroughfare Gap and Gainesville, they knew, and might make a convenient rally point. McDowell ordered Reynolds to support Sigel’s attack from the left, which would put him in good position to link up with the rest of the corps when it was assembled, and hurried south to Manassas Junction to find King.

Unfinished Railroad

Powell Hill had advanced his men into the plain in front of the unfinished railroad the evening before, where they had received intermittent artillery fire from Sigel’s corps. At dawn, on Jackson’s orders, he pulled them back to Stone Ridge, which ran behind the railroad grade, and linked it up with Ewell’s division. Hill anchored the Confederate line on Bull Run at Sudley Springs, so it didn’t stand the same risk of being flanked like the right did.

Sigel’s planned attack would cross the plain right in front of Hill.


At dawn, three hours after he had been ordered to, Phil Kearny started the men of his division marching west down the Turnpike towards the old battlefield.

Lower Fords

John Pope, full of optimism and braggadocio, packed up his headquarters overlooking Bull Run and set out for Centreville.

Bristoe Station

At approximately 5:20, Fitz John Porter was given Pope’s marching order from the night before. Porter calmly finished his breakfast, then put his Fifth Corps in motion by way of the route Sigel had followed to Manassas Junction the day before.


James Ricketts’ men had spent an exhausted night in Gainesville, and were up and on the move again early. Bayard’s cavalry brigade fanned out behind them, providing protection from prying eyes about their movements. John Buford’s cavalry brigade, meanwhile, waited in Gainesville to get a clearer idea what Longstreet would be bringing to the battle.

Thoroughfare Gap

Longstreet had his men marching at first light, as promised. Hood’s division led the column, followed by the independent brigade of the forgotten First Manassas hero “Shanks” Evans, and then Kemper’s division. The division of Neighbor Jones would have a little extra shut-eye, since it had fought hardest the day before, and join the back of the column, at least until it had marched far enough south that Wilcox’s division at Hopewell Gap could fall in.

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