Friday, July 22, 2011

July 21, 1861: First Battle of Manassas [Bull Run] - Part Two

Federal General Irvin McDowell ordered Brigadier Gen. Daniel Tyler's division to feint a main attack near the stone bridge on the Warrenton turnpike.  Colonel Dixon S. Miles' division remained in reserve at Centerville, VA along with the New Jersey Brigade and Brigadier Gen. Theodore Runyon's division.  Colonel David Hunter's division and Brigadier Gen. Samuel Heintzelman's division were to cross Bull Run at Sudley Ford and Poplar Ford  above the stone bridge, where Confederate defenses were the weakest.  A push on the lightly guarded stone bridge was ruled out on the assumption that the confederates would have heavily guarded it.

Shortly after the Federal advance began on the fords above the stone bridge, General Pierre G. T. Beauregard received a warning from his signal officer, Edward Porter Alexander, who observed Federal troops crossing Bull Run approximately two miles above the stone bridge.  Beauregard ordered Brigadier Gen. Barnard Bee, Colonel Thomas Jackson, and Colonel Wade Hampton to move their brigades above the stone bridge to oppose the Federal advance.  

Once gunfire could be heard at Sudley Ford, General Joseph E. Johnston ordered his army to join the fight, approximately one mile below the ford.  Colonel Nathan Evans ordered his men to move upstream from the stone bridge to help block the Federals fording Bull Run.  

Before the actual battle began, members of the 4th South Carolina Infantry Regiment accidentally fired on Colonel Robert Wheat's "Louisiana Tiger Zouaves" thinking they were Federal troops.  No one was injured.

The real battle began at Matthews Hill when Confederates opened fire on the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry Regiment.  

A mile away , on Henry House Hill, General Bee set up an artillery battery  to await the Federal advance.  Bee set his infantry units on both sides of the artillery.  Bee later ordered his infantry to reinforce Confederates on Matthews Hill.  When the Confederates were pushed off Matthews Hill, Federal commanders looked toward Henry House Hill.

The New York Fire Zouaves (11th NY Infantry Regiment) and the Brooklyn "Red-Legged Devils" (14th NY Infantry Regiment) and the Marines were sent from Matthews Hill to accompany artillery in an attack on Henry House Hill.  The 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment, wearing red shirts, was ordered to join in the advance.   However, McDowell's headquarters had no intelligence reports on the number of Confederate batteries and infantry waiting on Henry House Hill.  

Captain James B. Ricketts set up his battery near Henry House.  Confederates in the house fired on Ricketts' men. Ricketts ordered his men to blast the house. Eighty-year old Judith Henry was killed in her bedroom. Federal and Confederate batteries fired at each other on Henry House Hill.  The batteries failed to knock each other out of action, but they caused a lot of infantry casualties on both sides. 

Brigadier Gen. Heintzelman rode over to the Fire Zouaves and escorted them to where he wanted them. He placed two companies in reserve behind the forward companies - which were placed just behind the artillery of Rickett's battery.  Heintzelman placed the 1st Minnesota to the right of the Zouaves.  The Fire Zouaves reached their position just in time to receive a volley of musket fire from the Virginians in front of them.  The Zouaves and the Brooklyn Devils hit the ground just before the second volley was fired at them.

The two reserve companies of Fire Zouaves were attacked by Virginia cavalry from "The Loudon Company" and "The Clarke Cavalry."  The Fire Zouaves fired in volley bringing down the first row of Virginia troopers.  As the cavalry hacked at them with sabers, the Fire Zouaves pulled the troopers off their horses or speared them with their bayonets as they yelled "Remember Ellsworth!"  Half of "The Loudon Company" trooper were casualties.

After the Virginians fired at the main body of Fire Zouaves and Rickett's battery, the Zouaves moved twenty yards forward and fired a volley into the Virginians and then stepped back to reload.  Some of the rear ranks of Zouaves, the Marines and the 1st Minnesota mistook the back step for a retreat and broke ranks in confusion.  Some Fire Zouaves ran and some assisted the wounded. Lieutenant John Mathews, of Belvidere, and his men of Company K held their ground and were joined by the 69th New York Irish Regiment, the 27th New York Infantry Regiment and the 1st Wisconsin Infantry Regiment.   Mathews and his men  joined the Irish in charging up Henry House Hill to try to recapture Ricketts' guns  from the  Virginia Infantry Regiments.  They were repelled but charged a second time.

When two Virginians captured the green Irish Regimental Flag and the National Flag from the 69th New York's wounded color guards, Mathews and his Zouaves charged the Virginians. Mathews killed the rebels with his pistol and returned with both flags.  Company K returned the flags to New York's Fighting Irish.  The Fire Zouaves suffered the heaviest losses among all the Federal units.

During the Confederate attack against the Fire Zouaves and the Brooklyn Red-Legged Devils, the men of the 27th Virginia Infantry Regiment clashed against the Brooklyn regiment.  Ricketts' battery fired canister shot into the Virginians, and the 27th began to crumble.  

Captain Thompson McAllister, age 49, rallied his company in the 27th Virginia.  When asked if they should retreat, McAllister said it would never do. "If you can't stand up, lie down, but keep on shooting!" he told his men.  McAllister's "Allegheny Roughs" were entrusted with the regimental flag. McAllister knew his men had to hold their ground so the regiment would not retreat.

McAllister jumped up with his sword and yelled, "Get up, Boys, Get up!  Come on! Forward!!  Charge them - that's the order!"  McAllister'sdid the 2nd Virginia Infantry.  The men ran with McAllister and his son, William, toward Ricketts' battery and captured the guns for the Stonewall Brigade of Thomas Jackson.  

Captain McAllister's health weakened from illness a few weeks later.  He was discharged by surgeon's certificate and returned to his home in the Shenandoah Valley - never to fight in the war again.

Meanwhile, a few miles away in Centerville, Captain McAllister's brother, Lt. Colonel Robert McAllister, of Oxford Furnace, NJ, waited with his 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment as part of McDowell's reserve force. 

Copyright 1997-2011: Jay C. Richards

No comments:

Post a Comment