Report of Maj. Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman, U.S.
Army, Commanding Third Corps, Army of the Potomac
of Operations August 14-September 2, Including Engagement at Kettle Run
and Battles of Groveton, Bull Run, and Chantilly.
AUGUST 16-SEPTEMBER 2, 1862
Campaign in Northern Virginia.
HDQRS. DEFENSES OF WASHINGTON SOUTH OF THE, POTOMAC,
Arlington, Va., October 21, 1862.
COLONEL; I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the Third Army Corps immediately previous to and in the recent battles in the vicinity of Centreville:
On the 14th of August, at 9 o'clock p.m., I received orders to retreat with my corps from Harrison's Bar, on James River. The next morning General Birney's brigade, of General Kearny's division, marched for Jones' (Soan's) Bridge, on the Chickahominy, which we were to hold till the troops had well started from our old camp at Harrison's Bar. On the 16th I fell back to Barhamsville, the next day to Williamsburg, and the day after to Yorktown. This movement was covered by Colonel Averell's cavalry, thrown out toward Richmond and the White House. At Williamsburg we united with the main body of the army.
On the 20th the advance of the corps (General Kearny's division) commenced to embark for Aquia Creek, rapidly followed by the rest of my troops. Off Aquia Crock I received orders changing my destination to Alexandria. I arrived at Alexandria at 1.30 p.m. on the 22d, and met on the wharf Major Key, of General Halleck's staff, with orders to hurry forward my corps to the support of General Pope. Part of General Kearny's division left in the cars that afternoon, soon followed by my whole force. On the 26th my troops were all in the vicinity of Warrenton Junction. At dark I received orders to occupy Weaversville and vicinity, and also learned that the enemy had possession of the railroad in our rear. General Pope directed me to send a regiment and drive them back. This regiment found the enemy in force and fell back.
The next morning, the 27th, General Hooker was ordered as far as Bristoe Station, and to advance the day after that to Greenwich, General Kearny's division to take a left-hand road and follow General Reno's division toward Greenwich. I was detained at Warrenton Junction till 3 p.m. to accompany General Pope. When we reached Bristoe Station the enemy had, after a sharp engagement, retreated toward Manassas Junction. They belonged to General Ewell's division.
Our troops behaved with their usual gallantry. Our loss was some 300 men, mostly of the Excelsior Brigade. At Bristoe Station we found the remains of two locomotives and trains of cars that the enemy had burned. In places the rails and cross-ties had been torn up, culverts destroyed, and bridges burned. I am still without General Hooker's report and that of the Second Brigade.
The next morning, August 28, General Kearny's division advanced on Manassas Junction, followed by General Hooker's as a reserve. About noon General Kearny reached the Junction. Our railroad trains fired by the enemy were still burning. We here learned that he had retreated on Centreville and was 30,000 strong. The pursuit was continued. The advance of General Kearny's division found but one regiment of rebel cavalry at Centreville, which fell back at his approach. We now learned that the enemy had fallen back on the Warrenton turnpike. General Kearny's division encamped near Centreville, between there and Bull Run. General Hooker's division encamped on the south side of Bull Run.
At 11 p.m. I received instructions that General McDowell had intercepted the retreat of the enemy, and that General Kearny's division was ordered to advance at 1 a.m. until he met the enemy's pickets, there to await daylight, and for me to follow at daylight with General Hooker's division. From some cause to me unknown General Kearny's division had not moved at daylight. I ordered it forward and he soon joined it.
At 10 a.m. I reached the field of battle, a mile from stone bridge, on the Warrenton turnpike. General Kearny's division had proceeded to the right and front. I learned that General Sigel was in command of the troops then engaged and called on him.
At 11 a.m. the head of Hooker's division arrived; General Reno an hour later. At the request of General Sigel I ordered General Hooker to place one of his brigades at General Sigel's disposal to re.enforce a portion of his line then hard pressed. General Grover reported, and before 1ong became engaged, and was afterward supported by the whole division. General Pope arrived between 1 and 2 p.m. The enemy were driven back a short distance toward Sudley Church, where they made another stand, and again pressed a portion of our line back. All this time General Kearny's division held its position on our extreme right. Several orders were sent to him to advance, but he did not move until after the troops on his left had been forced back, which was near 6 p.m. He now advanced and reported that he was driving the enemy. This was not, however, until after the renewed heavy musketry fire on our center had driven General Hooker's troops and those he was sent to support back. They were greatly outnumbered, and had behaved with exceeding gallantry.
It was on this occasion that General Grover's brigade made the most gallant and determined bayonet charge of the war. He broke two of the enemy's lines, but was finally repulsed by the overwhelming numbers in the rebel third line. It was a hand-to-hand conflict, using the bayonet and the butt of the musket. In this fierce encounter, of not over twenty minutes' duration, the Second New Hampshire, Colonel Marston, suffered the most. The First, Eleventh, and Sixteenth Massachusetts and Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania were engaged. The loss of this brigade, numbering less than 2,000 present, was a total of 484, nearly all killed and wounded. I refer you to General Grover's accompanying report.
Had General Kearny pushed the enemy earlier, it might have enabled us to have held our center and have saved some of this heavy loss. Kearny on the right, with General Stevens and our artillery, drove the enemy out of the woods they had temporarily occupied. The firing continued until some time after dark, and when it ceased we remained in possession of the battle-field. During the night, however, our troops again fell back from the woods that had been so obstinately disputed all the afternoon. At 5.30 a.m. August 30 a few shots were fired on my front. The morning was spent in procuring rations from General Sigel's train, our own having been left from necessity in our last camp on Bull Run. After holding a short conference and making reconnaissances it was decided that General McDowell should take his corps, mine, and General Porter's to make an attack on the enemy's left. At 12 m. General McDowell and myself went to our right to reconnoiter more clearly the enemy's position preparatory to moving. We saw but few of the enemy, and appearances were that they were retreating. On our return we met General Sigel, who expressed as the result of his observations the same opinion. At general headquarters the impression was that the enemy was retreating during the night. It was then determined that I should advance with General Ricketts' troops and my corps on the road leading to Sudley Springs and thence toward Hay Market. The first step in advance brought us in contact with the enemy's skirmishers. These were driven out of the woods, but our farther advance was resisted by the rebel artillery, commanding the road. The enemy was evidently still in force. Soon after (at 2 p.m.) General Porter became engaged with the enemy on our left, and at 4 p.m. this attack extended to our center. We then learned that the withdrawal of troops from opposite our right was to mass them on our center and left. General Hooker's division now advanced into the woods near our right and drove the enemy back a short distance. At 5.30 our troops on the left and then the center began to give way. Shortly before night, oft the falling back of the troops on the left and center, I was directed to retire and hold successive positions. General Hooker's division was ordered by General Pope to the left about dark, and I lost sight of it until after the whole army was in retreat, when I overtook it on the road beyond the stone bridge. We fell back to the Wier house (I believe), used as a hospital, and there established a new line of battle. I sent General Kearny's division to the left to close a gap between my left and the main body of the army, keeping General Stevens' and Ricketts' troops to hold the right. After dark I sent my artillery to the rear by a road I had sent Major Hunt and Dr. Milhau, of my staff, to examine, as it was too dark to use it with effect. Somewhat later the enemy attacked General Ricketts' troops, and they gave way. A mile farther to the rear Colonel McLean's brigade was drawn up and covered the retreat across Bull Run. Part of these troops forded Bull Run a short distance above the stone bridge, and the others crossed the bridge, which had been repaired the night before. Where the Sudley Church road joins the Warrenton turnpike near Cub Run I halted some cavalry, and sent it out to obstruct this road and hold it until all our troops had passed. Late in the afternoon some cavalry and artillery were seen on this road, and a few shots were exchanged with my extreme right.
At about 11 p.m. we reached Centreville, and in obedience to orders from general headquarters took post at the north of the town. The next day my corps was directed to form a reserve in rear of General Franklin's corps, which we found at Centreville.
On the 1st of September, at 1 p.m., I learned from General Pope that the enemy was threatening our rear, and he detached General Hooker from his division to take command of some troops near Germantown to hold the enemy in check, advancing on the Little River turnpike. General Sumner and I were ordered to march at daylight the next morning across the Little River turnpike in the direction of Chantilly to aid in this movement. I had scarcely returned to my headquarters and given the necessary orders before I received notice from the commanding general that the enemy was about to attack us, and to get my corps under arms. I was next sent for to general headquarters, and at 3.30 p.m. ordered to fall back on the road to Fairfax Court-House 2 miles and face to the left, to aid General Reno in driving back the enemy, then threatening from the Little River turnpike our right flank and line of retreat. At 4 p.m. General Kearny's troops were in motion, followed by General Grover, now in command of General Hooker's division. At 5.50 firing commenced by General Reno on the enemy between the Little River and Warrenton turnpikes. The enemy were within half a mile of the latter when they attacked him. A portion of General Reno's troops gave way, but General Birney's brigade, of General Kearny's division, gallantly supported them. General Kearny rode forward alone to reconnoiter in his usual gallant, not to say reckless, manner, and came upon a rebel regiment. In attempting to escape he was killed. The country has to mourn one of her most gallant defenders. At the close of the siege of Yorktown he relieved General Hamilton in the command of the division and led it in the various battles on the Peninsula, commencing with Williamsburg. His name is identified with its glory.
Our troops held the battle-field till near daylight, when they received orders to retire to Fairfax Court-House. Soon after daylight I reported to the commanding general, who directed me to take post with my corps on the left of the town. At 9.30, September 2, I was informed that General Sumner's corps would occupy Flint Hill, and that I should with my corps take post on his right on the road to Vienna, as the enemy were moving to or beyond our right. At 11 a.m. I received orders directing the whole army to fall back to the lines in front of Washington, my corps to Fort Lyon. Left Fairfax Court-House at 11.40 a.m., and the troops reoccupied their old lines the next day.
In the encounters with the enemy at Bristoe Station General Hooker's division suffered severely, and again on the 29th of August; also General Kearny's on the afternoon of the 1st of September near Chantilly.
On our arrival from the Peninsula at Alexandria we were hurried forward, without artillery or wagons, and many of the field officers without their horses. This, in connection with overcrowding on the transports, hard marching, and hard fare, caused a large amount of straggling, both at Alexandria and during the various battles, till at Fairfax Station, on the 2d of September, I had but 5,000 men left in my two divisions to draw rations. I am, however, happy to add thai returning stragglers and convalescents have since much increased this force.
General Hooker's division had above 10,000 men when it landed near Yorktown last April and after the battle of Fair Oaks was re-enforced by about 3,000 more. At Fairfax Station it drew rations for 2,400 men. General Kearny's division suffered as much.
Although we were driven back, and finally to the defenses of Washington, I do not feel that the gallant veterans of the Third Corps have lost any of their well-earned reputation from the battles on the Peninsula. My staff performed their appropriate duties with their usual assiduity. Not having been able to obtain all the brigade reports, the lists annexed are incomplete. In General Hooker's division I have no report of the losses of the Second Brigade nor is there any report of the losses of General Kearny's division at Chantilly. Imperfect as they are, they sum up an aggregate of 1,491.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
S. P. HEINTZELMAN,
Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
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