Report of Brig. Gen. John F. Reynolds, U.S. Army,
Commanding Third Division, of Operations August 21-September 5,
Including Engagement Near Gainesville and Battles of Groveton and Bull Run.
AUGUST 16-SEPTEMBER 2, 1862
Campaign in Northern Virginia.
HEADQUARTERS REYNOLDS' DIVISION,
Camp near Munson's Hill, Va., September 5, 1862
Chief of Staff, Third Army Corps.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report the operations of this division since leaving Fredericksburg, on the 21st of August last, under orders from Major-General Burnside to proceed to Kelly's Ford, on the Rappahannock River.
The division having been united at Fredericksburg, with the exception of the Second Regiment, Colonel McCandless, not yet debarked at Aquia Creek, accompanied by an ammunition train supplied by General Burnside, proceeded to Kelly's Ford, where it arrived, after a severe and arduous march, on the evening of the 22d ultimo, and relieved a brigade of Reno's division, under Colonel Farnsworth, of the Seventy-ninth New York.
On the morning of the 23d the division joined the Army of Virginia under General Pope, then on its march to Warrenton from Rappahannock Station, and on arriving at Warrenton was attached temporarily to McDowell's army corps. On the 24th the division encamped on the Sulphur Springs road, I mile south of Warrenton, with Meade's brigade advanced 2 miles on that road. On the 26th we moved to the Waterloo road. On the 27th it marched with the army on the Alexandria and Warrenton turnpike, and encamped at Broad Run. On the 27th marched to Manassas by way of Gainesville. On the supposition that the enemy was at the former place, I was directed to follow General Sigel's corps until our arrival at Gainesville, where I was to form in columns of echelon on his left, King's division to form in like manner on my left, in which order we were to move on Manassas. On arriving at Gainesville the head of my column was fired upon by two pieces of the enemy in position on the heights above Groveton and to the left of the turnpike, which were immediately replied to by Ransom's battery, and Meade's brigade rapidly thrown into line of battle by that general. The range being too great for Ransom's guns his battery was replaced by the rifled guns of Captain Cooper, when the enemy withdrew, not, however, before some loss had been sustained by Meade. Some force was displayed and skirmishers sent forward along the pike and through the woods on the right of the road. On the opening of fire upon the enemy from our rifled guns he retired from our front. This was supposed to be merely a demonstration by the enemy to save a wagon train which was seen moving off on the Sudley Springs road, and the column continued its march toward Manassas.
About 5 o'clock I received orders to march upon Centreville, and the column turned off at Bethlehem Church and took the Sudley Springs road toward the Warrenton pike. About this time heavy cannonading was heard both to our front and left, the former supposed to be from Sigel's corps, and the latter from King's division, which had taken the Warrenton pike from Gainesville. I sent word to the column to hasten its march, and proceeded to the left at once myself in the direction of the firing, arriving on the field just before dark, and found that Gibbon's brigade, of King's division, was engaged with the enemy, with Doubleday s and Patrick s brigades in the vicinity. After the firing ceased I saw General King, who, determining to maintain his position, I left about 9 o'clock p.m. to return to my division, promising to bring it up early in the morning to his support.
Before leaving, however, I heard the division moving off, and I learned from General Hatch that it was moving by Gainesville toward Manassas. I then returned to my own division, which I reached at daylight on the morning of the 28th[29th]; closed up with General Sigel's command on the old battle-field of Bull Run. General Sigel reported the enemy in his immediate front, and requested my co-operation with him in an attack upon his position. I accordingly formed my division on the left of General Sigel's corps, next to the division of General Schenck. General McDowell joined the command at daylight, and directed my co-operation with General Sigel.
The right of the enemy's position could be discerned upon the heights above Groveton, on the right of the pike. The division advanced over the ground to the heights above Groveton, crossed the pike, and Cooper's battery came gallantly into action on the same ridge on which the enemy's right was, supported by Meade's brigade. While pressing forward our extreme left across the pike re-enforcements were sent for by General Sigel for the right of his line, under General Milroy, now hardly pressed by the enemy, and a brigade was taken from Schenck's command on my right. The whole fire of the enemy was now concentrated on the extreme right of my division, and, unsupported there, the battery was obliged to retire, with considerable loss in both men and horses, and the division fell back to connect with Schenck.
Later in the day General Pope, arriving on the right from Centreville, renewed the attack on the enemy and drove him some distance. My division was directed to threaten the enemy's right and rear, which it proceeded to do under a heavy fire of artillery from the ridge to the left of the pike. Generals Seymour and Jackson led their brigades in advance, but notwithstanding all the steadiness and courage shown by the men they were compelled to fall back before the heavy fire of artillery and musketry which met them both on the front and left flank, and the division resumed its original position. King's division engaged the enemy along the pike on our right, and the action was continued with it until dark by Meade's brigade.
On the morning of the 30th I was directed to take post with my division on the left of the pike near the Henry house, and ordered by Major-General Pope to form my division in column by company at full distance, with the whole of my artillery on the left; that I would be the pivot in the attack which Porter's corps was to make on the enemy's right, then supposed to be on the pike and in retreat. Having formed my division in the position indicated, and opened with my rifled batteries to drive the enemy from the first ridge, the skirmishers advanced and the attack by Porter's corps commenced. When the skirmishers arrived in the thick woods opposite Groveton I found the resistance so great that another regiment was deployed to support them, and finally a second; in all, three regiments.
The advanced skirmishers were the First Rifles, Colonel McNeil, and the First Infantry, Colonel Roberts, supported by the Seventh Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson. The Sixth Regiment, Colonel Sinclair, was thrown through the woods on our left flank. Becoming convinced that the enemy were not in retreat, but were posted in force on our left flank, I pushed through the skirmishers to the edge of the woods on the left, gaining sight of the open ground beyond, and advancing myself into the open ground, I found a line of skirmishers of the enemy nearly parallel to the line of skirmishers covering my left flank, with cavalry formed behind them, perfectly stationary, evidently masking a column of the enemy formed for attack on my left flank when our line should be sufficiently advanced. The skirmishers opened fire upon me, and I was obliged to run the gauntlet of a heavy fire to gain the rear of my division, losing one of my orderlies, who had followed me through the woods. I immediately communicated this to the commanding general of the corps, who came upon the ground, and directed me to form my division to resist this attack, the dispositions for which were rapidly completed. Other troops were to be sent to my support, when the commanding general, observing the attack of Porter to have been repulsed, ordered me with my division across the field to the rear of Porter, to form a line behind which the troops might be rallied. I immediately started my division in the direction indicated, but before the rear of my column had left the position the threatened attack by the enemy's right began to be felt, and the rear brigade, under Colonel Anderson, with three batteries of artillery, were obliged to form on the ground on which they found themselves to oppose it. Passing across the field to the right, with Meade's and Seymour's brigades and Ransom's battery, my course was diverted by the difficult nature of the ground, and the retreating masses of the broken columns among troops of Heintzelman's corps, already formed, by which much time was lost and confusion created, which allowed the enemy to sweep up with his right so far as almost to cut us off from the pike, leaving nothing but the rear brigade and the three batteries of artillery of my division and scattered troops of other commands to resist the advance of the enemy upon our left. It was here that the most severe loss of the division was sustained both in men and material, Kerns losing his four guns, but not until wounded and left on the field; Cooper his caissons.
Colonel Hardin, commanding Twelfth Regiment, was here severely wounded. The brigade under command of Colonel Anderson sustained itself most gallantly, and though severely pushed on both front and flank maintained its position until overwhelmed by numbers, when it fell back, taking up new positions wherever the advantages of ground permitted. The two brigades and battery of artillery under my immediate command, finding ourselves perfectly out of place, moved, by the direction of an officer of General Pope's staff, to a position to the right of the Henry house, which position was most gallantly maintained by the commands of Meade and Seymour and Ransom's battery for nearly two hours, when they were relieved by the division of regular troops under Colonel Buchanan. My division was then united and marched during the early part of the night toward Centreville, and bivouacked with Sykes' division upon the east bank of Cub Run. On the following morning it proceeded to Centreville.
On the afternoon of the 31st my division was directed to relieve the command of General Reno (Stevens' brigade), occupying the position of Cub Run, where it remained during the night. On the 1st instant the division marched with the army from Centreville, and encamped near Fairfax Court-House. On the 2d it proceeded by the Alexandria and Columbia turnpike to the vicinity of Hunter's Chapel and Arlington. On the afternoon of the 4th the division arrived at this place, and encamped in position to the rear of Munson's Hill.
The conduct of the officers and men during the several actions and the arduous marches they were subjected to since leaving Fredericksburg was generally good and commendable. Many straggled from the ranks, unable to keep up, and some few left the ranks on the field; but, rejoining their commands at Centreville, it is impossible to ascertain who were censurable. General Meade mentions the First Rifles, under Colonel McNeil, to whose lot the advance skirmishing principally fell, as deserving particular notice. The First Infantry, under Colonel Roberts; the Second, Colonel McCandless; the Sixth, Colonel Sinclair; the Seventh, Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson, and the Twelfth, Colonel Hardin, are also particularly mentioned.
Generals Meade and Seymour, as heretofore, led and conducted their brigades in the most skillful manner throughout the entire marches and actions; also General Jackson, commanding Third Brigade, up to the time that he was taken sick on the field and obliged to retire on the 30th. His command devolved upon Colonel Anderson, who conducted the brigade through that day. To the officers of my small staff, consisting of Captain Kingsbury, assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant Lamborn, aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant Snyder, of the Seventh Regiment, acting aide-de-camp, I am greatly indebted for their indefatigable efforts to execute my orders, rendered more arduous by the incompleteness of the division as well as brigade staffs, having neither quartermaster nor commissary with the division.
Division Surgeon King remained upon the field with Surgeon Read, of the First Infantry, to attend to our wounded. Not having a single ambulance with the division, it was impossible to bear our wounded any distance from the field.
I inclose a return of the killed, wounded, and missing in the several actions; also a list by name. I neglected to mention that the Second Regiment, under Colonel McCandless, joined the division at Warrenton, and that Colonel McCandless was severely wounded in the action of the 30th.
JNO. F. REYNOLDS,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Division.
Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
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