Report of Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel, U.S. Army,
Commanding First Corps, Army of Virginia
Battle of Second Mannassas
HEADQUARTERS FIRST CORPS,
ARMY OF VIRGINIA,
Near Fort De Kalb, Va.,
September 16, 1862.
Lieut. Col. CHAUNCEY MCKEEVER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Defenses South of the Potomac.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following reports:
Report # 1
OPERATIONS PREVIOUS TO THE BATTLES OF THE 29TH AND 30TH AUGUST.
After the battle of Cedar Mountain, the retreat of the First Corps from the Rapidan behind the Rappahannock, and the several engagements of that corps near Rappahannock Station, Freeman's Ford, and Sulphur Springs, we advanced to Waterloo Bridge on the same day we had taken possession of Sulphur Springs--on the 24th August. The brigade of General Milroy occupied a position on the north side of the bridge, extending his line of sharpshooters along the shore of the river. The main body of the corps was encamped between the bridge and Sulphur Springs and behind it the corps of Major-General Banks and General Reno's division. The enemy had advanced from Rappahannock Station along the south side of the river in a line parallel with the route taken by our troops, and was trying to cross at the above-named ford (Freeman's) and the bridges at Sulphur Springs and Waterloo. On the night of the 24th of August his camp-fires extended from Water leo Bridge to Jefferson Village, a distance of 4 or 5 miles, his main force, of about 30,000 men, occupying the latter point.
Early on the morning of the 25th a sharp skirmish commenced at the (Waterloo) bridge, which was reported to me by General Pope to have been destroyed by General Buford, but which was found on our arrival in good order and strongly defended by the enemy. While we were taking position on the north side the enemy began to break up his camp at Jefferson and to mass his troops on the south side of the bridge. By noon twenty-eight regiments of infantry, six batteries, and several regiments of cavalry of the enemy had arrived and taken their position. I had the night before given notice of the enemy's strength and movements to Major-General Pope, and now again informed him of the position of affairs, as the disposition he had made of our forces was evidently based on the supposition that the enemy would force the passage of the river between Bealeton and Waterloo Bridge. In the mean time I had been directed to march to Fayetteville and form part of the center of the army, to be arrayed in a line extending from Waterloo Bridge to Bealeton Station.
In accordance with this order General Milroy should have been relieved in the morning by a brigade of General McDowell. Another brigade of the Third Corps (McDowell's)had to march to Sulphur Springs. In the forenoon of the same day General Roberts, of Major-General Pope's staff, delivered to me a verbal order to hold my position at Waterloo Bridge under all circumstances and to meet the enemy if he should try to force the passage of the river, and that General McDowell would be on my right, with the cavalry brigade of General Buford, and General Banks on my left.
Soon afterward I received intelligence that a large force of the enemy's cavalry had crossed on my right and was moving toward Orleans, and that another force had crossed on my left, at Sulphur Springs, and taken possession of that place. I immediately ordered General Beardsley, with the Ninth New York Cavalry and four mountain howitzers, to Sulphur Springs, to shell the enemy out of the place, which he did. The rest of my cavalry, consisting of three companies of the First Virginia and two of the First Maryland, I ordered toward Orleans, for the purpose of protecting my right flank. Meanwhile cannonading was kept up near the bridge, and from all indications I supposed that the enemy would avail himself of the opportunity to make a combined attack against my position. I therefore sent to the left to find Generals Banks and Reno, and to the right to look after General McDowell's troops, especially the cavalry brigade, and was not a little astonished to learn that Generals Banks and Reno were, by orders of General Pope, on their march to Bealeton,and that no troops could be found on my right except the cavalry brigade of General Buford, which was encamped 4 miles behind us on the Warrenton road. To confuse matters still more I received a dispatch from General McDowell, one section of it directed to Major-General Banks, asking for news from his corps, and the other directed to myself, informing me that I would join my pontoon train at Fayetteville. I sent this dispatch to General Banks, and requested him to furnish me with what information he could, so that, in the absence of instructions, I might be enabled to direct my movements properly. I also sent to Generals Pope and McDowell, at Warrenton, for an explanation and for orders, but General Pope had left for Warrenton Junction, and General McDowell did not furnish me with any instructions.
It was now nearly sunset, and my situation exceedingly critical Threatened on my right and left flank; an army of 30,000 menacing my front and separated from me only by a shallow river, fordable at many points for infantry as well as cavalry and artillery; no supporting force within 8 or 10 miles---I supposed that it was not really the intention of the commanding general to leave me in this position. I was corroborated in my opinion by the answer of Genera] Banks, who advised me to march to Fayetteville, and by the fragmentary paper saying that I would find my pontoon train at that point. Considering all this I resolved to march to Fayetteville at night, and made my preparations accordingly, although I did not believe in the correctness of the whole plan.
Just at the moment when my troops were about to move one of my officers returned with an order of General Pope, directing me to march to Warrenton and to encamp there. I put my troops in motion in compliance with this order and cautiously withdrew from Waterloo Bridge, as I had not a single company of cavalry to cover my retreat. Before withdrawing, however, I ordered the destruction of the bridge, which was accomplished, under the direction of General Milroy, after much exertion and some loss of life.
At 2 o'clock next morning (August 26), as I was entering Warrenton with my rear guard, I received another order from General Pope, through General McDowell, directing me to "force the passage of the Waterloo Bridge at daylight." As this was a matter of impossibility, the troops having marched the whole night on a very inconvenient road, I reported to Major-General Pope this fact, and received orders to stay at Warrenton.
During the day I ascertained that the enemy was marching by Thoroughfare Gap to Manassas, and on the following night that his main army was encamped at White Plains, the advance guard east of Thoroughfare Gap and the rear at Orleans. This news was brought in by all the scouts sent out by me, with some cavalry, to Sperryville, Salem, and Gainesville, and was immediately communicated by telegraph to Major-General Pope. It was also reported to me that the enemy was moving during the night (Tuesday); that Jackson would be in Manassas next day (Wednesday), and that Longstreet had not yet joined him, but was 2 miles from Salem at noon on Wednesday, the 27th.
In view of these facts I proposed to General McDowell, to whose command the First Corps had been attached since its arrival at Waterloo Bridge, to concentrate our forces at Gainesville, and thereby separate Longstreet's troops from those of Jackson, taking the enemy at Manassas in the rear, and by forcing him to evacuate Manassas effect a junction with the army of General McClellan. This movement was executed.
On the morning of the 27th the First Corps left Warrenton for Buckland Bridge, on the road to Gainesville, with directions to take possession of the bridge, and thereby open the road to Gainesville. The brigade of Brigadier-General Milroy advanced rapidly toward the bridge, and drove the enemy, who was stationed there with some cavalry and artillery, back toward Gainesville, while the pioneers repaired the bridge, which had been set on fire and partially destroyed by the enemy. In a short time the whole of General Milroy's brigade had passed the river and pressed forward against Gainesville, making on their way about 150 prisoners. I now ordered General Schurz to pass the river and follow General Milroy and to take position behind him. The division of General Schenck also crossed the river, and the infantry brigade of General Steinwehr remained in reserve at the bridge. Such was the position of the First Corps on the evening of the 27th.
During the night General McDowell's corps arrived at Buckland Mills, and I received orders at 3 o'clock in the morning to march to Manassas and to take a position, with my right resting on the railroad leading from Warrenton Junction to Manassas Junction; so, at least, I understood the order.
On this march our cavalry, sent out to the left in the direction of Groveton, was shelled by the enemy, about 1½ miles distant from the road on which we marched; and, besides this, an artillery engagement, began between the corps of General McDowell and the enemy. I immediately halted, ordered the whole corps to counter-march, and formed in order of battle on the heights parallel with the Centreville-Gainesville road. The enemy's infantry and cavalry pickets were about 300 yards from our line, and our skirmishers had already advanced against them, when, on a report made to General McDowell, I received orders to march forthwith to Manassas Junction. I reluctantly obeyed this order, marched off from the right, and was within 2 1/2 miles from Manassas, when our cavalry reported that Manassas was evacuated by the enemy, and that General Kearny was in possession of that point. As I was sure that the enemy must be somewhere between Centreville and Gainesville, I asked permission to march to New Market, whereupon I was directed to march to Centreville. This order was in execution, and the troops prepared to cross the fords of Bull Run, when our advance met the enemy on the road leading from New Market to Groveton and Sudley's Ford, this side of Bull Run. About the same time I received a report from General Pope that the enemy was concentrating at Centerville. Supposing that this was correct, [ directed the brigades of General Milroy and Colonel McLean to advance against the enemy this side of Bull Run, on the road to Sudley Springs, and left General Stahel's brigade and General Schurz' division near the fords, the latter division facing toward Centreville.
As soon, however, as I had ascertained that Centreville was evacuated by the enemy I followed with these troops to assist Brigadier-General Milroy and Colonel McLean, who, under the direction of Brigadier-General Schenck, were briskly engaged with the left of the enemy's forces, whose right had engaged a brigade of the Third Corps. Our artillery advanced steadily until the darkness of night interrupted their movements. They encamped for the night near Mrs. Henry's farm, one regiment taking position on the Centreville-Gainesville turnpike, the main force fronting toward Sudley Springs and Groveton.
Report # 2
BATTLE OF GROVETON, NEAR BULL RUN, ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 29, 1862.
On Thursday night, August 28, when the First Corps was encamped on the heights south of Young's Branch, near Bull Run, I received orders to "attack the enemy vigorously" the next morning. I accordingly made the necessary preparations at night and formed in order of battle at daybreak, having ascertained that the enemy was in considerable force beyond Young's Branch, in sight of the hills we occupied. His left wing rested on Catharpin Creek, front toward Centreville; with his center he occupied a long stretch of woods parallel with the Sudley Springs-New Market road, and his right was posted on the hills on both sides of the Centreville-Gainesville road. I therefore directed General Schurz to deploy his division on the right of the Gainesville road, and by a change of direction to the left to come into position parallel with the Sudley Springs road. General Milroy, with his brigade and one battery, was directed to form the center, and to take possession of an elevation in front of the so-called "stone house," at the junction of the Gainesville and Sudley Springs roads. General Schenck, with his division, forming our left, was ordered to advance quickly to an adjoining range of hills, and to plant his batteries on these hills at an excellent range from the enemy's position.
In this order our whole line advanced from point to point, taking advantage of the ground before us, until our whole line was involved in a most vehement artillery and infantry contest. In the course of about four hours, from 6.30 to 10.30 o'clock in the morning, our whole infantry force and nearly all our batteries were engaged with the enemy, Generals Milroy and Schurz advancing 1 mile and General Schenck 2 miles from their original positions.
At this time (10.30 o'clock) the enemy threw forward large masses of infantry against our right, but was resisted firmly and driven back three times by the troops of Generals Milroy and Schurz. To assist these troops, so hard pressed by overpowering numbers, exhausted by fatigue, and weakened by losses, I ordered one battery of reserve to take position on their left, and posted two pieces of artillery, under Lieutenant Blume, of Schirmer's battery, supported by the Forty-first New York Volunteer Infantry, beyond their line, and opposite the right flank of the enemy, who was advancing in the woods. These pieces opened fire with canister most effectively, and checked the enemy's advance on that point. I now directed General Schenck to draw his lines nearer to us, and to attack the enemy's right flank and rear by a change of front to the right, thereby assisting our troops in the center. This movement could not be executed by General Schenck with his whole division, as he became briskly engaged with the enemy, who tried to turn our extreme left.
At this critical moment, when the enemy had almost outflanked us on both wings, and was preparing a new attack against our center, Major-General Kearny arrived on the field of battle, and deployed by the Sudley Springs road on our right, while General Reno's troops came to our support by the Gainesville turnpike. With the consent of General Reno I directed two regiments and one battery, under Briga-dier-General Stevens, to take position on the right of General Schenck--the battery on an eminence in front and center of our line, where it did excellent work during the rest of the day, and where it relieved Captain Dilger's battery, which had held this position the whole morning. Three regiments were posted between General Milroy and General Schenck, and two others, with two mountain howitzers, were sent to the assistance of General Schurz. Scarcely were these troops in position when the contest began with renewed vigor and vehemence, the enemy attacking furiously along our whole line, from the extreme right to the extreme left. The infantry brigade of General Steinwehr, commanded by Colonel Koltes, was then sent forward to the assistance of Generals Schenck and Schurz, and one regiment was detailed for the protection of a battery posted in reserve near our center. The troops of Brigadier-General Reynolds had meanwhile (12 o'clock) taken position on our left. In order to defend our right I sent a letter to General Kearny, saying that Longstreet was not able to bring his troops in line of battle that day, and requesting him (Kearny) to change his front to the left, and to advance, if possible, against the enemy's left flank. To assist him in this movement I ordered two long-range rifled guns to report to him, as his own battery had remained in reserve behind his lines.
At 2 o'clock in the afternoon General Hooker's troops arrived on the field of battle, and were immediately ordered forward by their noble commander to participate in the battle. One brigade, under Colonel Carr, received orders, by my request, to relieve the regiments of General Schurz' division, which had maintained their ground against repeated attacks, but were now worn-out and nearly without ammunition. Other regiments were sent forward to relieve Brigadier-General Milroy, whose brigade had valiantly disputed the ground against greatly superior numbers for eight hours.
To check the enemy if he should attempt to advance, or for the purpose of preparing and supporting an attack from our side, I placed four batteries of different commands on a range of hills on our center and behind the woods, which had been the most hotly contested part of the battle-field during the day.
I had previously received a letter from Major-General Pope, saying that Fitz John Porter's corps and Brigadier-General King's division, numbering 20,000 men, would come in on our left. [ did, therefore, not think it prudent to give the enemy time to make new arrangements, and ordered all the batteries to continue their fire, and to direct it principally against the enemy's position in the woods before our front. Some of our troops placed in front were retiring from the woods, but as the enemy, held in check by the artillery in the center, did not venture to follow, and as at this moment new regiments of General Hooker's command arrived and were ordered forward, we maintained our position, which Generals Milroy and Schurz had occupied in the morning.
During two hours, from 4 to 6 p.m., strong cannonading and musketry continued on our center and right, where General Kearny made a successful effort against the extreme left of the enemy's lines.
At 6.15 o'clock Brigadier. General King's division, of Major-General McDowell's corps, arrived behind our front, and advanced on the Gainesville turnpike. I do not know the real result of this movement. but from the weakness of the enemy's cannonade and the gradually decreasing musketry in the direction of General Kearny's attack 1 received the impression that the enemy's resistance was broken and that victory was on our side; and so it was. We had won the field of battle, and our army rested near the dead and wounded who had so gloriously defended the good cause of this country.
Report # 3
BATTLE OF THE 30TH OF AUGUST.
On Saturday, the 30th of August, I was informed by Major-General Pope that it was his intention to "break the enemy's left," and that I, with the First Corps, should hold the center, Major-General Reno should take position on my right, and General Reynolds on my left.
The First Corps took position behind Groveton, on the right of the Gainesville turnpike. My request to have two batteries in reserve behind the center for certain emergencies--one of General Reno's and one of General Reynolds' division--was not complied with, although all my batteries were more or less worked down, several pieces unserviceable and short of ammunition, and many horses killed or disabled.
Having taken position as ordered the corps of Major-General Porter passed between the enemy and our lines and was forming in line of battle on the open field before the First Corps and that of General Reno, masking thereby our whole front. Not understanding the object of this movement, and being requested by one of the staff officers of General Porter to give my opinion in regard to the ground before us, I immediately rode over to the general (Porter) and suggested that, in accordance with the general plan, his troops should pass more to the right, join those of General Kearny on our extreme right, and direct his attack against the enemy's left flank and rear. I also informed him that there were too many troops massed in the center, and that General Reno and myself would take care of the woods in his front. Whilst this was going on I received repeated reports that the enemy was shifting his troops from the Gainesville turnpike to his right. I therefore ordered the Fourth New York Cavalry, under Lieutenant. Colonel Nazer, to advance in that direction between New Market and Groveton, passing behind our left, and to scout the country as far as they could go. I also sent one regiment of General Schenck's division to' the left of our position, as an outpost, to observe the enemy's movements. After the lapse of about an hour I received notice that the cavalry pickets had found the enemy, and that the latter was moving against our left. I sent the messenger that brought this intelligence to General Pope's headquarters. Shortly afterward I received an order by Colonel Ruggles, chief of staff of General Pope, to occupy the "Bald-headed Hill" on my left with one brigade, which I did immediately. Meanwhile General Porter's troops, who had not changed their position, advanced into the woods where we had lost a thousand men the day before. About this time on our left, where General Reynolds was posted, the musketry and cannonading began to increase. The troops of General Porter had wholly disappeared in the woods, which led me to believe that the enemy had left his position in front, and that it was the intention of General Pope to advance the First Corps on the Gainesville turnpike. Suddenly heavy discharges began in front, the corps of General Porter having met the enemy, who was advantageously posted behind a well-adapted breastwork--the old Manassas Gap Railroad track. At the same time the enemy opened with shell and solid shot against our center and left wing. Our batteries replied promptly and spiritedly, and from the general appearance of the battle it was evident that we had the whole army of the enemy before us.
It was now about 5 p.m., when, awaiting the further development of the battle, I received a dispatch through General McDowell, and written by General Porter, expressing his doubt as to the final result of his attack, and requesting General McDowell to "push Sigel forward." Although I had not received positive orders from General Pope, I immediately made the necessary preparations either to assist General Porter or to resist an attack of the enemy should he repel General Porter and advance against my own position in the center, by directing General Stahel to deploy his brigade in front and General Schurz to <269>form his regiments in a line of reserve. During the execution of these movements General Porter's troops came out of the woods in pretty good order, bringing a great number of wounded with them. In answer to my question why they were retiring after so short a time, they said that "they were out of ammunition." Expecting that the enemy would follow up this retrograde movement of a whole corps with a strong force, I kept my troops well together to meet such an event.
Thus we stood when, suddenly, incessant volleys of musketry betrayed the enemy in great force on our left, and showed clearly his real plan of attack. To assist Colonel McLean's brigade on our left I directed General Milroy to join his brigade with that of Colonel McLean. In executing this order, however, General Milroy directed his brigade more to the rear and left than was intended by me, so that by this disposition an interval of several hundred paces was left between these two brigades, by which the enemy penetrated, attacking Colonel McLean's troops in the rear, and compelling them to change their front to the left. They thereby partially evacuated the position they had occupied on the hill. It was at this moment that General Schenck was severely wounded at the head of his troops, whom he had repeatedly led forward against the overwhelming masses of the enemy.
When this was the condition of affairs on our left, General Reynolds, who at the beginning of the battle had deployed his troops in front and to the left of Colonel McLean's brigade, changed his position, and withdrew his battery from a hill to the left of the Gainesville turnpike, near Groveton. The enemy immediately took possession of the hill, posted a battery there, and spread his infantry out over the high and wooded ground before Colonel McLean's brigade and on the flank and almost in rear of our center. To dislodge the enemy from his new-gained position I ordered forward three regiments of infantry, under Colonel Koltes, who, under a terrible artillery and infantry fire, boldly advanced against the hills, but could not regain the lost ground.
In this attack I have to regret the loss of the intrepid Colonel Koltes, who was killed while executing the movement ordered. His brigade, though nearly decimated, succeeded in protecting our center and preventing the turning of' our flank.
It was now evident that to avoid the destruction of our troops from the sweep of the enemy's batteries, and as the main attack was now on our left, I ordered General Schurz to withdraw his division from the low ground, under cover of our artillery, and take position on the hills near the stone house, one brigade to face toward the left. The brigade of General Stahel followed this movement, and formed in line of battle on our right. Immediately in front of this position, on a hill to the right (north) of the stone house, I placed a battery of the Fourth Regulars, which I had met on the turnpike. This battery behaved nobly, and maintained its position until the last hour. Captain Dilger's battery occupied a more advanced position near Groveton, Captain Dieckmann's was on our left, and Captain Schirmer's on our right, with General Stahel's brigade.
General Milroy, with his brigade, and the assistance of several additional regiments which he had brought forward, succeeded in repulsing the enemy on the left. In this gallant exploit his horse was shot under him. We maintained our second position until night had closed in upon us, when General Pope ordered a general retreat.
Following the troops of Generals Porter and McDowell, my corps crossed Young's Branch, where it remained for two hours, until the commands of Generals McDowell, Reno, and Kearny had crossed Bull Run by the ford near the stone bridge, and the whole train had passed over the bridge. It was now between 9 and 10 p. m. I then marched to the turnpike, crossed the bridge over Bull Run, and took position on the left and right of the bridge, throwing my pickets out on the other (south) side of the creek toward the battle-field. Soon afterward an officer of General McDowell's staff directed me to fall back, as the enemy was threatening the line of retreat. It was now after midnight, when I ordered my command to continue its march toward Centreville, first destroying the bridge across Bull Run. Our rear guard was composed of part of General Schurz' division, two pieces of Captain Dilger's battery, and a detachment of Colonel Kane's Bucktail Rifles, which had come up with several guns collected on their march of retreat.
I reached Centreville at daybreak on the 31st of August, my command encamping in front of and occupying the intrenchments of that place. Our losses during the two days' battle in killed, wounded, and missing, according to the official lists sent in, are 92 officers and 1,891 noncommissioned officers and privates.
To be just to the officers and soldiers under my command I must say that they performed their duties during the different movements and engagements of the whole campaign with the greatest promptness, energy, and fortitude. Commanders of divisions and brigades, of regiments and batteries, and the commanders of our small cavalry force, have assisted me under all circumstances cheerfully and to the utmost of their ability, and so have the commanders of the two batteries of Major-General Banks' corps (Captain Roemer's and Captain Hampton's), under Major Keefer, attached to me since our arrival at Freeman's Ford.
It also affords me pleasure to mention the faithful services of the members of my staff and of such officers as were detailed to me for special duty. To them, as well as to the officers and members of my escort, the pioneer companies, and to my scouts, I hereby express my high regard and warmest gratitude.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General, Commanding Corps.
Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
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