Part II: Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas)

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Part II: Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas)

"Gen. Sigel's Corps at the Second Battle of Bull Run – Fought August 29, 1862"
From Harper's Weekly Illustrated Newspaper, "sketched by Mr. Davenport"
(Illustration courtesy of )
(Unless otherwise noted, all illustrations are courtesy of Wikipedia)

Today in Military History: August 29-30, 1862

Preliminaries: August 26-28

As "Stonewall" Jackson was taking a breather at Gainesville, he had a decision to make: move on to Manassas Junction and cut the railroad there where there was a possibility of it being heavily defended, or save that for later and cut the line in a less defended place. He opted for the latter and moved straight south to Bristoe Station. After a march of two hours, Jackson's command arrived at Bristoe Station and managed to cut the line. Jackson then decided to make a night attack on Manassas Junction just five miles away and sent Brigadier General Isaac Trimble's brigade to make the attack. When that was complete, Jackson had completed two of the most successful days of his career. His men had marched fifty miles, wrecked two trains, tore up several miles of track, captured several hundred federal soldiers, eight cannon, and supplies beyond their wildest dreams.

On the evening of August 26, while Jackson was at Bristoe Station, the high command of the Army of Virginia was starting to get dribbles of information, a foreboding of things to come. There were indications that a large Confederate force had passed through Thoroughfare Gap earlier in the day. By midnight Pope knew that something was drastically wrong. By this time, piecing together bits of information Pope was reasonably certain that Lee had split his army, or at least strung it out in a huge fifty mile arc.

Pope had a couple of choices at this point. He could pull out and move toward Fredericksburg where he could link with the rest of the McClellan's Army of the Potomac. However this would leave Washington basically uncovered. Or, he could try to make an opportunity of the situation as it stood. He thought if he could move swiftly enough to Centreville or Manassas he could catch Jackson and crush him. Pope chose the latter and shortly before dawn on August 27, he issued orders to abandon the Rappahannock line and move on Gainesville to "crush the enemy." Pope would move with about 66,000 men.

'Train derailed by Confederate cavalry on August 26, 1862 during Battle of Manassas Station Operations'; From 'The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes; Volume Four: The Cavalry'; Photograph taken late August 1862 (author unknown), published 1911
"Train derailed by Confederate cavalry on August 26, 1862 during Battle of Manassas Station Operations"
From The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes; Volume Four: The Cavalry
Photograph taken late August 1862 (author unknown), published 1911

By 6:00 am on August 27, Pope had a plan. He would march east, toward Gainesville, with more than sixty thousand men, Franklin's 10,000-man corps would move westward from Alexandria toward Gainesville, Haupt's rescue force of 4,000 was moving on Manassas Junction from the east. If all went well Pope would squeeze Jackson from two directions with a force of about 80,000 men.

Jackson spent the night of August 26-27 at Bristoe Station but had no intention of staying there. During the night he received a message from Trimble, whose brigade now occupied Manassas Junction, that the Yankees were nearby and he needed reinforcements. The next morning Jackson left Ewell at Bristoe Station to watch for any Yankee force while he took Taliaferro's and Hill's brigades to Manassas. When they arrived they beheld a sight that they had never seen before: acres and acres of Yankee goods in railcars, including food and weapons. They immediately began taking advantage of the situation. This was to be short lived however.

Part of the Union rescue force started arriving and opened fire with their cannon. The Rebels quickly started forming their defensive perimeter in the earthworks still in place from the first battle there in July, 1861. By 9:00 am they had about nine thousand infantrymen and 28 cannon in place. The Federal forces quickly realized they were a bit short of men. After this morning action from the east was squashed, Jackson still feared an attack from the west. This was why he had left Ewell at Bristoe Station.

Brigadier Gen. Joseph Hooker, USA (1814-1879) Photo by Mathew Brady, ca. 1861-1862
Brigadier Gen. Joseph Hooker, USA (1814-1879)
Photo by Mathew Brady, ca. 1861-1862

A Union reconnaissance force from Hooker's division reported back that there was a strong Confederate force there. After that they began to move in earnest to an engagement with the Confederates. Had Ewell not been there no one would have known they were coming. In the meantime, He deployed his men to defend, knowing that he essentially guarded Jackson's rear. Ewell sent word to Jackson that the Federals might advance and he was going to require support. Before he could receive orders from Jackson, at 2:30 pm the Federals advanced. As the fight continued for over an hour it became obvious to Ewell that the Federal force was larger than his, but he had to hold. Then at about 4 pm Ewell received word from Jackson that if he could not hold to fall back across Broad Run and unite with the rest of Jackson's command at Manassas. The last of Ewell's men were across Broad Run by 6:00 pm. Ewell's division and Jackson's command was safe. Union pursuit was frustrated by burning a nearby bridge. The battle fought that day would become known in history as the battle of Kettle Run.

Although Jackson knew where Lee and Longstreet were, he was not that sure exactly where Pope's main army was. He did know that they were close enough so that he would probably engage them the next day and he did not want to do it from this position. Around midnight, the Confederates finished feasting on the Yankee larder and had their haversacks full. Jackson ordered the burning of the rest, to keep them out of the hands of the Federals. The fire and smoke could be seen for miles. He then ordered his command to move out. They were going to move just north of the Warrenton Turnpike to a position behind an unfinished railroad there. Jackson was very familiar with this ground and knew that would be a good defensive position and one from which he could move north toward Aldie if he had to. In the meantime, Pope aimed most his army toward Manassas, making no provision as to what to do if Jackson is not there and making no provision to stop the two wings of the Confederate army from uniting.

Battle of Brawner's Farm

By August 28, Pope has discovered that Jackson was not at Manassas. He made the invalid assumption that Jackson was retreating and spent the day trying to find him. Jackson spent most of the day consolidating his line on the unfinished railroad cut and trying to determine exactly were Pope was. Late in the day, shortly before dusk, Jackson was at the Brawner farm area, just north of the Warrenton Turnpike, when he saw a Union column moving west to east on the turnpike. After watching them for a few minutes, he turned to his commanders and said, "Bring up your men gentlemen."

Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday, USA (1819-1893) Photograph ca. 1863-1865, author probably Mathew Brady
Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday, USA (1819-1893)
Photograph ca. 1863-1865, author probably Mathew Brady

The column that Jackson saw was Brig. Gen. Rufus King's division, consisting of the brigades of John P. Hatch, John Gibbon, Marsena Patrick, and Abner Doubleday. [Yes, *that* Abner Doubleday…] King had epilepsy and was still suffering from an attack he had a few days before and was in an ambulance. Brig. Gen. Hatch became temporary commander. As Jackson opened up with artillery, the column took cover on either side of the road. Gibbon swung Campbell's battery, 4th U.S. Artillery, up a small lane going to the north of the turnpike to return fire. Gibbon consulted with Doubleday, the closest brigade commander to him, as to what he thought they should do. Both decided that they were facing Stuart's "horse artillery" therefore they should stand and fight.

As Gibbon marched his Western regiments through the Brawner woods it was almost nightfall. He expected some opposition, but not much. After all, he thought he was facing "horse artillery" unsupported by infantry. Instead when they cleared the woods they were face to face with some of the most battle hardened Confederates in the entire army: the Stonewall Brigade. Over the next two hours, the most horrific close action fighting in the entire war occurred. The two lines stood face to face about 50-75 yards apart, pouring volley after volley into the lines of their enemy. Gibbon's Wisconsin and Indiana troops stood their ground. Only darkness forced the withdrawal of Gibbon's brigade, which sustained almost 850 casualties in the evening's fight. Stonewall Jackson himself described this battle as "a fierce and sanguinary struggle." After the action at the Brawner Farm, there was no doubt as to Jackson's location.

Battle of Brawner's Farm, August 28, 1862; The area occupied by Sigel's brigade was the site of the First Battle of Bull Run (1861)
Battle of Brawner's Farm, August 28, 1862
The area occupied by Sigel's brigade was the site of the First Battle of Bull Run (1861)

[It should be noted that at this battle Gibbon's brigade was known as the "Black Hats" because of their day-to-day wearing of the Model 1858 "Hardee" hats (see below). It was also their first real fighting of the war. After the battle of South Mountain and Antietam, less than three weeks in the future, they would become known forever after as the "Iron Brigade."]

Model 1858 'Hardee' Hat, dress uniform hat of Union soldiers; Worn daily by the 'Iron Brigade'; Photographed at Gettysburg National Military Park museum
Model 1858 "Hardee" Hat, dress uniform hat of Union soldiers
Worn daily by the "Iron Brigade"
Photographed at Gettysburg National Military Park museum

Battle of Second Bull Run: First Day

About 11:00 pm on the evening of August 28, Gen. Pope learned of the Brawner's Farm fight. Thinking he had Jackson trapped, he issued orders to his subordinates. Some of these orders were vague and contradictory. Two of his commanders never received their orders. None of the orders made any provisions to counter Longstreet should he arrive. Pope's efforts were concentrated on Jackson's command and its destruction.

Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, USA (1822-1901) Photograph taken in 1862, author unknown
Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, USA (1822-1901)
Photograph taken in 1862, author unknown

At about 7:00 am, Pope's forces attacked. But he had completely misjudged the situation. He had based his plan on the belief that Jackson was desperately trying to escape; it never occurred to him that Jackson would turn and fight. As the battle along Jackson's line progressed, during the morning Pope sent out what would become known as the "Joint Order" to Maj. Gens. Fitz John Porter and Irvin McDowell, two of his corps commanders. The order had two purposes: to assign Hatch's division to McDowell's command, as he had requested, and to clarify Porter's and McDowell's assignment on the Manassas-Gainesville road. However, the purpose seemed to have gotten lost in the rambling style it was written in. Basically, it said, (1) move forward, (2) halt, and (3) prepare to fall back. In addition, Brig. Gen. John Buford – commanding the Army of Virginia's cavalry corps – sent a message to McDowell at about 9:00 am that Longstreet's half of the army had passed through Thoroughfare Gap and was on the Gainesville road, undoubtedly heading for Jackson's position. This message did not reach Pope for 10 hours.

Longstreet's column started arriving on the field between 10:00 am and noon, with Brig. Gen. John Bell Hood's Texas brigade in the lead. Jackson's line along the unfinished railroad was running roughly east/west. Longstreet locked onto Jackson's right and extended his line to the south about 1 ½ miles. This formed an angle that would later be called be called the "Jaws of Death," with Longstreet's wing being the moving mandible of the jaws. The entire Confederate line was now about 4 miles long. Lee wanted to attack right away but Jeb Stuart reported there was a large Union force (this was Porter's command) just to the south of them. If they attacked, this force would be on their flank. Longstreet wanted time to reconnoiter. So Lee agreed.

Opening attacks, 2nd Battle of Bull Run, 7:00-10:00 am, August 29, 1862
Opening attacks, 2nd Battle of Bull Run, 7:00-10:00 am, August 29, 1862

As the battle along the unfinished railroad paused about noon, Pope surmised that if Porter followed his orders he would proceed up the Gainesville road and attack Jackson's flank and rear. Pope was completely ignoring the fact that Longstreet had arrived on the field. In fact, Gen. Pope did not receive Buford's message to McDowell (which contained the information about Longstreet's men approaching the battlefield) until almost 7:00 pm that evening. Pope erroneously believed that Longstreet's force was being sent to support Jackson's eventual withdrawal. He stepped up the action in hopes that it would keep Jackson busy while Porter made his move.

Late-day action, 2nd Battle of Bull Run, 5:00-7:00 pm, August 29, 1862; Note Longstreet's force outflanking the Union left
Late-day action, 2nd Battle of Bull Run, 5:00-7:00 pm, August 29, 1862
Note Longstreet's force outflanking the Union left

At 4:30 pm, Pope ordered Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny to attack the extreme left of Jackson's line. He also sent an order to Porter to attack Jackson's right flank, still thinking he could bag Jackson's entire command before the arrival of Longstreet's wing. Kearny's men, who had seen no action during the entire day, attacked Jackson's left flank at 5:00 pm, encountering the men of A.P. Hill's division. Hill's men had turned by two major attacks over the previous 8 hours, were exhausted, and almost out of ammunition. Hill sent a frantic message to Jackson, asking for reinforcements. Two Confederate brigades were shifted to that sector, and Kearny's assault was turned back.

Brig. Gen. John B. Hood, CSA (1831-1879) Photograph taken ca. 1862-1863, author unknown
Brig. Gen. John B. Hood, CSA (1831-1879)
Photograph taken ca. 1862-1863, author unknown

Just before 7:00 pm, Gen. Lee wanted to attack the Union army. Longstreet again convinced his commander to wait, saying they did not know the precise layout of the Federal units. "Old Pete" then suggested that a reconnaissance in force be sent forward, to which Lee agreed. Hood's Texans advanced shortly afterwards, and encountered the Union III Corps brigades of Gen. Doubleday and Col. William Sullivan. These two units had been sent by Pope to reconnoiter Jackson's right flank. A sharp fight lasting until sunset occurred, with both sides falling back afterwards.

Unfortunately, Porter was stuck. He knew Longstreet's men were between him and Jackson's flank so he remained in place. Pope now realized that Longstreet's men were nearby. However, he still stuck to his original plan, to surround and destroy Jackson's force. [Pope was later criticized for virtually ignoring Longstreet, and jeopardizing the entire Army of Virginia. Historians have said that the most prudent thing for him to do, now that he surely knew he no longer outnumbered Jackson, was to pull back behind Bull Run at the very least. Even better, he could have fallen back to Alexandria, where two corps of McClellan's army had landed, awaiting orders. The addition of these men to Pope's army would have been a difference maker.]

By day's end, all lines were still intact. Jackson's command was exhausted and Pope was furious that Porter had made no attack. Pope now set his sights on destroying Jackson's force…

Tomorrow: Part III – Second Battle of Manassas

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