By July 4, 1861, when the new Congress, dominated now by the
Republican Party, came into session Abraham Lincolns gamble that his exercise
of unconstitutional power would be sanctioned, paid off. The Republicans in both
houses, controlling the agenda, swiftly passed a series of bills that put Lincolns war on a legal footing.
How large the
space compared to the desks: they knew the chances of the future.
In one month these bills pass:
The Allegiance bill
The Tariff and War Tax bills
The Army and Navy bill
The Insurrection and Sedition bill
The Confiscation bill
The Slaveholders Rebellion bill
In the course of the session, the Republican senators
proposed a joint resolution designed to validate the Presidents unconstitutional
acts. What follows is the verbatim debate that took place in the Senate over
the merits of the resolution. Despite the fact the Republicans held the
majority; the resolution was tabled without a vote at the last minute of the
session. One might compare the Senates performance here to that of Senates
debate over the resolution to authorize the President to use force against Iraq, in 2003.
In the Senate of the United States Congress:
Thursday July 4 1861
Maine Lot Morrill and
William P. Fessenden
Vermont Solomon Foot and
New Hampshire John P. Hale and Daniel
Massachusetts Charles Sumner and
Rhode Island James Simmons and
Connecticut James Dixon and
New York Preston King and Ira
New Jersey John R. Thompson and
John Ten Eyck
Pennsylvania John Wilmot and Edgar
Delaware James Bayard and
Maryland Anthony Kennedy and
Kentucky Lazarus Powell and John
Missouri Truston Polk and
Tennessee Andrew Johnson
Illinois Lyman Trumbull
and Orville Browning
Indiana Jesse Bright and Henry Lane
Ohio Benjamin Wade
and John Sherman
Michigan Zachariah Chandler
and Kingsy Bingham
Iowa James Grimes and
Wisconsin James Doolittle and
California Milton Latham and
Minnesota Morton Willkerson
Oregon James Nesmith and
Kansas James Lane and
Mr. Wilson of Massachusetts (The Natick Cobbler)
gave notice that he would introduce a bill to ratify and confirm certain acts
of the President for the suppression of insurrection and rebellion.
Mr. Wilson introduced joint resolution (S.No.1) to approve
and confirm certain acts of the President, for suppressing insurrection and
rebellion; which was read twice by its title and ordered printed.
Mr. Wilson moved that the proposed resolution be referred to
the Committee on Military Affairs (of which he was the newly installed
chairman). The motion was agreed to.
Monday July 8
Mr. Wilson takes the floor to report back the resolution
without amendment from the Committee on Military Affairs and Militia and states
the Committee recommends its passage.
Mr. Polk of Missouri: Let it lie over.
The Vice President: Let it lie over.
Tuesday July 9
The Senators gave eulogies in honor of Stephen A Douglas
whose death was reported.
Wednesday July 10
The Vice President: The joint resolution (S.No. 1) to
approve and confirm certain acts of the President will now be considered.
The joint resolution was read as follows:
Whereas, since the
adjournment of Congress, on the 4th of March last, a formidable
insurrection in certain States of this Union has arrayed itself in armed
hostility to the Government of the United States; and whereas the President
did, under the extraordinary exigencies thus presented, exercise certain powers
and adopt certain measures for the preservation of this Governmentthat is to
say: First. He did, on the 15th of April, issue his
proclamation calling upon the several states for seventy-five thousand men to
suppress such insurrectionary combinations. Second. He did, on the 19th of April, issue a proclamation setting on foot a blockade of the ports within
the (seceded) States. Third. He did, by order of April 27, authorize
General Scott to suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus in the territory between Philadelphia and Washington. Fourth. He did on the 3rd of May, issue a
proclamation calling into the U.S. service forty-two thousand volunteers,
increasing the Regular Army by the addition of twenty-two thousand men. All of
which proclamations and orders have been submitted to Congress. Now, therefore,
Be it resolved by the Senate and
House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all of the extraordinary acts, proclamations, and orders, heretofore
mentioned, be, and the same are hereby, approved and declared in all respects
legal and valid, to the same intent, and with the same effect, as if they had
been issued and done under the previous express authority and direction of the
Congress of the United States.
The Vice President: The joint resolution is now before the
Senate as in Committee of the Whole, and open to amendment.
Mr. Polk of Missouri: I prefer the matter go over until
another day. I may desire to express some views in opposition to it. The
President tells us also, that we are to have an opinion from the Attorney
General that will bear on the matter.
Mr. McDougall of California: I came here to
indorse the preliminary action of the Government. I hope that may be done, and
that all our bills may pass without debate.
Mr. Fessenden of Maine: I have no objection
to deferring the matter until tomorrow, by I shall oppose any further
postponement after that.
Mr. Wilson: Here is a resolution plain and simple to the
comprehension of every man, and I hope the Senate will consider this measure
until it is ready to vote on it.
Mr. Saulsbury of Delaware: It would be
hurrying us in the endorsement of every act that the Administration has done to
require that we should now proceed to the discussion of the very grave
questions of constitutional law involved in the consideration of this resolution.
The motion to postpone was not agreed to.
Mr. Latham of California: During my absence,
I understand that Mr. Clark stated that the Committee on Military Affairs were
unanimous in reporting it. Such was not the case. So far as the proclamation
suspending the writ I have heard no reason for that extraordinary measure. I am
not prepared to endorse blind fold everything the Government may do.
Mr. Kennedy of Maryland:I think there
are grave considerations involved in this resolution, that I am not prepared to
endorse. One or two of the propositions in it are calculated to establish a
precedent that may be seized upon hereafter, under the plea of necessity, for
gross and palpable aggressions upon the Constitution. . . . as for the
suspension of the writ, I now say to the Senate and the country that I conceive
it to have been without any necessity whatever, and without the warrant of the
Mr. Wilson: Everybody knows that these acts of the
Administration were forced upon it by the condition of the country. The
legislation of the country had not provided the necessary means, and the
President took the responsibility, and I am sorry now that there should be any
doubt or hesitation in legalizing by our votes the action of the Government,
extorted from it in an emergency.
Mr. King of New York: I do not come here to
criticize. I heartily concur in and approve of all that has been done, as I
believe the people are ready to come forward and see the Government maintained,
and that but one flag, and that the star-spangled banner, shall fly in the air
of this country. (Applause in the galleries)
Mr. Baker of Oregon: Mr. President, We are
legislating in the midst of a great (army) camp, and I move that the galleries
be cleared upon any manifestation of expression.
Mr. Hale: As a great many of the audience are strangers,
they may not be aware of our rules.
The Vice President: It comes under the rule where the
presiding officer maintains order. If there is repetition, the galleries will
be cleared and the doors closed.
Mr. Kennedy: I do not think that force applied by armies
upon either side is the way to secure and maintain the Union. I agreed with the
senators upon the floor, at the last session, who raised their voices against
the adoption of such a policy of that sort. You will never reconstruct the Union with the sword. May I ask what necessity justified the suspension of the writ?
Mr. Wilson: That there was a band of conspirators in the
city of Baltimore, is a complete justification. There is no spot on this
continent where there have been blacker traitors that in and about Baltimore.
Mr. Kennedy: Out of a vote of 75,000 at the recent election
in Maryland, the Union majority approximated 20,000. Yet, on account of the
clamor that has been made about secret associations, there has been an exercise
of arbitrary power over the State of Maryland., without the slightest
necessity, and, indeed, without the authority of law.
Mr. Baker: I approve, as a personal and political friend of
the President, of every measure he has taken and I propose to ratify whatever
needs ratification. I do know that the determined aggregated power of the whole
people of this countryall its treasure, all its arms, all its blood, all its
enthusiasm, kindled, concentrated, poured out in one mass of living valor upon
the foewill conquer.
The joint resolution was ordered to be engrossed for a
third reading, and was read a third time.
The Presiding Officer: The question is on the passage of
the joint resolution.
Mr. Polk: On that question I ask for the yeas and nays.
The yeas and nays are ordered.
Mr. Polk: I cannot consent to the provisions of the joint
resolution. It has been said that the country is engaged in war. That is true,
sir: There are more troops under arms today than there ever were before in this
country during all its previous history. This has been brought about since the
adjournment of the last Congress, indeed since April 15. The Constitution says
that Congress shall be authorized to declare war; and yet, sir, Congress has
not declared war. That war has been brought on by the President, of his own
motion and of his own wrong; and under what circumstances?
Before the close of the last Congress, as early as January,
secession was an accomplished fact. And yet the last Congress made no
declaration of war. The last Congress passed no legislation calculated to carry
on a war. The last Congress refused to pass bills having this direction, or
having any purpose of coercion. Now, sir, how was this war brought on? It has
been brought on by Lincoln. I quote Vattel: `This constitution is a vain
phantom, and the best laws are useless, if they be not rigorously observed; to
attack the constitution is a capital crime against society.
I cannot give my consent for acts which infringe the
Constitution under which the President acts, and which he is sworn to preserve,
protect and defend. I am one of those who believe that there is no necessity in
peace or war that justifies a violation of the Constitution. I believe this
constitution was made for war as well as peace. It provides in itself for a
declaration of war, it provides how the declaration shall be made. And yet,
sir, somehow, since the adjournment of Congress last, this war has been brought
upon the country.
The Congress of the United States, as early as 1795, for the
purpose of carrying out a plain provision of the Constitution, passed the act
of that day. That act I have here. I call attention to the third section:
`Provided always that whenever it may be necessary, in the judgment of the
President, to use the military force hereby directed to be called forth, the
President shall by proclamation, command the insurgents to disperse. The
President then, proceeding under this law, issues a proclamation on April 15
calling out 75,000 men.
I think no such case as contemplated by this Act existed on
or previous to April 15. The case contemplated by this Act is one where
citizens in some locality of a State refuse to obey the laws. The law was
intended to operate upon the individual citizen. It does not contemplate the
case of a State, or of seven States, assuming, in their corporate capacity, to
withdraw themselves from the Union. When a State assumes that attitude, and the
Government attempts to enforce its laws, it is in effect and in fact a coercion
of the State; and that proposition is the very proposition which was intended
to be ignored and discarded by the framers of the Constitution, for it was
presented and voted down repeatedly, in the different shapes in which it was
offered, in the convention that adopted the Constitution.
I think, Mr. President, there is another point that ought to
be noticed in regard to this proclamation of the Presidentthe opening wedge to
the strife in which the country is now thrownand that is this: it is said
that, upon the legality of calling out the militia, the President, by his
proclamation, determines the whole question; that his proclamation is
conclusive upon it. But, in my opinion, the President is not authorized to
determine the case upon which, by the act, he may call out the militia.
In other words, he cannot, by his proclamation, create an insurrection or a
resistance to the laws, but when the case exists, that is to say, when
there is in fact an insurrection, the President can determine whether the
militia ought to be called out.
Still further, on the 3rd of May the President
issued a proclamation calling for an increase in the Army and Navy. There is no
law for it. None is pretended. The very proclamation, on the face of it, admits
the fact that there is no law for the call. The Constitution gives the
President no power to raise and support armies.
This resolution also admits that the President suspended the
writ of habeas corpus. The King of England, monarch though he be, has no right
to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. That power belongs exclusively to the
Parliament; and our fathers have restricted the right of suspension, in the
very grant of it, to the Congress. I know the President has indulged in an argument
to show that the power given, by way of exception, to suspend the writ, may be
exercised by the President. Sir, the Constitution has not made him the judge of
whether he is justified in the exercise of such a power as that. The
Constitution has not invested him with the power of determining the legality of
his own acts. It has erected another tribunal to determine questions of this
sort, and that tribunal has determined that the power belongs to the
legislative department alone.
Here, Mr. President, I remark that the President has gone
beyond the suspension of the writ and has imposed martial law. He has usurped
the judicial power. He has usurped the war power.
I cannot, as an American senator, give my consent to approve
and legalize these acts of the President.
Mr. Wilson: Will the Senator allow me to interrupt him a
Mr. Polk: Always.
Mr. Wilson: I propose to let this resolution go over until
tomorrow morning, and let the Senator finish his speech tomorrow.
Mr. Polk: I will accede to that proposition.
The motion was agreed to.
Thursday July 11
Instead of Mr. Polk, Mr. Powell of Kentucky took up the
Great God! Senators, can you legalize a violated and
disrupted and broken Constitution? In my judgment, you cannot. If you do this
on the plea of necessity, or because of the extraordinary times by which we are
surrounded, let me tell you that you set a precedent most dangerous to the
people of a free country. I had been of the opinion that liberty existed alone
in the supremacy of the law. Demagogues may prate as they will; but there is no
liberty save in the supremacy of the laws of your country; and if you allow the
President to violate the laws of your country with impunity, let me tell you
that your liberties are fast waning away.
The New York
Governments Holding Cell in 1861
Allow it in one case, and let some malicious tyranta Caesar
or a Bonaparteassume that office in future, and he will avail himself of this
plea of necessity, and place around him an armed band of a million men, in
violation of the law; and his minions and partisans and favorites will say,
here is the precedent for it in the administration of President Abraham
Lincoln, in the year 1861, when the whole Senate of the Nation, under their
oath, indorsed that violation and infraction of the Constitution.
Senators, let me tell you that when you vote this
resolution, you will not only infract the Constitution yourselves, by
justifying and approving the action of the President, you will set an example
most dangerous to a free people, and one that will be a step far towards the
overthrow of our liberties.
Mr. Baker: I remind the Senator from Kentucky that there
are fifty thousand men within five miles of this capitol, the Senate is within
the hearing of hostile guns.
Mr. Bayard: I move to refer the resolution to the Committee
on the Judiciary in order to take the sense of the Senate.
Mr. Wilson: I propose to let the resolution go over until
Mr. Breckinridge of Kentucky: I am content to make my
The resolution was ordered to go over.
Friday July 12
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Saturday July 13
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Monday July 15
Mr. Breckinridge: Mr. President, I obtained the floor some
days ago, to submit a few remarks, but have been indisposed. I shall be happy
to take up the issue of the resolution tomorrow if you please.
The motion was agreed to.
Tuesday July 16 (General McDowells army moves out from Alexandria)
The resolution would seem, upon the face of it, to admit the
acts of the President were not performed in obedience to the Constitution and
the laws. If that be true, I should be glad to hear some reasons assigned by
gentlemen showing the power of Congress, by joint resolution, to cure a breach
of the Constitution or to indemnify the President against violations of the
Constitution and the laws.
I deny, Mr. President, that one branch of this government
can indemnify any other branch for a violation of the Constitution and the
laws. To say that Congress can do this is to say that Congress may alter the
Constitution in a manner not provided in the instrument. If a bare majority of
the two Houses of Congress can, by resolution, make that constitutional which
was unconstitutional, by the same authority it may confer upon the President in
the future powers not granted by the Constitution. It appears to me, thus, that
the principle involved in this resolution is utterly subversive of the
Constitution, and contain the very essence of a Government without limitation
the acts enumerated in the resolution were usurpations on the part of the
President; and I think that he should be rebuked by the vote of both Houses of
The President has established a blockade. By what authority
has he done this? Where is the clause of the Constitution that authorized him?
An attempt was made in the last Congress to confer the authority by bill. It
did not pass. Congress refused to grant the authority by law in face of the
fact that seven states had withdrawn from the Union. Will any senator say that
the power exists, under the Constitution, upon the part of the President to
establish a blockade? It is an incident of war, sir; it is the exercise of the
war power; and the Constitution declares that Congress shall pass an act to
declare war, or exercise that power.
It is proposed, sir, to approve and make valid the act of
the President in enlisting men for three years. I ask you by what authority he
has done this act? The power is not conferred in the Constitution; it has not
been granted by law. It is, therefore, an unconstitutional and illegal act of
executive power. The President, of his own will, has added immensely to the
force of the regular Army. The Constitution says the Congress shall raise
armies and a law is on the books which limits the size of the army.
This resolution proposes to ratify the Presidents
suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. The right of every citizen to be
arrested only by warrant, and his right to have his body brought before a
judge, is a real right. It is a right of rights. It belongs to all. It is a
right that has been struggled for, fought for, guarded by laws, and locked up
in constitutions. It needs no elaborate argument to show that the President has
no right to suspend the writ.
What part of the Constitution is it, sir, which confers upon
the President the right to do this thing? Surely it is not that portion of the
Constitution which declares that he shall take care that the laws be faithfully
executed. All jurists agree that the act of suspension is a legislative act
A subordinate military officer in the city of Baltimore arrests a private citizen by military force without warrant of law, and confines
him to a fortress. His friends seek a writ before the Chief Justice of the United States, and the reply is that he will not be delivered up by the military. The Chief
Justice then gives an opinion which the President does not undertake to answer.
You propose to make that valid. You propose to approve it, without making a
defense of it on constitutional or legal grounds. What will be the effect? You
invite him to do the like in the future; and the whole country will lie
prostrate at the feet of the President when, in his opinion, the time shall
have come to suspend the rights of individuals, and to have substituted
military power for judicial authority.
The New York
You have, sir, practically, martial law established all over
this land. The houses of private citizens are searched without warrant. The
right of citizens to bear arms is made nugatory by their being taken from them
without judicial process. The other day, in Baltimore, a military officer
appointed a marshal for that city. What more authority did the officer have for
doing that than he had to appoint a pastor of a congregation or a president for
a bank? Has not the President, by one broad and sweeping act, laid his hands
upon the private correspondence of the whole community?
Mr. President, we may pass this joint resolution to approve
these acts, but we cannot make them valid in fact.
The Constitution declares that Congress alone shall have the
power to `declare war. The President has made war. Congress shall have power
to raise armies. The President has raised armies. The Constitution declares
that no money shall be taken from the treasury except pursuant to
appropriations made by Congress. The President has taken money from the
treasury without appropriations made by law.
These rights and duties have been trampled under foot by
military power, are being trampled now every day; and yet, so great upon the
one side is the passion of the hour, and so astonishing the stupid amazement on
the other, that we receive it as natural, as right, as of course. We are
rushing from a constitutional government to a military despotism.
The Constitution says the freedom of speech shall not be
abridged. Three days ago, in the city of St. Louis, a military officer, with
four hundred soldiersthat was his warrantwent into a newspaper office, removed
the types, and declared it should no longer be published, giving the reason
that it was making reports injurious to the United States.
The President has concentrated in his hands the executive,
legislative and judicial powers. What is the excuse? Necessity. I answer, there
was no necessity. Was it necessary to preserve the Presidents authority here,
that the southern coast be blockaded? Was it necessary, until Congress should
meet, that powers not conferred by the Constitution be assumed? Was there any
necessity for overrunning the state of Missouri? Was it necessary for raising
the largest armies ever assembled upon the continent? I deny that the
President may violate the constitution on the plea of necessity. It substitutes
the will of one man for a written constitution, especially where you make him
the ultimate judge of that necessity, and his decision is not to be appealed
With such a beginning as that, what are we to expect in the
future? Sir, when I see men imprisoned within hail of the Capitol, without a
warrant, and the courts paralyzed, and Congress not rising to protest in
indignant tones against it, my mind is filled with forebodings of the future.
Is the doctrine to obtain that the provisions of the
Constitution are to be entirely subordinated to the idea of political unity?
Shall the rallying cry be, `the Constitution and the Union, or are we prepared
to say, `the Constitution is gone, but the Union survives? Let us carry on
with a wink at violations of the instrument, and, sir, the people will soon
begin to inquire what will become of their liberties at the end of the strife.
The pregnant question, Mr. President, for us to decide is, whether the
Constitution is to be respected in this struggle; whether we are to be called
to follow the flag over the ruins of the Constitution? I believe that the whole
tendency of the present proceedings is to establish a Government without
limitations of powers, and to change radically our frame and character of
I say that it never was in contemplation, by the framers
that this Government should be maintained by military force to subjugate the
different political communities that compose the States. It was declared by Madison, and by Hamilton that it was not in the competency of the Government to thus
preserve it. Call it what you will it is a military subjugation. They are to
march through Virginia, through the Carolinas, through all the Gulf States down to New Orleans, to occupy them, to subdue them.
Mr. Dixon and Mr. Baker interrupt to argue with
Mr. Breckinridge: The substance of what they say is that
the unity of the government shall survive not only the constitution, but all
rights both of persons and property. The institutions of the Southern State
existed before the Constitution was formed, and were intended to be secured by
it. To declare that this war shall be prosecuted to the abolition of slavery is
in principle to declare that it shall be prosecuted to the total subversion of
all state authority, to the total overthrow of all rights.
I do not think that the people of the adhering states are
willing to go into this strife with vast armies, make war, abolish institutions
and political communities themselves, struggling simply for the idea of
territorial integrity and national unity, finding, when they come out of the
contest, the Constitution gone, and themselves at sea as to the character of
the institutions with which they emerge from it. How strange it sounds that
these men do these acts to preserve the Constitution of their country.
Mr. President, I regret to say that what may be called the
more extreme violent and resolute men of the Republican organization appear to
have control of the countrys destiny at this time, and all efforts are being
made for the purpose of preventing peace, and of inflaming the public mind
against the institutions of the South. Just this morning I saw a bill with the
title `A Bill to suppress the slaveholders rebellion. In it there is a
proposition to free all the slaves of the states that have withdrawn.
Mr. Bingham: I wish to ask the Senator if he denies that
the present rebellion is a slaveholders rebellion.
Mr. Breckinridge: It is perfectly manifest to anyone who
takes the time to educate himself that the opinion of the population, few of
which are slaveowners, is almost unanimous. Allow me to ask the Senator a
question. Does he approve the title of that bill?
Mr. Bingham: I do approve the title.
Mr. Breckinridge: Is he in favor of freeing the slaves?
Mr. Bingham: If it be a necessity.
Mr. Breckinridge: The bill is a congressional act of
emancipation intended to arm the slaves. It is not only to confiscate the whole
property, but it is to ferment a servile war.
Why argue the question further. I am done. I know that
argument and appeal are all in vain. The Senate pants for action. We can only
hope that Providence may preserve for us and for posterity, out of the wreck of
a broken Union, the priceless principles of constitutional liberty. (Applause
broke out in the galleries.)
Mr. Trumbull: I rise to address myself to this noise in the
galleries. I want the galleries cleared if this continues.
Mr. Lane: The doctrine of States rights, as opposed to the
rights of the Government, under the Constitution, is the most dangerous heresy,
which underlies this whole controversy. Out of that idea, and one other idea,
the present state of affairs has been brought upon the country. We are to teach
them a lesson of respect for the North. We are to teach them a lesson of
So much for the Senators objections to what the President
has done. But his last argument, that an effort was made in the last session of
Congress to give the President these powers, and that the Congress refused.
That is true, and why? Because the vacant seats around us were then filled by
traitors. For that reason and that reason alone we failed to confer this power
upon the President.
Virginia today is as much a part of the Union as Indiana is, and the President has the right to march troops wherever he desires to march
Mr. Wilson: The Senator from Delaware wishes to speak to
the issue. Let us have it go over.
Wednesday July 17 (McDowells army is approaching
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Thursday July 18 (McDowells vanguard attacks the rebel
defenses at Blackburns Ford)
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Saturday July 20
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
The New York
Monday July 22
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Tuesday July 23
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Wednesday July 24
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Thursday July 25
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Saturday July 27
Mr. Johnson of Tennessee: The problem
now being solved is whether we can succeed in putting down traitors and
treason, and in establishing the great fact that we have a government with the
strength to maintain itself. . . .Traitors are getting to be so numerous now
that I suppose treason has almost got respectable, but God willing, as I have
heretofore waged war against traitors and treason, I intend to continue it to
Applause rings out
in the galleries, men shout.
The President pro tempore: Order! Order!
Mr. Johnson: Mr. President, we are in the midst of a civil
war; blood has been shed, life has been sacrificed. Traitors and rebels are
standing with arms in their hands and it is said we must go forward and
compromise with them. I say to them: `Ground your arms, then I will talk to
you about compromise.
If, under the Constitution, we cannot live as brothers, can
we live quietly under a treaty, separated as enemies? The same causes will
exist. Our geographical position will remain the same. If the same causes of
division exist, how can we live in peace as aliens and enemies under a treaty?
But, Mr. President, I concur fully with the dislike
expressed by the distinguished senator from Kentucky, Mr. Breckinridge, to a
change in the form of our government. He seems apprehensive of a dictatorship.
But the danger of dictatorship is on his side, not ours. Take that little petty
Governor of Tennessee, Mr. Harris. He would be king! He is to be made king over
the state that contains the bones of the immortal Jackson. He is king over the
free people of Tennessee. Isham G. Harris to be my king. Yes, sir, my king! I
know the man. I know his elements. Mr. President, he should not be my slave.
rises from the galleries.
The President pro tempore: Order! I will clear the
galleries forthwith. The chair hopes to avoid clearing the galleries.
Mr. Johnson, turning to look at Breckinridge: Let me ask
you, sir, what right has any state lost under the Constitution? Is there a man,
North or South, who can put his finger on any one single privilege, or single
right, of which he has been deprived? Can he do it? Can he touch it? Can he see
it? Can he feel it? No, sir; there is no one right that he has lost.
heard a great deal said in reference to the violation of the Constitution. The
Senator from Kentucky seems exceedingly sensitive about violations of the
Constitution. Sir, admitting that his apprehensions are well founded, it seems
to me that a violation of the Constitution for the preservation of the
Government is more tolerable than one for its destruction. In all these
complaints, in all these arraignments of the President, have you heard one word
said against the trampling under foot of law by the States, or the party now
making war upon the Government of the United States? Not one word, sir!
The Senator enumerates what he calls violations of the
Constitutionthe suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the proclaiming of
marital law, the raising of armies and the existing war; and then he asks: `Why
all this? The answer is apparent to all. Who commenced the war? South Carolina withdrew from the Union, and, in the very act of withdrawing, made war on
the United States. The Star of the West, on the 7th of
January, laden simply with provisions to supply those starving men in Fort Sumter, attempted to enter the harbor, and was fired upon, and had to tack about. On
the 11th of April General Beauregard had an interview with Major
Anderson, and made a proposition to him to surrender. Major Anderson stated, in
substance, that by the 15th of the month his supplies would give
out. In possession of this fact, they commenced bombarding the fort. They knew
that in three days Anderson would be compelled to surrender, but they wanted war.
Who then commenced the war? Who struck the first blow? Who
violated the Constitution in the first place? Who trampled the law under foot,
and violated the law morally and legally? Was it not South Carolina, in
seceding? And yet you talk about the President having brought on the war by his
own motion, when these facts are incontrovertible.
You say the President did wrong in increasing the Army. Do
we not know that so soon as Fort Sumter surrendered they took up the line of
march for Washington? Do not some of us here know that we did not sleep for
fear the city would be taken before the rising sun?
Are we for the Government, or are we against it? That is the
question. Taking all the facts into consideration, do we not see that invasion
was intended? When the facts are all put together we see the scheme, and it is
nothing more nor less than executing a program and yet Senators complain the
President has suspended the writ, increased the army, and they ask, where was
the necessity for all this? With your forts taken, your men fired upon, your
ships attacked at sea, Senators talk about 75,000 men being called out. Mr.
President, all this goes to show that our sympathies are with the one
government and against the other. Admitting that there was a little stretch of
power; admitting that the margin was pretty wide when the power was exercised,
the question now comes, when you (the Senate) have got the power, when you are
sitting here, are you willing to sustain the Government and give it the means
to sustain itself? It is not worth while to talk about what has gone before.
The question should be, Is it necessary now? If it is, it should
not be withheld from the Government.
Senators talk about violating the Constitution and the laws.
A great deal has been said about searches and seizures, and the right of
protection of persons and papers. I reckon it is equally important to protect a
Government from seizure as it is an individual. These rebellious states, after
commencing this war, after violating the Constitution, seized our forts, our
arsenals, our dockyards, our public buildings, our ships, and plundered the
treasury of New Orleans. And yet Senators talk about violations of the
Constitution. Does not this talk come with a beautiful grace from the Senators.
We have seen instances where it might be indispensably necessary for the
Government to exercise a power, and to assume a position that was not clearly
legal and constitutional, in order to resist the entire overthrow and upturning
of the Government and all our institutions.
But the President issued his proclamation. When did he issue
it? After they had taken Fort Sumter. It showed that they intended to advance
and that their object was to extend their power, to subjugate the other States,
and to overthrow the constitution and the Government. I do not think there was
a very great wrong done here.
Is the mere defeat of one man, and the election of another,
according to the Constitution, sufficient cause to break up this Government? On
the 4th of March we had a majority in this chamber of six in
opposition to the Presidents party. Where, then, is there even a pretext for
breaking up the Government? Does not everyone know Mr. Lincoln could not even
have made up his cabinet without the consent of a majority of the Senate? Do we
not know he could not have sent one minister abroad without the majoritys
consent? With all these facts staring them in the face, where is the pretense
for breaking up the Government?
We are resisting usurpation and oppression. We will triumph;
we must triumph. Right is with us. Yes, we must triumph. Though sometimes I
cannot see my way clear when my facts give out, when my reason fails me, I draw
largely upon my faith. My faith is strong that a thing so monstrously wrong as
this rebellion is, cannot triumph. Can we submit to it? Can bleeding justice
submit to it? Is the Senate prepared to give up the graves of Washington and
Jackson, to be encircled and governed and controlled by a combination of
traitors and rebels? I say let the battle go onit is freedoms causeuntil the
stars and stripes shall be unfurled at every crossroad, and from every house
I will close. Although the Government has met with a little
reverse within a short distance of this city, no one should be discouraged and
no heart should be dismayed. It ought only to prove the necessity of bringing
forth still more vigorously the power of the Government. Though your flag may
have trailed in the dust, though a retreat may have been made, to purify the
banner, I say let it be baptized in fire and bathed in the nations blood! The
nation must be redeemed; it must be triumphant!
Mr. Hale: I move the resolution be put by.
The President pro tempore: It is moved that this joint
resolution be postponed.
The motion was agreed to.
Monday July 29
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Tuesday July 30
The President pro tempore: The question is on the passage
of the resolution. The yeas and nays are ordered.
Mr. Pearce of Maryland: Mr. President, before
the votes are taken, I have a few words to say. While I love the Union, while I desire that the Union be preserved, I am not willing that a course of
procedure shall be adopted in Maryland which I do not believe to be sanctioned
by the Constitution. The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus by Lincoln is a violation of the principles of freedom which have been consecrated for
centuries. Without habeas corpus no government can be called free. Any petty
officer, under the Presidents decree, can arrest a citizen of Maryland and cause him to be thrown into prison without judicial process. This is the very
highest and the very worst tyranny.
Our fathers guarded against this when they put in the
Constitution the amendment that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or
property without due process of law. They knew this was the great bulwark of
personal libertythe right of rights as the Senator from Kentucky calls it.
Without it we have no rights. Who has the right to take it away? Why is it
pretended that Lincoln can take it away? It is assumed that all provisions of
the Constitution are inferior to that which imposes upon the President his oath
of office, and that the power implied from that oath overrides all other powers
and provisions with which it may come in conflict; and so this great zeal for
the preservation of the Constitution makes it a thing of wax, to be twisted and
molded at the discretion of Lincoln, instead of an inexorable fundamental law
beyond the reach of President or Congress, and only to be altered by the people
in prescribed form and mode.
Equally unfounded in law or fact is the allegation that the
suspension of this constitutional privilege by the President was necessary. I
know that never before in the history of this country has it been deemed
necessary to suspend the habeas corpus even by Congress. Breaches of the
Constitution, it is said, may be tolerated when a solemn duty is supposed to
prompt a little straining of the Constitution for a purpose of high patriotic
duty which disguises the danger of the example. But breaches of the
Constitution once made, make more easy and soon its enemies, with the worst
purposes, rush in to its destruction.
I shall, of course, not vote for the joint resolution,
because I believe that, if these things which have been done by Lincoln are legal, there is no necessity for Congress to undertake to validate or ratify
them; and, if they are illegal and unconstitutional, no power of Congress can
give them any authority whatsoever. Congress may pass a bill indemnifying an
officer who violates the law by paying expenses; but it cannot make an illegal
and unconstitutional thing legal by a declaration that it is so. That is
Mr. McDougall: Mr. President
Mr. Fessenden of Maine: I move that further consideration
of the resolution be postponed.
Mr. McDougall: I addressed the chair.
Mr. Fessenden: I was recognized by the chair.
Mr. McDougall: I want the floor.
Mr. Fessenden: It is important we move on to other
Mr. McDougall: I do not want to interfere with the course
The motion to postpone was agreed to.
Trumbull of Illinois interjects, while speaking to another matter: The
present insurrection broke out during the recess of Congress, and the President
was compelled to provide as best he could for the preservation of the
Government until Congress should meet. It was the duty of the Presidentsworn
to take care that the laws be faithfully executedto use all his constitutional
powers to preserve the Government from overthrow; and in doing this, I admit,
the President has been compelled to do, and has done, acts for which it may be
difficult to find, in the strict letter of the law, the authority; but, sir,
that I am ready to justify. This was necessary when Congress was not assembled;
but after Congress convenes, I say we shall be derelict in our duty if we leave
here without having regulated by law the action of the President.
Let me be distinctly understood on that point. I justify the
President in the exercise of the authority which he has used upon the great
principle of self-defense. Here was a rebellion aiming at the overthrow of the
Government, a blow was about to be struck at the heart and soul of the
Republic; and unless warded off, it would have destroyed the Government. Under
this circumstance I justify and sustain the Government in doing whatever was
necessary to preserve it till Congress convened.
Mr. McDougall: Mr. President, it seems to me that the
preliminary question is, was there, at the time of the exercise of the power,
war or not? There is no room for argument on this question. We have a war.
Then, Mr. President, we have a war, and there is a law of war. It was never set
down in any statute book. It is, and always has been, the law of necessity. It
supercedes the laws organized for administering affairs in times of peace, and
may absolutely supercede them. The right of the writ of habeas corpus is one of
those laws that has no relation to this rebellion. I hope the vote on the
resolution will not be postponed indefinitely.
Wednesday July 31
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Thursday August 1
Mr. Breckinridge interjected: If the Constitution is really
to be put aside, if the laws of war are to govern, why not act upon that
practically? I do not hold that the clause of the Constitution which authorizes
Congress to declare war, applies to any internal difficulties. I do not believe
it applies to any of the political communities, bound together under the Constitution,
in political association. I regard it as applying to external enemies. Nor do I
believe that the Constitution ever contemplated the preservation of the Union of these States by one half the States warring on the other half. The Constitution
details particularly how military force shall be employed, and it can be
employed only in aid of the civil tribunals. If there are no civil tribunals,
if there is no mode by which the laws of the United States may be enforced in
the manner prescribed by the Constitution, what follows? The remaining States
may, if they choose, make war, but they do it outside the Constitution; and the
Federal system does not provide for the case. It does provide for putting down
insurrections, illegal uprisings of individuals, but it does not provide, in my
opinion, either in its spirit or its terms, for raising armies by one half of
the political communities that compose one Confederacy, for the purpose of
subjugating the other half; and the very fact that it does not, is shown by the
fact that you have to avow on the floor of the Senate the necessity for putting
the Constitution aside, and conducting the whole contest without regard to it,
and in obedience solely to the laws of war.
I have said, sir, that we are on the wrong track. Nothing
but ruin, utter ruin, to the North, to the South, to the East, to the West,
will follow the prosecution of this contest. You may look forward to
innumerable armies, to countless treasures. If you are successful in ravaging
the South, what on earth will you have accomplished? Are you not satisfied
that, to accomplish your objective, you must conquer, ay, to exterminate, ten
millions of people? Do you not know it? Does not everybody know it? Does not
the world know it?
War is separation. War is disunion. Eternal and final
disunion. I will not go on. I see the sneers by the gentlemen from New England, but let the future determine who was right and who was wrong. We are making
our record here. I, my humble one, under the sneers and scowls of nearly all
who surround me, giving my votes, and uttering my utterances according to my
convictions. The time will come, Senators, when history will put her final seal
upon these proceedings and if my name shall be recorded here, I am willing to
abide, fearlessly, her final judgment.
Mr. Baker replies: Sir, how can we retreat? How can we make
peace? Upon what terms? What is your boundary line? Where the end of the
principles we will have to give up? What of past glories? What of future hopes?
Shall we sink into the insignificance of the gravea degraded, defeated,
emasculated people, frightened by the results of one battle, and scared at the
visions raised by the imagination of the Senator from Kentucky on this floor?
No sir; a thousand times, no sir! We will rally the people! They will pour
forth their treasure, their money, their men, without stint, without measure.
The most peaceable man in this Senate may stamp his foot upon the floor and
armed legions will spring forth. Shall one battle determine the fate of an
empire, or a dozen? The loss of a thousand men or ten thousand? $100 million or
$500 million? In ten years of peace we can restore them all. If we have the Union the path of the country will be toward greatness and glory which would be ours today,
if it had not been for the treason which the Senator from Kentucky too often
seeks to apologize.
Mr. Breckinridge: I have never held that a State or
a number of States have a right without cause to break the compact of the
Constitution. But what I mean to say is that you cannot then undertake to make
war in the name of the Constitution. In my opinion they are out. You may
conquer them, but do not attempt to do it under false pretenses. Hence the
Senator and I start from entirely different standpoints and his pretended
replies are no reply at all.
The Senator asks me what would you have us do? I would have
us stop the war. We can do it. There is no necessity to continue the war. I
fear constitutional liberty will find its grave in it. The Senator is mistaken to
think we can unite these States by war. He is mistaken to think 20 millions on
his side can subjugate ten millions on the other; or, if it is done that
the Constitution as our fathers made it can be restored. You
will have to govern States as territory, or, as the Senator from Vermont has said, `those rebellious provinces in his speech today.
The Senator asked if a senator of Rome had uttered these
things in a war with Carthage, how would he have been treated? I would have
said, `Let Carthage live and let Rome live, each pursuing its own course of
policy and civilization.
The Senator says that these opinions which I have thus
expressed, are but brilliant treason; and that it is a tribute to the character
of our institutions that I am allowed to utter them on this floor. Mr.
President, if I am uttering treason I am unaware of it. I am speaking what I
believe to be for the good of my country. If I am speaking it I am speaking it
in my place in the Senate. By whose indulgence am I speaking? Not by any mans
indulgence. I am speaking by the guarantees of the Constitution which seems now
to be so little respected. And sir, when he asked what was to be done with a
Roman senator who had uttered such words, a certain Senator (Charles Sumner of
Massachusetts) on this floor, whose courage has much risen of late, replied in
audible tones, `he would have been hurled from the Tarpeian rock. Sir, if ever
we find an American Tarpeian rock, and a suitable victim is to be selected, the
people will turn, not to me, but to that Senator who, according to the measure
of his intellect and his heart, has been the chief author of the public
misfortunes. He, and men like him, have brought the country to this pass. I
rely with the just indignation I ought to feel at such an insult offered on the
floor of the Senate Chamber to a Senator who is speaking in his place.
Mr. President, I shall no longer detain the Senate. My
opinions are my own. I repeat what I uttered the other day, that if the
Commonwealth of Kentucky, instead of being neutral in this unfortunate
struggle, shall throw her energies into the strife and approve the conduct and
policy of the Government in what I believe to be a war of subjugation, she will
be represented by some other man on the floor of this Senate.
Friday August 2
The New York
Times Mistates the Fact
Mr. Trumbull: I ask for the yeas and nays on the question
of taking up the joint resolution.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
Mr. Trumbull: My objection to taking up this resolution I
will state in a word. This resolution proposes to declare legal the acts which
have been done by the President in the recess of Congress. Will our declaration
make them legal? Will it make them more so if they were unconstitutional and
void? I am willing to give the necessary power to the President to suppress
this rebellion; but I am not willing to say that the President has unlimited
power and can do what he pleases, after Congress meets. I am willing to excuse
him for all he has done, and to sustain him in all he has done; but if you
propose to pass a resolution approving the exercise of powers for which you may
be unable to find in strict law the warrant, it seems to be it would be a
strange proceeding. I think we had better let this resolution lie.
Mr. Morrill: I do not think the resolution important. I
believe what the President has done is constitutional. It does not need to be
validated, ratified. He has not transcended the powers which are necessarily,
logically deductible from the powers conferred upon him by the Constitution and
for this reason I am opposed to taking up the resolution at this time.
Mr. Polk: It seems to me a marvelous change has come over
the opinions of some Senators in regard to this resolution. It was about the
first business that was called, the question was on its passage, when I rose,
stating that I had some views that I desired to express. Mr. Breckinridge then
made a motion to postpone the matter one day, but his motion was voted down
almost unanimously by the Senate. Now, when the Senator from Massachusetts
moves to take up the resolution for the purpose of having action on it, it is
to be postponed again. The Senator from Maine thinks it does not require any
action at all
Mr. Morrill: I am ready to express my views.
Mr. Breckinridge: Mr. President
The President pro tempore: The question is on the motion of
the Senator from Massachusetts to take up the joint resolution.
Mr. Breckinridge: The Senator from Maine has stated many
times that he thinks the President has not violated the Constitution. All I
have to say is that it will be a very great comfort to the President to be
assured of that fact; for he himself has been under the impression that he has
been transcending it; and, indeed, he admits it in his message, and puts it
expressly upon the ground of a popular demand and what he deemed to be a public
necessity. It has also been admitted by many senators on the other side of the
aisle. I have not believed, all along, that the resolution was going to be
voted by the Senate. I do not believe it now. My deliberate judgment is, that
in some mode the Senate will avoid putting itself on record in favor of the
principles contained in this resolution. I do not think there are many Senators
who want their names to go upon history in favor of this resolution.
The President pro tempore (At this time, Mr. Anthony of Rhode Island): The Clerk will call the roll on the motion to take up this resolution for
The question being taken by yeas and nays, resultedyeas
28, nays 11
The President pro tempore: The motion prevails, and the
joint resolution is before the Senate, the question being on its passage. On
this question the yeas and nays have been ordered, and the Clerk will proceed
to call the roll.
The Clerk called: Mr. Anthony
Mr. Collamer: I take it the resolution is now open for
The President pro tempore: It is not open for amendment.
Mr. Doolittle: I move the resolution be referred to the
Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. Breckinridge: Has not the call of the roll been
commenced, and has not some member answered to his name?
The President pro tempore: No answer has been given. The
question is on the motion of the Senator from Wisconsin.
Mr. Wilson: I do not like to resist the motion, but I must
confess my surprise at it. This resolution is a plain and simple proposition,
there is no ambiguity about it. It is as clear as sunlight, as simple as
anything can be. I shall vote against the reference.
Mr. Doolittle: A question of this importance ought not be
pressed on the Senate until it has been considered by the Committee on the
Mr. Breckinridge: It was introduced at an early day, it was
reviewed and reported on by the Committee on Military Affairs, it has been
discussed. If we ever intend to vote on it now is the time.
The President pro tempore: The question is on the motion to
refer the resolution to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. Polk: I ask for the yeas and nays.
The yeas and nays were ordered; and being taken,
resultedyeas 17, nays 23
The President pro tempore: So the motion to refer does not
prevail. The question recurs on the passage of the resolution.
Mr. Sherman of Ohio: I am going to vote for
the resolution, and I am going to vote for it upon the assumption that the acts
of the President recited in it were illegal, and not upon the assumption that
they were legal and valid. I am willing to make them legal and valid.
They had conquered Fort Sumter. They were notified expressly
that Major Andersons men had but a few days of supplies remaining and then
would have to retire before starvation. They could not allow Anderson to
retire. Why? Because if they had allowed that, retiring simply before hunger,
they could not say he had been conquered by the forces of the Confederacy. Here
were the threats, here the overt act. What would you have the President do?
Would you, sir, would any man here, have had him fold his arms, and say, I
have no authority. I know the country is going to pieces, but I must be still;
let things take their course. I cannot help it.
The President issued a proclamation calling into service
volunteers. It was clearly illegal. I am not satisfied it was necessary. I am
inclined to think it was not. But these were not willful errors. I vote for
the resolution because I would save the Republic.
Why, sir, I have heard that when a chasm opened in the Forum
of Rome, it was said by the oracles that whatever was most precious in Rome,
must go into it to close it; and a soldier, with his armor on, mounted his
horse, and spurred him into the chasm; and I am told that the conscious earth
closed over him. Sir, while your flag floats over yonder dome, let no man who
loves his country ever forget that, in the year 1861, the President of the United
States saw a horrid chasm opening in the Union of the States, and he did not
hesitate a moment to plunge himself into the chasm. There are those who prefer
to stand at the brink and throw shafts at him. I prefer to go down into the
gulf with him, and share whatever peril is there.
Mr. Thompson: I am not able to vote for this resolution.
Mr. Simmons: I am charged to make a report, and if this
joint resolution can be set aside, I should like to present it.
Mr. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, for the first time
speaks: I hope we shall have a vote on the resolution.
Mr. Clark: Let us vote.
Mr. Simmons: I move the resolution be laid aside informally
until I make this report.
The President pro tempore: That will be the sense of the
Senate unless objected to.
The Tariff Bill was then discussed.
Saturday August 3
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Monday August 5
The matter of the resolution was not discussed.
Tuesday August 6
The President pro tempore: The question is on the motion
for an executive session.
Mr. Breckinridge: Is not the motion of the Senator from Massachusetts, for the yeas and nays on the joint resolution, in order?
The President pro tempore: The Senator yielded the floor.
Mr. Doolittle: I have the floor.
The President pro tempore: Not if the Senator from Massachusetts claims that he did not yield the floor after making his motion.
Mr. Wilson: The motion is to take up the consideration of
the joint resolution.
Mr. Doolittle: I move that the Senate proceed to executive
Mr. Breckinridge: I rise to a question of order, that that
motion is not in order.
Mr. Sherman: I will remind the Senate that Senator Wilson
agreed to give a vote on the resolution and that, on that suggestion, Senator
Breckinridge waived the privilege he had yesterday to bring the motion up.
Mr. Doolittle: I will remind the Senator from Ohio that it is now about one hour to the adjournment of Congress, and we have important
matters pending in executive session that must be disposed of, and it may take
the whole time.
The President pro tempore: The question is on the motion to
proceed to executive session.
Mr. Breckinridge: I call attention to the fact that the
Senator from Wisconsin was exceedingly eager, at the beginning of the session,
to deal in acts and not words, to pass bills and not to argue anything, and was
a devoted friend, I believe, of this joint resolution, which now wanders about
without any parent or sponsor, he is now anxious to give it the go-by. The
Senator from Oregon, Mr. Baker, gave me credit for being a prophet. He said the
other day, that my prediction that the Senate would never vote on the
resolution was not likely to be fulfilled. I take it to be one gleam of
sunshine in the midst of the gloom that surrounds us, that the Senate now
recoils from it.
Mr. Wade: I hope we take a vote on this resolution. There
was an implied promise we would vote on it.
Mr. Doolittle: The remark of the Senator from Kentucky requires a reply. My only point is that we have executive business to complete and
the session is about to end.
Shouts from Mr. Breckinridge and Mr. PowellTake up the
The President pro tempore: The Chair will put the question
on the motion to proceed to executive business. It is not debatable.
The yeas and nays were called, resulting in 20 yeas, 21
nos.So the Senate refused to go into executive session.
The President pro tempore: So the question recurs on the
motion of the Senator from Massachusetts that the Senate proceed to consider
the joint resolution. And the yeas and nays are ordered.
Mr. King: I do not understand the resolution. I think we
need more time to consider the language.
Mr. Wilson: The language can be changed.
Mr. Breckinridge: This resolution is more familiar to the
Senate than any other resolution. It was the earliest introduced. It was the
pet measure of the majority here. It was put in just such shape as that
majority thought was right. It was the outbreak of patriotic ardor with which
the Senate assembled. They matured it; and before the Senate got cool, Senators
expressed their purpose to vote for it. It has been up again and again. There
it is. (pointing to the table in the well of the Senate where it laid)
It has gone to the country. Let the Senate vote it down, or pass it.
Mr. Dougall: It is true this resolution was introduced in
the Senate at an early day, and the Senate approved it. Our time has been
occupied by the Opposition to the Government. We have been ready to pass this
resolution at any day, but it has been postponed to accommodate Senators and
now we come to the day of adjournment. The gentlemen from Kentucky and Missouri are responsible for the delay.
Mr. Fessenden: Mr. President, one thing is very obvious; and
that is, that our friends on the other side of the Chamber are exceedingly
anxious not to have this question voted on, but to have an opportunity to say
that we were afraid to vote on it. They expect to get some advantage out of it.
I am perfectly willing to let them have it, for my observation has been that
nothing is made out of such trifles. I do not attach importance enough to it to
be troubled about it. If the Senate chooses to vote on it, thats fine, but
there is no time for the House of Representatives to vote on it. There is no
time to pass it there.
Besides, the Senator from Delaware, Mr. Bayard, I believe,
had an argument to make on this resolution and is entitled to be heard. We all
know that when that Senator makes an argument it is worth listening to It is
not that we are not ready and willing to vote on the resolution but that the
Senator is entitled to speak
Mr. Polk: I assume the Senator means to be accurate.
Mr. Fessenden: I do.
Mr. Polk: The argument the Senator from Delaware wished to
make is on an different matter.
Mr. Fessenden: He claimed the right to make an argument on
Mr. Polk: He already has argued on this resolution.
Mr. Fessenden: No sir, it has not been made to this day.
Mr. Bayard, the subject senator from Delaware: I did speak on this
Mr. Polk: That is what I just said.
Mr. Fessenden: The Senator from Delaware claimed to make
another argument on this resolution.
Mr. Polk: That argument was not on this resolution, but a different
Mr. Fessenden: There never has been a time when all
senators have conceded that the debate was closed on this resolution.
Mr. Dixon: I ask the unanimous consent of the Senate to
offer a resolution on the Audit and Control expenses of the Senate.
Mr. Bingham: I object.
Mr. Dixon: Does it require unanimous consent?
The President pro tempore: Yes, the question of the joint
resolution is still before the Senate.
Mr. Trumbull: Mr. President, I am not willing that a vote
should be taken, under the misapprehensions which seem to exist in the Chamber
and the impression which will be practiced by it upon the country. The Senator
from Kentucky has said several times that it is the pet project of this side of
the Chamber, that it was brought forward at an early day, matured, and then
there was in indisposition to vote on it. Now I desire to say, that there never
was a moment that the resolution could have received my vote. It never was
matured as a party measurenever. The Senator from Massachusetts, I believe,
reported it from committee, and has urged it; but that it has been any `pet
measure, or anything that anybody was bound to vote for, is an entire
Mr. Collamer: It was not reported from a committee.
Mr. Trumbull: It seems never to have been before a
committee. It is an individual proposition brought in here. Now what authority
is there to assume that this is a pet measure of any party (Lincolns
party) in the country?
Mr. Powell: The resolution was reported from the Committee
on Military Affairs (which Mr. Wilson chaired)
Mr. Trumbull: I am just informed that it was not reported
from that committee, but was brought in by the Senator from Massachusetts on
his individual responsibility.
Mr. Wilson: Let us have a vote.
Mr. Trumbull: Now, my friend is clamorous. He cannot keep
still. I am not disposed to vote upon the resolution. And it is not going to
pass in the shape it is in.
Mr. King: Will the Senator from Illinois (The Majority
Leader) allow me to make a motion to go into executive session?
Mr. Trumbull: I will yield to my friend from New York, and I give way to the consideration of a motion to go into executive session.
Mr. King: I make that motion.
The motion was agreed to; after some time spent the doors
The Senate then considered in sequential order: a message
from the President regarding bills signed; a message from the House, the
passage of resolutions to require a new oath of allegiance; to authorize spending;
to confiscate property used by rebels; to pay the volunteers; and to approve
the publication of the Congressional Globe.
Then this appears in the transcript of the record:
Mr. Sherman objected to the consideration of the joint resolution; and it
was laid over.
President pro tempore announced that the hour fixed for the adjournment of the
arrived and the Senate adjourned, to reconvene in December.
Lincoln Forces a Battle
With militia regiments pouring into Washington from the loyal states,
Lincoln moved, as soon as the people of Virginia ratified the Ordinance of
Secession, to occupy the right bank of the Potomac and build up his army of
In May he had
selected an obscure major named Irvin McDowell as the invasion armys
commander; elevating him to the rank of brigadier general in the Regular army,
to the chagrin of General Scott. At the same time Lincoln appointed Robert C.
Schenck, a lawyer and politician from Ohio, who had been one of his earliest
supporters, to the rank of brigadier general of volunteers; and he raised a
number of Regular army officers, all graduates of West Point, to the rank of
colonel. Daniel C. Tyler, an 1827 West Point graduate, who had spent the last
twenty years in civilian life, was also made a colonel. These officers, along
with a German immigrant named Louis Blenker, formed the group of general
officers who would command the brigades of the volunteer regiments in the wars
first general battle.
On June 29, 1861, as the volunteer regiments were going into
camps around Alexandria, Lincoln ordered McDowell, over General Scotts
objections, to move them against the Confederate force that was standing on the
defensive at Bull Run, with outposts at Centreville, Vienna, and Fairfax.
Lincolns motivation for doing this is plain: He has a small
force occupying St. Louis, preparing to move on the Missouri state Capital at Jefferson City, then in the hands of rebels. He has George McClellan advancing to a little
skirmish in the West Virginia Mountains. He has Robert Patterson advancing to a
little skirmish in the Shenandoah Valley. He has Fort Monroe occupied and Baltimore and the Maryland state capital, Annapolis, under tight military control. Though
by these moves he has certainly eliminated any serious threat to the security
of Washington, as well as to the loyal states, he needs to accelerate the
momentum of war, if he is to keep the people embroiled in the passions of war. He
knows the enthusiasm of the volunteer troops that have flooded Washington is
degenerating into malaise and boredom in the camps, that their three month term
of enlistment is to expire by the end of July, and that if they go home to
their towns and farms without bringing body bags with them, the hysterical
fervor he created, by his tricking the Confederates into firing on Sumter, will
dissipate and the political will of the people to wage war against the South
will fade. He needs to sprinkle blood in the faces of the people, to hold them
to the horrible task ahead, and that means there must be a general battle.
General Scotts Plan Overruled
was much opposed to fighting a battle within Virginiahe wanted to
first blockade Southern ports and while the blockade was
being put in place, take the time to train the volunteers and their
officers in the school of the soldier. Severely pressured by Lincoln to get the
invasion army into action, Scott tried hard to convince Lincoln to combine the
force under McDowell with the force under Patterson, the two converging at or
near Leesburga maneuver that would turn the Confederate position at Bull Run
and thus induce the rebels to retreat behind the Rappahannock. Because this
plan, if successful, would make a general battle unnecessary, eliminating the
death toll Lincoln was looking for, and because Pennsylvania Governor Andrew
Curtin was unwilling to allow Pattersons forcecomposed entirely of
Pennsylvaniansto uncover the Pennsylvania border, Lincoln rejected Scotts
plan out of hand.
Along With Lincoln
McDowell abandoned his relationship with General Scott to go along with Lincoln on this. In response to Scotts instruction to prepare an order of march
consistent with his view of things, McDowell had written: We should march with
our left flank exposed to attack from the enemys advanced positions at
Centreville, Germantown and Fairfax, and on getting as far as Vienna have our
lines exposed to interruption from the direction of Centreville. Any reverse
happening to this raw force, pushed farther along, with the enemy on the flank
and rear and the Potomac on the right, would be fatal. I do not think it safe
to risk anything from this position in the direction of Leesburg farther than Vienna.
Here is the essential military reality revealed: Lincolns force was indeed raw. It was not in fact an army but a
crowd of civilians camping out of doors on a holiday. It was not capable of
moving, left, right, forward or backward as one organism, controlled by one
mind, reacting as one to that minds instruction instantly. Without such
discipline as this, it could not be expected to stand stolid and unmoveable in
the face of massed rifle and artillery fire and deliver.
Despite this hard reality, in a meeting with Lincoln and
Scott on June 29, McDowell, knowing what Lincoln wanted, proposed to advance
with 35,000 men directly upon Bull Run. Lincoln wanted the army to move no
later than July 8, he wanted to impress the incoming congressmen, who were
about to judge his actions, with the fact that a bloody battle would be
happening quickly. At this, McDowell objected to his own plan: He wanted more
time because the men were so green. Lincoln scoffed: The rebels are just as
green. True, McDowell no doubt thought, but all they have to do is stand in
one place and fight, while ours have to move to the attack.
The Union Order
Upon returning to the Lee mansion at Arlington from the
meeting with Lincoln, Irvin McDowell proceeded to organize the volunteer
regiments into eleven brigades and four divisions. The largest of the divisions
was made up of four brigades and three artillery batteries and commanded by
Daniel Tyler, the oldest West Pointer among the officers Lincoln had promoted
to fill the general officer slots, but the least experienced in military
Why Tyler was given this slot, the evidence does not say.
Born in 1799, he was sixty-two in 1861. A graduate of the West Point class of
1819, he resigned his commission in 1834, and thus saw no action in the War
with Mexico and never managed so much as a platoon in battle. From 1834 to
1861, Tyler engaged in the management of businesses in several states,
including Alabama where his remains are buried. Despite the complete lack of
military experience in handling men in battle, McDowell would assign Tyler the most important position in his order of battle. It is true that three of Tylers
four brigadesShermans, Keyess, and Richardsonswere led by young West
Point-trained officers who had seen action during the Mexican War, but these
officers would require clear direction from Tyler if they were to operate
properly together as components of a division. The fourth brigadier in Tylers
division was Robert Schenck, like Blenker a German immigrant, whose only
credential to lead men in battle was the fact that he was an old political
crony of Lincolns.
Erasmus D. Keyes
William T. Sherman
Of these five men, Tyler, Schenck, and Keyes would resign
their commissions before the war ended: Tyler almost immediately after the
battle of Bull Run; Schenck only after being severely wounded at Second
Manassas. Keyes commanded a corps during McClellans campaign against Richmond; thereafter, until his resignation in 1864, he was left at Fort Monroe. Sherman went west after the Battle of Bull Run and teamed up with Grant to eventually
win the war. Richardson would be killed at Antietam.
McDowell assigned the next largest division, composed of
three brigades, to Samuel Heintzelman. An 1826 West Point graduate,
Heintzelmans duty posts as an infantryman took him to Michigan, Florida, Arizona and California. He saw action in the Seminole wars and in the Mexican War
and he saw some action fighting Indians in Arizona. His three brigadiers were
O.O. Howard, who would command the 11th Corps at Chancellorsville
and Gettysburg, William Franklin who would command a corps in front of Richmond, in 1862, and at Antietam, then be sent as an outcast to Arkansas. Orlando
Willcox would be captured by the enemy at Bull Run. Later he would command a
division at Antietam and a corps at Fredericksburg before being shuffled off to
Michigan. In 1895 he was awarded the Metal of Honor for his conduct at Bull Run, though it is unclear what he did there to merit it.
Heintzelman, Division Commander
Command of McDowells third division, composed of two
brigades, went to David Hunter, who, by 1861, was a close friend of Lincolns. Hunter did nothing extraordinary in the war, except issue an Emancipation
Proclamation while on the coast of South Carolina, in 1862, (which Lincoln immediately rescinded) and burn the Virginia Military Institute, in Lexington, Virginia, to the ground in 1864. At Bull Run, his command quickly devolved to
Andrew Porter, one of his brigadiers, when he was wounded in the face almost as
soon as his division came into action the morning hours of July 21.
Andrew Porter, a West Point graduate and infantry officer in
the Regular army, did nothing at Bull Run and he disappeared from field command
shortly thereafter. He resigned his commission in April 1864 and went to Paris
Hunters second brigade was commanded by Ambrose Burnside
who gained the position due to his connection to Rhode Island Governor Sprague.
Burnside had long served as a general officer in the Rhode Island Militia and
his brigade, including its attached artillery battery, was filled with Rhode Island volunteers. Burnside would become Lincolns favorite to command the Army of
the Potomac after he became disenchanted with George McClellan. This caused a
falling out between McClellan and Burnside, who had been close friends, which
left Burnside without a command during the battle at Antietam. Replacing
McClellan as army commander after Antietam, Burnside led the army to the
disaster at Fredericksburg, in December 1862. In 1863 Burnside was in Tennessee; then, in 1865, he was back in Virginia operating the 9th Corps in
cooperation with Meades army in Grants campaign against Lee.
McDowells last division, also made up of two brigades, was
under the command of Dixon Miles. A West Point graduate, Miles, an infantryman,
had gained the rank of colonel by the time the war broke out, his experience as
an officer being gained in the West. After Bull Run, he took command of the
garrison at Harpers Ferry and was killed there, in September 1862, while in
the process of surrendering to Stonewall Jackson. Miless two brigades were
commanded by Louis Blenker, a German national with a military reputation, and
Thomas Davies. Blenker left the service in 1863 because of injuries received in
battle and died shortly thereafter. Davies was sent west after Bull Run and
spent the war in the backwaters.
Dixon Miles, Division Commander
Irvin McDowell ostensibly had yet another division under
his command, but the evidence suggests that this is very doubtful. The
regiments of this division were composed almost entirely of New Jerseyians and
commanded by Theodore Runyon, a Yale graduate whose occupation was that of
lawyer. Runyon had drafted the New Jersey Militia regulations for the
Legislature in 1847 and, in reward, was made a brigadier general of the
Militia. At Lincolns first call for troops, Runyon led four militia regiments
to Washington. These men, all three month volunteers, built one of the forts
that were constructed around Alexandria. At Lincolns second call, this time
for three year men, four New Jersey regiments of volunteers arrived in Washington and were placed under Runyons command.
If one simply reads and relies upon what McDowell wrote in
his movement order and, later, in his battle report, the impression is that
when the army marched to Centreville and engaged the Confederates in battle,
McDowell was personally responsible for ordering Runyons eight New Jersey
regiments to remain closer to Alexandria than to Bull Run.This hardly makes any
military sense however, and, therefore, the suspicion must arise that Lincoln
refused to allow McDowell to take Runyons men with him. Lincoln knew his
decision to force McDowell to engage in battle at Bull Run created risk that McDowell might be defeated, that the defeat might turn into a rout, given
the greenness of the men, in which event, he thought, the newly constructed
forts around Washington had better be fully manned. This apprehension remained
with Lincoln as his first rule of risk management until Grant reached
Petersburg four years later, and it was the major reason the war in the east
lasted that long.
Runyon played no part in the action at Bull Run; after the
battle he went home to New Jersey with the three month men and returned to his
practice of law. But he certainly looked smart in uniform.
With His Unused Horse Pistol And Sword
These general officers, with the exception of Runyon, would
be responsible for planning the tactics of the battle, cooperating with each
other in the execution, and guiding their green volunteers, numbering
approximately 30,000, into the kill zone of the fire, where the side with staying
power wins the day. With few exceptions they failed to act in concert and
the day went to the defenders of Virginia.
Order of Battle
General, soon to be general, Pierre Beauregard was a classmate of McDowells at
West Point. At the time of Lincolns election, Beauregard was acting as
Superintendent of West Point. He resigned the position under pressure from
Congress and with it his commission in the Regular army.
One of the first of the great Confederate captains to leave United States service, he immediately was appointed by the Confederate Government to take
command of the forces gathering at Charleston, South Carolina. He came away
from that assignment with the status of Hero of Sumter and was sent by
Jefferson Davis to Virginia, to take command of the Confederate force occupying
Manassas Junction. After the battle of Bull Run, he would have a falling out
with Davis and be sent to Tennessee; where as second-in-command to Albert
Sidney Johnson he would assume command of the Confederate army on the second
day of Shiloh and lead it in retreat to Corinth. He spent the remainder of the
war in the western states, participating in important battles as corps and army
Beauregards force of about 18,000 men was organized as
brigades. His most experienced brigade was commanded by Milledge Bonham, a
graduate of the University of South Carolina and a lawyer who practiced in Carolina until 1857 when he was elected to the United States Congress, where he served
until December 1860. During his law career Bonham twice took leaves of absence,
first to command the South Carolina Brigade in the Seminole wars and then to
act as colonel of the 12th South Carolina Regiment in the war with
Mexico. At the time of Sumter, Bonham commanded the artillery batteries on Morris Island. Soon after the fall of Sumter, he was sent with his brigade of South Carolina regiments to take command at Manassas Junction which command he relinquished
to Beauregard in early July 1861. After Bull Run he returned to South Carolina and became its governor during the remainder of the war, returning to the
field to lead South Carolina troops when Shermans army invaded its borders.
Beauregards seven remaining brigades were commanded by West Point graduates: Richard S. Ewell, who would become a corps commander and lead the van
of the Army of Northern Virginia to Gettysburg; D.R. Jones who would command a
division at Second Manassas and Antietam; James Longstreet who would become, along
with Stonewall Jackson, one of Lees wing commanders but, unlike Stonewall,
think himself Lees equal; Jubal Early who would rise to corps command and
bring Confederate troops closer to Washington than anyone; Philip St. George
Cocke and Theophilus Holmes who would sink quickly into oblivion; and Nathan
Evans whose tactical decision at Bull Run was a major factor in McDowell
failing to overrun the Confederate position on the Henry Hill.
Joe Johnston in
the Shenandoah Valley
Joe Johnston, previously Quartermaster General of the United
States Army, and the highest ranking officer to resign his commission and go
with the South, was operating in the lower Shenandoah Valley with four brigades
which would carry the brunt of the active defense of the Confederate position
at Bull Run. The brigades were commanded by Barnard Bee; he would be mortally
wounded in action at Bull Run; Francis Bartow; he would be killed in action at Bull Run. Thomas J. Jackson and Arnold Elzely commanded the remaining brigades. JEB Stuart
commanded the 1st Virginia Cavalry; he would play a minor role in
the battle of Bull Run.
Moves on Centreville
The distance between Alexandria and Centreville is about
twenty miles. It took McDowells army three days to march this distance. On
July 16 the army began marching in four columns: Heintzelman marched along the
Orange & Alexandria Railroad to Fairfax Station, with the plan being to
swing off and cross the Occoquan River and move toward BrentsvilleMcDowells
supposed initial idea, although more likely than not it was Scotts, being to
turn the rebel right flank and threaten to get on the railroad behind them.
Dixon Miles marched on the Little River Turnpike (the road
between Adlie and Fairfax), turning onto the Old Braddock Road, heading for
Centreville where McDowell mean to concentrate his columns.
Hunter followed Miles on the turnpike and, as Miles turned
off, continued on to Vienna and then to Germantown
where his green troops,
beyond the control of their officers, burned the village to the ground.
Ahead of Hunters men was Tylers division which arrived at
a little hamlet of field stone homes and a church, early on the
morning of July 18th.
Pursuant to McDowells marching order, Tyler moved along the
ridge that runs north and south through Centreville and came onto the road
leading to Blackburns Ford on Bull Run, several miles in front of Manassas
Junction, the key to the Confederate position. Without control of Manassas
Junction the Confederates could not maintain themselves at Bull Run.
The Affair at
Tyler and Richardson, with two companies of infantry and
some cavalry, rode together toward Blackburns ford. From the Centreville
ridge, between Cub and Rocky Runs, the two generals looked over the field that
stretches about a mile down to the ford, and saw beyond the thick strips of
woods that cover Bull Runs banks more fields stretching away to the west on
the other side. Despite McDowells written order not to bring on an engagement,
Tyler decided to investigate the enemys strength and ordered Richardson to bring up his brigade and send it down the hill into the woods.
Some time was spent in bringing up from the column the 1st Massachusetts and 2nd Michigan regiments. Once they reached the crest, skirmishers were
deployed and the regiments proceeded, in company formations, to go down the
hill; as they advanced, Richardson put two 20-pounder rifled Parrott guns into
action, throwing shells over the little stream valley and into the woods and
fields on the other side. Under this fire, the Union skirmishers, followed by
the body of the regiments in line of battle, entered the woods and immediately
were swept by rifle fire from the rebel infantrymen holding position deeper in
The fire fight intensifiedthe minutes passing into an
houruntil the Massachusetts and Michigan men, unable to stand the fire, began
falling back from the woods. Richardson at this point, with Tylers urging,
brought forward the 12th New York Regiment and ordered it to charge the rebels
holding the stream bank woods. The New Yorkers ran down the hill and went into
the woods. They were stopped ten yards in by dense volleys of rebel rifle fire.
Remaining only long enough to fire a few rounds, the New Yorkers pulled back,
their casualties five killed, nineteen wounded. Soon after this, a battery of
the 5th U.S. Artillery, captained by Romeyn Ayres, arrived from Shermans brigade and went into action along the ridge. For an hour this battery exchanged
cannon shots with a battery from the Washington Artillery, manned by
Louisianaians on the other side of Bull Run, with little effect, and the
Changes The Game Plan
As Tyler was marching his division back to Centreville,
leaving Shermans brigade across the road in rear, McDowell was riding with
Heintzelman and a company of cavalry through the countryside to the southeast,
reconnoitering the roads leading across the lower Occoquan River and toward the
Orange & Alexandria Railroad where it crosses Broad Runat least that is
what he later reported he had been doing, but this is doubtful.
In the run-up to Lincolns invasion army moving westward
from Alexandria, Winfield Scott and McDowell had seemed to agree that the army
would attempt to turn the rebel right by way of crossing the Occoquan River and moving on Brentsville.
From about Fairfax Station, on the Orange & Alexandria
Railroad, it is five miles to the crossing of the Occoquan at Wolf Run Shoals.
From there it is another 13 miles to Brentsville and three miles farther west
from Brentsville to intersect the Orange & Alexandria Railroad tracka
total distance of about 20 miles.
The obvious thing to do, here, was for McDowell to divide
the army into wings, one wing threatening to get across the railroad from the
direction of Brentsville, while the other wing attacked the rebel position at Blackburns. But, given the fact that Lincolns green infantry took almost three full
days to march from Alexandria to Centreville using good turnpike roads, it was
hardly rational for a general in McDowells circumstances to think it possible
to march the same force, in substantially less time, the same distance over
wagon roads that require the crossing of the Occoquan at least once, if not
twice. This meant that the enemy would have ample time to either block the
passage of the Occoquan or interdict the Union column by use of the several
side roads, creating the possibility that it might get trapped in the woods and
destroyed. Furthermore, there was the paramount fact that McDowell had no
confidence that he had a commander he could trust to operate the turning column
in coordination with his advancing the main body at the same time directly on Blackburns Ford.
McDowell is recorded as having intended the movement on
Brentsville, but when his statements of what he intended are compared to
the plain circumstances of the case, it is obvious he manufactured an excuse
for disregarding the supposed agreed upon plan between Scott and himself.
McDowell first expressed his excuse, in a letter sent to Lt.
Col. E.D. Townsend, Scotts adjutant, on July 19th: I found on examining the
country that the roads were too narrow and crooked for so large a body to move
over, and the distance around too great to admit of it with any safety. We
would become entangled, and our carriages would block up the way. I was
therefore forced to abandon the plan of turning the enemys right.
(italics added). McDowell repeated the essence of this excuse again, in
December 1861, when he appeared before the Congressional Committee on the
Conduct of the War. There, he said: When I went to the left and found the
country very much broken, the roads very narrow, I felt it would be hazardous
to attempt to march 30,000 men by way of Wolf Run Shoals and Brentsville, as I
had intended to do in the first place.
Historians and civil war writers are apparently incapable in
their writings, of measuring what men say they were thinking with what a
reasonable person would probably be thinking under the circumstances shown by
the evidence. In consequence, the story they generally offer is hardly the
truth of history.
July 19th Sitting On His Hands
Through the night of July 18, Irvin McDowell had much
thinking to do. From the first moment Lincoln began pushing him to get the army
out the camps and marching toward Bull Run, McDowell did not want to go, for
the simple reason that the men were green.
A great many of them had arrived in Washington only a few
weeks before the army moved. By the time they were formed into regiments, moved
across the Potomac, and provided with horses and wagons to carry their
equipment, Lincolns deadline had arrived and they had to move out with no
military training and no drill beyond the rudiments of moving by four abreast
in a column marching on a road, turning the head of the column left or right
Most of their officers had no military education, much less
training, and were incapable of maintaining discipline in the ranks even during
the preliminary movement that brought the columns to Centreville. Drill
inculcates the recruit with the confidence that comes with knowing he is part
of a machine, that if he stays in place, shoulder to shoulder, side by side,
with the members of his company in line of battle and advances, changes front,
and retreats together, the cohesiveness of the company will be reflected in the
movements of the regiment, the brigade, and the division; and in that way the power of the army can be effectively brought to bear against the enemy. Without this
discipline, there is nothing to hold the individual soldier and his comrades
together when the stress of the kill zone begins to make gaps appear in the
block of men he is a part of. For, under such circumstances, it is an
elementary fact of military science that the men will not stand and deliver in
one mass the volleys necessary to pressure the enemy to give way, much less to
charge as one to the cannons mouth.
Lincoln had put McDowell in an impossible spot; as McDowell
said before the Committee on the Conduct of the War: The move could have been
done by approaches, under the cover of a large force, entrenched so as to leave
its lines protected, I mean half-sunk batteries, abatis, rifle pits etc. I
would have built this line and the army would move behind it. Go forward a
certain distance and make a parallel, then go forward again and so approach the
enemy. And if we once got across Wolf Run Shoals and down to Brentsville, we
have the Occoquan now on our side. If we get down to Brentsville the whole
thing is ended. But that meant, as it did with McClellans advance on Richmond, in 1862, that months would have to be consumed in the effort, and Lincoln expected, then as he did now, a battle in days.
So McDowell gave up the plan of turning the rebel right as
well as the idea of forcing a passage of Bull Run. The obvious place to
do this, was Blackburns Ford. But Tylers attack on Blackburns demonstrated
that the enemy was present there in substantial numbers, no doubt protected by
entrenchments they had had two months to prepare. It is true that McDowell
claimed he was obliged to give the idea up by the premature operation of Tyler, but that merely is code for his mind-set that the Union volunteers were not
capable, because of their lack of discipline and training, to manage
successfully frontal attacks against fortified lines.
at Blackburns Ford
Of course, by now the circumstances of the case must make it
obvious to all that McDowells best and most prudent course of action was to
fortify the Centreville ridge and stand on the defensive. But though he
delayed, hoping Lincoln would allow this, Lincoln refused.
Standing on the
Defensive on the Centreville Ridge
The Union army was an army of invasion, as was Lees when
it entered Maryland, in 1862, and Pennsylvania in 1863. By the nature of
things, the psychological and political pressures inherent in the situation
compel the force whose country has been invaded to assume the offensive in an
all out effort to drive the invader away. McDowells presence on the Centreville
ridge was a challenge to the territorial integrity of Virginia and, thus, an
invitation to the Confederates to attack. McDowell expected that the
confederate wing in the Shenandoah Valley, under Joe Johnstons command, would
unite with Beauregards wing, indeed he knew by July 19th that the union was in
fact happening, and prudently he wanted to wait for Patterson to unite. But Lincoln would not tolerate the delay, and so McDowell turned to his last optiona movement
to get over Bull Run without a fight and then form a battle front and move in
the open fields to attack the Confederates from the north. McDowell
expressed his intent behind this movement as an effort to get into the enemys
rear, but this would require him to split his force, something he knew was no
more possible to do than the movement toward Brentsville.
McDowells mind-set, that his men were so raw that
they would lose their organization at the slightest collision with the enemy,
dictated what happened next. He proceeded to march his army far around the
rebel left, without conducting any reasonable effort to locate the ford most
crucial to the success of his paper plan.
Here is what McDowell wrote in his battle report:
Reliable information was obtained of
an undefended ford about three miles above the Stone Bridge (Sudley Ford),
there being another ford between it and the bridge (Poplar Ford), which was
defended. It was therefore determined to take the road to the upper ford
(Sudleys), and, after crossing, to get behind the forces (there were none)
guarding the lower ford and the Stone Bridge. . . . Tyler was directed to move
on the Warrenton pike and commence firing, while Hunters division moved behind
him past Cub Run, then turn to the right and move by a wood road to the upper
ford. Heintzlemans division to follow Hunters as far as the turning-off place
to the lower ford, where he was to cross after the enemy should have
been driven out by Hunters. Miless division to be in reserve on the Centreville
What actually happened is that Heintzelman was unable to
find the road he was to take to the lower fordPoplars Fordand so his
division continued following Hunters up to the upper fordSudleys.
This was a fatal change in McDowells plan. The plan was for
Hunters division, after crossing Bull Run at Sudleys, to march south and
deploy into the open farm land between Sudleys and the Warrenton pike. As this
movement was being made, Heintzelman, appearing at Poplar Ford, would cross
(forcibly if he must) and deploy to the left of Hunter; thereby establishing a
Union battle line stretching from Bull Run west to the Sudley Road at a point
about one mile from the roads intersection with the Warrenton Pike, just in
front of Henry Hill.
Thus aligned, the Union attacking force composed of two
divisions would move south on a two brigade front toward Manassas Junction and
engage the enemy in combat where the movement was contested. As the Union front
moved south, the movement would uncover the Stone Bridge and Tylers division,
less Richardsons brigade that McDowell had attached to Miless division, would
pour over Bull Run and join the action. As the movement was progressing, Miles
was to feint an attack against Blackburns, the idea being to fix the rebel
troops defending that place. The strength of the attacking force would now be
eight brigades and the enemy would have to come out of its entrenchments and
change front to confront it, hampered by the supposed pressure Miles would
bring to bear against their right.
Incompetence of the Union Officers Caused the Defeat at Bull Run
How was it that Heintzelman failed to reach Poplar Ford?
Gross incompetence on the part of John G. Barnard, McDowells chief engineer,
and McDowells indifference to it.
As Barnard tells the story:
between Sudley and the Stone Bridge, our maps indicated another ford. We had
information that a road branched from the pike a short distance beyond Cub Run,
by which, opening gates and passing through private ground, we might reach the
fords. In company with Captain Woodbury (another engineer) and a company of
cavalry, on the 19th, I followed up the valley of Cub Run until we reached a point near where we struck a road which we believed led to the
fords. We went down this road a short distance to the point we encountered the
enemy pickets and stopped, not wishing to telegraph our plans.
This is pathetic soldiering for a West Point graduate to
admit to. First, as to the source of the information Barnard is referring to,
he tells us that on the 18th he encountered Mathias C. Mitchell (of Mitchells
Ford fame), who was afterwards secured as a guide, representing himself as a
Union man, and a resident of that vicinity.
Historians and civil war writers, manufacturing story, like
Barnard, tend to point the finger at Mitchell as being present with Hunter and
Heintzelmans column, guiding them. In fact, the evidence points to Barnard
pulling Mitchell out of the air, to excuse his gross negligence.
Woodbury wrote the story this way: I accompanied Hunter and
Heintzelman. We used for the most part an old road shown upon (McDowells map
preserved in the Library of Congress). We reached Sudley at 9:00 a.m.
Hunter, in his battle report, puts the dime on Woodbury,
writing: Captain D.P. Woodbury, chief engineer of the division, fearlessly
exposed himself in front of skirmishers during our whole advance, and
determined with great judgment the route of the division.
Heintzelman, for his part, writes: Captain Wright accompanied
the head of Hunters division, with directions to stop at a road which turned
in to the left to a ford, about half way between the pike and the Sudley ford.
No such road was found to exist. There is no report found in the Rebellion
Records authored by a Captain Wright; presumably he was an aide on
Heintzelmans staff whom Woodbury was to show the road to.
Barnards excuse for conducting no reasonable search for the
Poplar Fordthat in encountering rebel skirmishers he didnt want to telegraph
McDowells planis nonsense. The fact that Barnard encountered enemy
skirmishers is hardly surprising, nor would the skirmishers be surprised, under
the circumstances. The defenders of Manassas Junction would naturally have the
entire length of Bull Run, from Sudley Ford down to the railroad crossing at
Union Mills picketed. These pickets would not be strong enough to keep McDowell
back from the Bull Run fords, if he had committed a brigade to the effort as
shown by Tylers effort at Blackburns Ford on the 18th. There
simply is no good reason for McDowell not having insisted on a reconnaissance
in force, to establish clearly where the fords were, except that his mind was
convinced, probably quite rightly, that any encounter with the enemy
would render the Union infantry involved useless for further action and
devastate the morale of any troops around them.
McDowell said as much on July 20 when he wrote Scotts
adjutant: Yesterday was occupied mainly by the engineers (Barnard and Woodbury
etc) in reconnoitering the defenses of the enemy on Bull Run, at and
above the Warrenton turnpike. The object of the reconnaissance was to find a
point which might be bridged or forded, so as to turn these places where the
enemy was prepared for us. Thus far these efforts, five of them, have not been
successful, the enemy being in such force on this side as to make it impossible
to ascertain. I wished yesterday to make the reconnaissance in force, but
deferred to the better judgment of others (read Barnard)to try and get it by observation
and stealth. Today I propose to drive in the enemy and get the information
required. I shall go forward early today and force the enemy beyond Bull Run, so as to examine it more closely than we have been able to do.
In fact, the reconnaissance in force never happened, because
McDowell tells us, in his battle report of August 4, Later in the day (of the
19th) the engineers had obtained enough information of the passages
across the stream to dispense with this reconnaissance. This information, reliable,
McDowell had said, appears to have come exclusively from the local resident,
Mr. Mitchell, who Barnard decided was a loyal Union man. Obviously whatever
Barnard learned from Mitchell did not include the location of Poplar Ford.
The effect of the failure to find Poplar Ford changed the
nature of McDowells plan fatally. Instead of having two divisions converge on
the open farm land in front of Henry Hill, deploy side by side and move as one
to battle, as a third forced the passage of Bull Run at the Stone Bridge and
strengthened the advancing front more, McDowell ended up with one division of
two brigades assuming a front the width of one regiment, opposed by enemy
forces which kept Hunter from deploying his division in the wide farm land for three
hours, clogging the road back to Sudley Ford, making the ability of Heintzelman
to bring his division into supporting action very difficult, and leaving
Tylers division to stand passively for hours on the east side of Bull Run.
Barnard left the field soon after Bull Run and limited his service to managing
the forts around Washington.
The Farm Fields
Between Sudley Ford and Henry Hill
July 20th Sitting On His Hands
Most of the Civil War scholars explain McDowells failure to
move to battle on the 20th as a matter of logistics: McDowell had to
wait for subsistence trains to arrive from Alexandria in order that the men
could cook three days rations for their haversacks. But the evidence shows this
to be a lame excuse. Just after midnight the morning of July 19th, McDowell
wrote Tyler thisThe train of subsistence came up long ago. Later, during the
day of the 19th, McDowell wrote to Scotts adjutant and said, I gave orders
for the forces to move forward on the Warrenton pike so soon as the supply
trains came up and the men could get and prepare their rations. McDowells
commissary chief, George Bell, confirms this in his report, writing: On the
morning of the 18th, 60,000 rations, in parcels of 15,000, were packed in 45
wagons, and an extra 45,000 rations were packed in 48 wagons, plus 70 beef
cattle. This went forward on the 18th, with an escort of 200 men from the New
Jersey Volunteers. We reached Centreville at 9:00 a.m. on the 19th. Thus, the reason for McDowells delay in moving the army forward to battle on the 20th
was not caused by lack of rations in haversacks, nor was it due to his waiting
for Barnard to complete his reconnaissance, as McDowell had abandoned the
effort by the morning of the 20th.
Why didnt McDowell move to battle then on the 20th? He had
learned that Joe Johnstons force from the Shenandoah Valley was arriving by
train at Manassas Junction. This information came to McDowell from local
reports received, and from the repetitive sounds of locomotives running in and
out of Manassas Junction throughout the night of the 19th and into the 20th.As
he wrote Scotts adjutant on the 20th: There are rumors that Johnston has
This development quite rightly caused McDowell to pause and
think long and hard. For it is one thing to take green men to the attack
when they substantially outnumber the enemy, and quite another thing altogether
when they move to attack an equal force standing on the defensive. There can
hardly be reasonable doubt, here, that McDowell waited out the 20th hoping
that, with the news of Johnstons arrival, Scott would persuade Lincoln to rescind the order to give battle.. But when Lincoln gave no reprieve there was
nothing to be done but for the army to proceed.
Johnston and Patterson
in the Shenandoah Valley
At 1:00 a.m., on July 18th, Joe Johnston, with 13,000 men
organized into four brigades, was near Winchester when he received a telegram
from President Davis, telling him that McDowells army was about to attack
Beauregard and to move as quickly as possible to Bull Run. By noon, with
Stonewall Jacksons brigade of Virginians in the lead, Johnstons command was
marching east from Winchester toward Ashbys Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains;
by 2:00 a.m., on the 19th, Jackson had reached the village of Paris, with
Bartows, Bees, and Elzelys brigade strung out on the road behind him.
Johnston had ridden ahead of the column to Piedmont.
Arriving there at midnight on the 18th, Johnston made arrangements for trains
of the Manassas Gap Railroad to carry his men to Manassas. The artillery
belonging to the brigades went overland by different roads to Manassas. The
last of these batteriesJohn Imbodens Staunton Artilleryarrived at 1:00 a.m.,
on July 21st, just as Wade Hamptons South Carolina Legion came in to Manassas
Junction from Richmond on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Stuarts 1st
Virginia Cavalry Regiment arrived the evening of the 20th after a thirty-six
hour ride. Holmess brigade composed of the 2nd Tennessee and 1st Arkansas arrived about the same time from Fredericksburg, after a forty-seven mile march.
Two weeks earlier, on July 2nd, Robert Pattersons force of
about 13,000 Pennsylvania three month volunteers, organized into two divisions,
a total of five brigades, crossed the Potomac for the second time in two months
and began moving toward Winchester. Patterson had with him only one battery of
six smooth bore guns, being pulled by untrained horses. He had no supply train,
only wagons belonging to the individual regiments. Advancing on the old pike
(State HW 11), Pattersons progress was impeded for several hours by the
appearance of Jacksons brigade in his front.
A short, sharp fire fight erupted in the road as Jackson blocked the way with an infantry line, supported by two field pieces of the
Rockbridge Virginia Artillery. When Patterson got his lead division deployed, Jackson retired toward Martinsburg where the remainder of Johnstons army was then
concentrated. Patterson followed; arriving there on July 3, he found Johnston had moved up the valley to the vicinity of Bunker Hill.
Patterson reported his progress to General Scott:
Passed through Martinsburg today in
hot pursuit of the enemy. I have halted temporarily to bring up supplies,
having today returned all my wagons for this purpose. With my present
transportation I can advance but a short distance before I am compelled to
halt. As soon as provisions arrive I shall advance to Winchester to drive the
enemy from that place. I then design to move toward Charlestown and, if I find
it not hazardous, to continue to Leesburg. I must do this or abandon the
country, by retiring the way I came, in consequence of the three months
volunteers being about to expire.
During the several days that passed, with Patterson standing
at Martinsburg building up supplies, General Scott, through Lincolns
instigation, sent Patterson reinforcements. Colonel Stones command of three
regiments arrived from Poolesviile on July 8, and, on July 10 by a roundabout
way, New York State Militia Commander Charles Sanford arrived with three New York regiments and a battery of rifled guns. Patterson organized these six regiments
into a third division, commanded by Sanford.
Stones arrival but before Sanfords, Patterson held a council with his staff
and general officers. At the council he presented the question, What was to be
done? According to Patterson, he set forth at the council the objective reasons
which supported the conclusion that an advance against Johnstons force, then
holding Bunker Hill, was necessary: First, if an advance was not made Johnston
might go to Manassas; second, the purpose of Scott sending reinforcements was
to enable Patterson to clear the valley to Winchester, to defeat Johnston if he
offered battle, and to be in position to aid McDowell.
In reply, according to Patterson. all his officers were of
the view that the army had no business being where it was, other than to make a
demonstration. Everyone agreed that the army was in grave danger and should
move to Charlestown.
Using the councils apparent consensus as the excuse,
Patterson telegraphed Scott, proposing to move his force to Charlestown,
establish his depot at Harpers Ferry, and connect with the Maryland shore by a
bridge of boats. He closed this message with a question that put the onus on
Scott to dictate when Patterson was to move again toward Winchester to confront
Johnston, so that Johnston might not go to Beauregards assistance.
General Sanford informs me by letter
that he has for me a letter from you. I hope it will inform me when you will
put McDowell in motion against Manassas, and when you wish me to strike Johnston. The enemy retired from Bunker Hill to a point a few miles from Winchester. There he has halted and reports say he is entrenching. His design evidently is
to draw this force on as far as possible from its base, and then to cut my
line, or to attack with large reinforcements from Manassas. I cannot advance
far due to lack of supplies and wagons, and if I could, I think the movement
very imprudent. When McDowell makes his attack I expect to advance and offer
battle. If the enemy retires, shall not pursue. I want to know when you
wish me to approach Winchester.
While Patterson was waiting for a reply from Scott, Charles
Sanford arrived at Martinsburg on the 10th and delivered Scotts letter. Though
both men testified before the Committee on the Conduct of the War regarding
what happened next, neither man produced Scotts letter or quoted from it. (The
letter does not appear to exist in the Rebellion Record.) Before the Committee
on the Conduct of the War several months later, Sanford stated that on the
15th, five days after his arrival, Pattersons force went in the direction of Winchester as far as Bunker Hill. On this march, Sanfords newly organized division of
8,000 men and two batteries moved south on side roads to the southeast of the
pike between Martinsburg and Winchester.
Sanford went into camp about nine miles from Winchester, near the Opequon. Sanford claimed that he was intending to move further south,
to get between Johnston and the road leading through Millwood to Ashbys Gap,
but Patterson, after conducting a timid reconnaissance toward Winchester early
on the 16th, ordered Sanford to move to Charlestown, twenty miles to the
northeast. The excuse Patterson gave, Sanford said, was that he had received
intelligence that Johnston had been reinforced by 20,000 men from Manassas and was going to attack him.
In defending himself before the Committee, Patterson took
the position that Scott had authorized the movement to Charlestown. If Johnston were to retreat toward Manassas, Scott wrote, and Patterson considered it to be
hazardous to follow him, then Patterson was to consider the route via Keys
Ford, through Loudoun County, to Leesburg. Pattersons statement was correct
as far as it went, but there can be little dispute, based on the written
communications between the two men, that Scott expected Patterson to first
demonstrate against Johnston long enough to keep him in the valley.
Monday, the 15th, Patterson marched his force from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill. The next daythe day Scott had said McDowell would attack ManassasPatterson
sent a force forward toward Winchester. This force encountered a barricade
across the pike several miles past Bunker Hill, it attacked the pickets holding
it, driving them away, and then returned to Bunker Hill.
Before the Committee Patterson took the position that it was
Scotts fault, not his, that Johnston was able to leave the valley. General
Scott should have directed me, Patterson said, to continue my demonstrations,
which could have been done as easily from Charlestown as Martinsburg; or he
should have given me the order to march at once for Manassas and delayed the attack
there until I arrived. (Something Scott was powerless to do; Lincoln was in
command, not Scott.)
General Scott did not personally appear at the Committees
hearing, sending by letter instead a written statement. In it, Scott replied to
Patterson this way: Although Patterson was never specifically ordered to
attack the enemy, he was certainly told, and expected, even if inferior in
numbers, to hold the rebel army in his front on the alert, and to prevent it
from reinforcing Manassas Junction, by means of threatening maneuvers and
demonstrations. Instead Patterson fell off upon Charlestown where he made no
movement that did not look like a retreat out of Virginia.
the Shenandoah River From Charlestown
By the 18th, when the telegram came from President Davis, Johnston knew exactly where Patterson was, and thus knew that Patterson meant to stand on
the defensive, at Charlestown, ready to retire over the Potomac at Harpers
Ferry if he was threatened. Given this fact, it was easy for Johnston to get
his command out of the valley and on its way to Manassas; with the infantry
using the railroad as transportation, and the cavalry and artillery train going
overland, Johnstons force would be concentrated at Manassas Junction no later
than the evening of the 20th, with the last regiments arriving early in the
morning of the 21st.
In Washington, Abraham Lincoln was also aware of Pattersons
location, and, by noon on July 20, he was informed that the main body of Johnstons force was arriving at Bull Run. Lincoln knew this fact meant that the tactical
situation between the opposing forces had been materially changed. On July 8,
when he first met with McDowell and pressured him into moving his green army to
attack the Confederates at Bull Run, Lincoln could justify the attack on the
basis that, at that time, there was some reasonable chance of success, because
the Union army would go into action with a substantial superiority in
numbersit being known that Beauregards force numbered no more than
15,000-18,000 men while McDowells numbered about 30,000. But now, however,
with Johnstons arrival at Bull Run and Patterson standing still at Charlestown, Union superiority had evaporated into air, and with it any rational basis,
from a military point of view, for initiating a general battle. Wouldnt the
most reasonable and prudent thing be now to order McDowell to stand on the
defensive, dig in at Centreville and wait to be attacked?
Of course, this change in circumstance was not the fault of
either Patterson or Scott. No general in Scotts shoes would have given
Patterson a flat, direct order to move to attack Johnston straightaway. Scott
was sixty miles from the scene of action. Patterson was indeed handicapped
severely by the fact that the enlistment period of his entire force, with the
exception of Sanfords division, was to expire on or about July 21. And the
matter of supplying his force so far from his base at Williamsportgiven the
real shortage in wagonsmade it almost impossible to have on hand sufficient
rations to feed the men for more than a day or two. Realizing all this explains
why, at Lincolns behest, Sanford was sent, by the Pennsylvania Central
Railroad, to Harrisburg and then to Hagerstown, to bring reinforcements to
The best then that Lincoln could expect Scott to have done,
under the circumstances, was to encourage Patterson to retain the initiative,
keeping Johnston occupied by pressing against Johnstons front. Scott clearly
did this. Using Sanfords men, Patterson might have taken the risk of a total
breakdown in the field and attempted to block Johnston from moving east by
moving south to Berryville and getting on the flank. That Patterson did not do
so, is difficult to second-guess, given the objective circumstances.
The fact that Lincoln did not rescind his order to McDowell
to attack under these circumstances, demonstrates that, to Lincolns mind, it
was absolutely necessary that the army get into a battle. No matter that the
battle might result in a defeat: for even so, Washington would not be in any
immediate danger. There were the newly constructed forts blocking the roads to
the Potomac bridges; each fort had artillery and was manned by a regiment, and
Runyons New Jersey men were standing in front. The worst that could happen, Lincoln must have thought, was a repulse and the important thing would still be
accomplished. The battle would produce casualtiesthe red badge worn by the
dead and wounded soldiers, going home with the volunteers as their enlistment
expired, would stir the peoples emotions into rage, and the momentum of war
would accelerate and the money to drive it would pour into the Treasury from
the inflamed country. So Lincoln took the risk of defeat in stride and waved
Scott away who came with McDowells protest.
The Battle of Bull Run
Joe Ryan Battlewalk Bull Run
Youtube Channel JoeRyanCivilWar
After trudging through forest and farm fields on a narrow
wagon road for almost five hours, Ambrose Burnsides Rhode Island Brigade,
leading Hunters division, arrived at the Bull Run crossing of Sudleys Ford.
As the column came to the stream, hundreds of the men in the ranks, footsore,
their leg muscles cramped, their backs painful from the knapsacks they carried,
their shoulders rubbed raw by their rifles, broke from the column despite the
shouts of their officers, and spread in a mob along the bank, taking gulps of
water and splashing it on their faces.
With Church in Background
By nowabout 9 oclock in the morningthe hot July sun was
beating down on Burnsides men from a clear sky, burning their faces and the
back of their necks, stifling any breeze and soaking their shirts with
perspiration. Among the regiments of McDowells army, one of Burnsides, the
First Rhode Island, composed of three month volunteers from the Providence
areaabout 600 stronghad been in the field the longest. The other regiment,
the Second Rhode Island, composed of three year volunteers and about equal in
strength, had been in the field for five days.
Four days after the fall of Sumter, Burnside had left his
job as a cashier for the Illinois Central Railroada position secured for him
by his friend George McClellan when he was down and outand went to Rhode
Island to assume command of the reactivated First Rhode Island Militia
Regiment. The original First Rhode Island had been raised at the outset of the
American Revolution and counted 125 slaves in its ranks, the regiment fighting
several battles with success. Now, however, the ranks were purely white.
The First Rhode Island in 1776
Arriving in Washington on April 20, the regiment went into
camp on a farm on the outskirts of the city, remaining there until June 10
when, at General Scotts order, it boarded the cars of a Northern Central
Railroad train and was taken, via Harrisburg, to Chambersburg where it joined
Robert Pattersons army of Pennsylvanians. From Chambersburg, Burnside moved
with Patterson to Hagerstown and, on June 15, his regiment crossed the Potomac at Williamsport. But when Joe Johnston withdrew from Harpers Ferry the next day
and moved toward Winchester, Scott called the First Rhode Island back to Washington. It reached there, moving by train, on June 22, and went into camp with the
Second Rhode Island which had arrived at the same time from Providence. Two
weeks later the Rhode Island regiments moved across the Potomac, going into
camp near Arlington with two other regimentsthe Second New Hampshire and the
Seventy-First New Yorkwith which they became brigaded.
Around 10:00 a.m., with the second brigade of Hunters
divisionPorterscrowding up the Bull Run ford, Burnsides field officers were
able to get the men back in column formation and moving across the ford and
over a saddle between two low hills that carried the wagon road past the Sudley
Church and into a corridor of trees.
Wagon Road Today
No sooner did the head of Burnsides column emerge from the
forest into the open farm land that spreads southward toward the
Centreville/Warrenton pike than it came under fire from the enemy who were in
position at the crest of a swell in the ground called Matthews Hill.
Encounters Nathan Evans Blocking His Front
An hour earlier Evans had been a mile away at the stone
bridge that carries the Warrenton pike over Bull Run. At the bridge Evans had
with him about 1,100 men: The 4th South Carolina Regiment and the Louisiana
Battalion. Early in the morning, as the brigades of Tylers division appeared
on the crest above Bull Run, Evans had spread his men in a thin line along the
west bank of the stream. For the next two hours, as Hunters and Heintzelmans
divisions were taking the wagon road around to Sudley Ford, Evans force
exchanged rifle with Union skirmishers who infiltrated the woods covering the
stream bank. To combat the effect of artillery fire from a heavy rifled Parrott
gun, Evans brought into action a section of smoothbore Napoleons from the
As the hours passed Evans saw that no advance was being made
by the Union brigades to force a crossing of the stream at the stone bridge, so
he decided to move two-thirds of his force to confront the Union column that
his pickets reported had reached Sudley Ford. Leaving behind four companies of
the 4th South Carolina (about 200 men) to face the whole of Tylers division,
Evans took the remainder of the regiment (six companies) along with the
Louisiana Battalion, a troop of cavalry and the other section of Lynchburg
Artillery, across the fields to the slight rise of ridge that crosses the
Sudley Road on the Matthews farm.
Evanss movement caught the Union leadership by surprise.
McDowell had expected that the head of Hunters column would meet no opposition
as it crossed the Sudley ford and marched down the road toward the Warrenton
pike. The absence of opposition meant that the lead brigadeBurnsideswould be
able to take advantage of the mile square of open field between the Sudley Road
and Bull Run as a staging area, where the regiments could be deployed into
lines of battle, making room as they did so for Hunters second brigadeAndrew
Portersto get clear of the forest corridor and deploy into a battle front in
the fields west of the Sudley road. This would create a mile-wide front of two
brigades (four regiments) which could move south toward Manassas Junction on
both sides of the road. With the road from the ford now clear, Heintzelmans
division of three brigades could easily follow and deploy in Hunters support.
In the face of this combination, McDowell expected that the
forces guarding the rebel left flank would be forced to give up possession of
the Warrenton pike in front of the stone bridge, opening the way for Tylers division to cross the stream with its artillery and join in the southward
movement. But now, with Burnsides brigade abruptly brought to a halt in the
road, having barely cleared the forest corridor, there was no easy way for
Porters brigade to get away from the ford and out into the open, which meant
Heintzelmans division could not move forward.
As time was of the essence, everything depended now
upon Burnside quickly forcing the enemy to give way in his front: For the whole
point of McDowells plan was to fall upon the rebel flank and rear before the
enemy could effectively turn north to meet him.
Burnside had led the march of his brigade with the 2nd Rhode
Island Regiment and now he joined it as its colonel, John Slocum, directed the
regiments evolution from column to line and advanced toward the rebels in
position behind a snake fence in dense woods at the ridge line. Burnside had
chosen the 2nd Rhode Island to lead the column, because it was composed of
three year volunteers. Presumably Burnside thought it likely that the three
year men would be more willing to face the fire than the 1st Rhode Island,
composed of men whose term of enlistment was days from expiring. But, unlike
the 1st Rhode Island which was armed with new .58 caliber rifled muskets, the
men of the 2nd were armed with model 1842 smoothbore muskets which were hardly
accurate beyond seventy-five yards.
Advancing toward the woods, the 2nd Rhode Island began to
take fire from the rebel line at 200 yards: standing behind the wood fence the
men of the Louisiana Battalion poured volley after volley of bullets into the
block of Rhode Islanders advancing on them, while round shot and shell was
thrown by the two guns of the Lynchburg Artillery. Smoke and the sounds of
crashing volleys and cracks of artillery fire filled the woods as the men on
both sides fired their weapons as fast as they could load. Soon the fire of the
Rhode Islanders slowed as their muskets became fouled with the residue of
powder and they lay down on the ground. Colonel Slocum, riding his horse among
them, banishing his sword and imploring them to rise and charge, was shot in
the head and carried, mortally wounded from the field. For thirty minutes, the
Louisianans held the Rhode Islanders at bay, giving time for Evans to extend
his line westward with the 4th South Carolina.
Seeing this, Burnside brought the 1st Rhode Island Regiment
to the front, and the brigades First Rhode Island artillery came careening
down the Sudley road as the infantry turned into the fields, and went into
action with its six guns. At this, the Louisiana Battalions commander, Major
Chatham Roberdeau Wheat, ordered his men to charge the Rhode Island guns and,
coming within twenty yards, they loosed a volley of rifle fire that swept over
the guns, cutting down the cannoneers and horses. But as they stood, ramming
rods down the barrels of their rifles, the Ist Rhode Island Regiment came into
position alongside the artillery line and blasted the rebels back with lead.
Shocked by the sheaf of bullets slamming into them, the Louisiana firing
line crumbled and the men began drifting back toward the wood fence in the
woods. Wheat tried to rally them, by dismounting in their ranks and waving them
forward with his sword, but the rally was cut short when a bullet drilled
through his chest into his lungs and dropped him to the ground like a tumbled
stone. Wheat would live, only to be killed under similar circumstances at the
Battle of Gaines Mill, in the spring of 1862.
Now, with the rebel line holding the ridge by the skin of
its teeth, the six companies of the 4th South Carolina trading surges and
retreats with the two Rhode Island regiments, Burnside was able to introduce
into the struggle the strength of the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment. This regiment
was composed of three year volunteers and they rushed forward pell mell and
swarmed into the woods, each man firing on his own hook as they came. The South Carolinians held their ground for a time, but, then, as their ranks dwindled in the
fire, they began to give way.
Like the 4th South Carolina, The 2nd New Hampshire regiment
would last to the end of the war at Petersburg. Taking 900 men into action at Bull Run, the regiments roster would be down to 353 men at Gettysburg, where 47 of its
force were killed, 136 wounded, 36 reported missing and 21 of its 24 field
officers were killed or wounded.
Just then, as the 2nd New Hampshire came into action and it
seemed the rebel position was collapsing, the 700 hundred man strong 4th
Alabama Regiment, from one of Joe Johnstons brigadesBarnard Beesappeared on
the flank of the 4th South Carolina and made a wild charge against the Union
guns. Almost immediately, as they came out of the woods into a cornfield, the
charge was broken by the Union fire. The men, now trapped in the open, laid
down in the field as shot, shell and buck and ball swept over them. In the
fire, their colonel, Egbert Jones, was killed. Their lieutenant colonel,
Evander Law, who would lead a division at Antietam, was wounded and other
officers went down, leaving the men almost leaderless.
Suddenly, at this crisis, the 8th Georgia, of Bartows
brigade, Johnstons command, swept through the cornfield to the right of the
Alabamians, and charged through the front yard of the Matthews farm house,
driving back the flank of the Rhode Islanders, threatening to reach the Union
artillery battery and rout the whole Union front.
Roaming behind the gun line, Burnside saw this and tore
away, up the Sudley road to find Porter, who now was in command of the
division, Hunter having earlier been shot from his horse and carried from the
field. For Gods sake, he shouted as he came up to Porter; let me have the
regulars. My men are being cut to pieces. By this time, Porter had gotten the
leading regiments of his brigade clear of the Sudley road, marching them
westward along an abandoned railroad excavation, Stonewall Jackson would make
famous a year later, deploying them on the right side of the road, on the Dogan
farm, along the ridge line. The regulars were ordered forward at once, and when
they arrived on the left of the Rhode Islanders they broke the rebel advance,
forcing the Georgians and Alabamians into a retreat that carried them as far as
the Warrenton pike.
Advancing with the regulars attack, on the right side of
the Sudley road, came the rest of Porters regiments. They were met and stopped
by the 2nd and 11th Mississippi regiments, of Bees brigade; but then Captain
Charles Griffin, commanding Company D, of the 5th U.S. Artillery, arrived at
the front with two10-pounder rifle guns and two 12-pounder Napoleons and
commenced firing. Griffins unlimbered his guns on the crest of Dogans ridge,
some 600 yards from the Sudley road intersection with the Warrenton pike.
Taking refuge behind the gun line was most of Porters brigade. Griffen, an
artillery instructor at West Point, would eventually command a brigade, then a
division, and, finally, at the battle of Five Forks, in 1865, a corps and he would
be inside the McLean Farmhouse, to witness Lees surrender at Appomattox.
With the sun now well over the meridian, McDowell had in
line of battle, stretching across the Sudley road, from Dogans ridge to the
Matthews farmhouse, seven regiments and two artillery batteries, all banging
away at five rebel regiments falling back toward the Warrenton pike. Coming up
behind this line was the head of Heintzelmans division.
McDowell arrived at the front in a buggy, and watched as the
rebels were scattering back toward the pike, crossing Youngs Branch and
scrambling up a hill that rose several hundred feet to a plateau. Two farmhouses
could be seen situated some distance apart from each other. Mounting a horse,
McDowell galloped into the midst of the Union regiments, waving his hat over
his head and shouting: Hurry up boys, were driving them!
Grabbing the arm of a staff officer, McDowell shouted at the
man over the din, to ride to Tyler on the opposite bank of Bull Run and tell
him to attack across the stone bridge at once. In his minds eye, he saw three
of his divisions17,000 menmoving forward in concert, driving the disorganized
enemy back upon Manassas Junction, capturing the place, inducing the enemy to
fly toward the Rappahannock.
The Critical Moment
McDowells order reached Tylers ears, he looked at the courier blankly and is
reported to have said: What does McDowell mean? Does he mean that I shall
cross the stream? When the courier repeated what McDowell had said, Tyler shook his head and rode slowly off, his entourage of staff officers trailing behind.
What McDowell expected him to do, what the circumstances required him to do,
was to immediately move Schencks brigade to storm a passage of the stone
bridge; once Schenck was across, to follow him with artillery and then
Shermans and Keyess brigades, bringing into action the whole division in
cooperation with Heintzelmans which would now take over the front from Hunter
who would fall back in support.
But instead of doing this, Tyler decided that Sherman would cross the stream north of the stone bridge, by a farm ford that he had
found, and once across have Keyess follow him. Then Schenck might cross the
bridge with the divisions artillery.
Receiving the order to move across the stream, Sherman pushed his brigade in line of column through the ford he had found and out into
the open field as the rebel front was falling back. At McDowells order, he
marched the brigade west behind the Union front and came into line between
Porters and Burnsides brigade which were moving south behind the retreating
By this time Porters and Burnsides brigades were out of
energy: the colonels of the regiments and most of the field officers had been
shot down, and the men were exhausted and disorganized by the marching and
fighting. Many were out of ammunition and their rifles so fouled that they were
useless. To keep the momentum, McDowell ordered Heintzelman to pass two of his
brigadesFranklins and Willcoxsthrough the wasted brigades as Sherman came
into the middle of the front. These three brigades, showing five regiments in
line, with ten more behind, took almost two hours to get organized into line
and move up to the pike. In the course of this time passing, following Sherman through the farm ford, Tyler came across Bull Run with Keyess brigade and moved
toward the hill.
By this time, of course, the field was strewn with the
bodies of dead soldiers which was disconcerting to the minds of the newly
arriving, untested Union troops. But this was good for Lincoln.
For Henry Hill
McDowell ordered the whole Union line to advance to sweep
the rebels off the hill. As time was spent in the Union front consolidating and
extending, Stonewall Jacksons brigade, from Johnstons army, marched onto the
plateau of Henry Hill and formed a line at the high spot inside a stand of pine
trees. Wade Hamptons South Carolina Legion of about 900 men arrived too, and
occupied the Robinson farm building, supporting a section of rifled guns that
were firing into the ranks of the Union men swarming over the fields below the
At the same time, as the last of Johnstons
brigadesElzeyswas arriving by train at Manassas Junction, Stonewall
assembled an artillery line of thirteen pieces in front of his brigade: five
belonged to the Washington Artillery (two rifled six-pounders and three
six-pounder Napoleons); four belonged to the Rockbridge Battery from the
Virginia Military Institute (each a light four-pounder Napoleon); and four
smoothbores came from Alburtiss battery. Eleven of these guns, designed for
short range fire and most effective in causing destruction when discharging
canister, were the key to the Confederates holding the plateau, as their fire
could be counted on to shatter the anticipated charges of the Union infantry
now laboring to get up the hill.
the vantage point of Matthews Hill, McDowell saw what was happening and made
the snap judgment to counter the enemys gun line with one of his own. The
problem was, with what?
Just before two oclock, Major William Barry, McDowells
Chief of Artillery, rode to Griffin and James Ricketts, the latter the
captain of the six gun battery, Company I, 1st U.S. Artillery, and told them to
limber their guns and advance them to the crest of the hill; pointing as he did
so to the Henry farmhouse that sits near the northwestern edge of the hill.
Griffin protested vehemently, arguing that the guns would be
more effective at longer range, and that, in any event, they could not remain
at such a forward position without strong infantry support. Barry shrugged;
repeating the order, he told Griffin that the 11th New York Fire ZouavesLincolns pet regiment once commanded by his friend Ellsworthwould follow the guns in
Griffin moved his guns some distance forward toward the
hill; then he stopped and waited for the appearance of the Zouaves. Not seeing
them, he went to Barry and complained again. Barry urged him to go forward,
telling him the Zouaves just then were ready to advance and would follow at the
double quick. Griffin argued with Barry, telling him the infantry should go
first and take a defensive position while the two batteries followed. Barry,
getting red in the face, hollered at Griffin: McDowell says the guns must
advance, the infantry will follow! Griffin sneered at Barry, turned on his
heel and waved to his cannoneers to get the horses moving, then walked away.
As the Union batteries were clamoring forward, the horses
pulling the gun carriages and caissons up the Sudley road, into the saddle
between Henry and Bald hills, turning into the clearing surrounding the Henry
farmhouse, Keyes moved his brigade forward on the far left, crossed the
Warrenton pike and Youngs Branch, and climbed the hill, the 2nd Maine and 3rd
Connecticut in front.
The two regiments reached the top and advanced toward the
Robinson farmhouse but were stopped cold by the fire of rebel artillery and
infantry holding the position. Almost immediately after coming under fire, the
men in the Union ranks turned tail and scampered down the hill, the men
slipping, falling, and tumbling, so anxious to escape the hail of lead
whistling into them. With Tylers approval, Keyes abruptly marched his brigade
to the left, filing off under the bluff, going around the hill out of sight. At
the end of the day, when the Union army was in headlong retreat, Keyess
brigade was one of the first across Bull Run; its casualties limited to
nineteen privates killed out of 2,500.
Now the struggle for the hill became fierce as Ricketts
arrived and went into action on the west side of the Henry farmhouse, with Griffin unlimbering on the east side. In the space of no more than three hundred yards an
incessant cannonading split the air with rolls of thunderous cracking sounds
and the shrieking whine of shells. It was a terrible racket the artillery duel.
In the wake of Griffins and Rickettss guns came the Fire
Zouaves, followed on their left by the U.S. Marines Corps Battalion from
Hunters division. They shouted hurrahs as they clamored up the hill and came
over the crest and ran forward into the range of Stonewalls guns. Blasts of
canister rounds met them, crumbling the front ranks, tearing gaping holes,
causing the survivors to falter, recoil and stumble backwards away from the
At the bottom of the hill, McDowell was riding frantically
from the colonel of one regiment to another, urging them to move their men
across the pike and up the road leading over the hill.
Now a body of Stuarts cavalry suddenly sprang from the
trees on the opposite side of the Sudley road and charged into the ranks of the
Zouaves, scattering them with saber slashes as the soldiers fired at them with
As this was happening, a body of close-packed soldiers
appeared from the woods that skirted the east side of the Sudley road, about a
hundred yards distance from where Griffin had just moved two of his guns beyond
the right flank of Rickettss gun line. Griffin saw the soldiers coming and shouted
to the section holding that end of his line to turn their guns, load with
canister, and fire at the infantry mass coming toward them. Major Barry,
astride his horse behind Griffin, heard the order and shouted, Dont fire!
Dont fire! Those men coming are your supports.
Griffin turned in a rage and grabbed the reins of Barrys
horse, jerking the animal around. You are blind! Griffin yelled. Those men
coming are enemy. In the clash of their officers tempers, the cannoneers
hesitated, uncertain whose order to obey, and in the time that passed in the
arguing, the approaching soldiers came within forty yards of the gun line and,
suddenly, a volley came crashing into Griffins position, cutting down almost
all his cannoneers and the artillery horses.
While the firing was the hottest, Beauregard appeared and
rode along the rear of the rebel gun line. To the cannoneers he shoutedKill
those people and the day is ours! The cannoneers, their bare chests glistening
with sweat, their faces black with powder smears, cheered
wildly as they served more canister to their guns. Here, an enemy shell from
one of Rickettss rifled Parrott guns burst, killing Beauregards horse and,
leaping to the ground as the horse collapsed under him, he mounted another and
rode off down the line still shouting.
Then fresh Union regiments, one by one, appeared on the
scene and they drove the 33rd Virginia Regiment off Griffins guns and the
rebel infantry line, thinning itself from the exertions of the hours, wavered,
hard pressed to stand as stragglers and sulkers slipped away toward the safety
of the woods in rear. Now Bartow and Bee were killed, Wade Hampton wounded as
they tried to rally their men, reform the shattered companies, fill the gaps.
All the while Jacksons guns banged and cracked, spewing clumps of hot balls,
holding the enemy back.
Almost every unit on the field was swept up in the prolonged
struggle for possession of the Union guns. Several rebel regiments charged and
countercharged in the space between the guns, and were charged and
countercharged by Union regiments. Here Secretary of War Simon Camerons
brother, colonel of the 78th NY Volunteers, was killed. Officers, along with
their men, went down in droves on both sides as the swarms of men came together,
almost chest to chest like bears, slashing with knives, firing rifles, stabbing
with bayonets, clubbing with rifle butts. The 1st Minnesota, the 1st Michigan, the 4th Pennsylvania, the 5th and 11th Massachusetts
Then, just as the resistance of the rebel force was on the
edge of breaking, Elzeys brigade2,000 fresh soldiersfollowed by Jubal
Earlys brigade crashed into Howards brigade of Heintzelmans corps that was
holding McDowells right beyond the Sudley road, and in an instant Howards men
fell into a panic and were washed away. As this happened, the exhausted
soldiers belonging to Bees brigade, Hamptons, Evanss and Bartows, along
with Jacksons Virginians he had been holding in reserve, sprang together with
a great curdling, full-throated yell, like the shrill wailing of Arab women,
and threw themselves into the Union men crowding around Griffins guns, and
snatched victory from McDowells hands.
The shock of the rebel charge unmanned the bits of Union
regiments clinging to the guns, and as one they turned and ran, past the
disabled artillery pieces, past the Henry house, running down the slope of the
hill and into the bottomland. Behind them as they ran, the rebels wrestled the
guns around, loaded them with canister and blasted the exploding cans of iron
pellets into the backs and legs of the running men.
Down the slope the Union soldiers stumbled; Shermans
regiments, Franklins, the Marines, the Zouaves, all that had shared in the
hours of struggle for the hill and possession of the Union guns were now
running on their own, oblivious to the shouts of their officers to rally and
try the hill again.
At four oclock in the afternoon of July 21, 1861, there were more than 12,000 of Lincolns volunteers flooding the Warrenton pike who
had entirely lost their organization. They could no longer be handled as
troops, for the officers and men were not in touch, the connection, tenuous as
it began, was gone. This had happened not merely because the men were afraid,
or because McDowell was incompetent, though he made serious tactical mistakes,
but because Lincoln had not given the army the time to develop the only thing
that keeps a man in his place when thoughts of death and disaster fill his
mindtime to instill the instinct of discipline. And no one can suppose
that Beauregard and Joe Johnston had done a better job. The only difference
between McDowell and them, is that Lincoln had forced McDowell to act on the
offensive, giving them the gift of acting on the defensive. The
defensive-offensiveresistance followed by a ripostecreating as it proved to
do here the same dislocating effect as an offensive maneuver, would become the
mainstay of Confederate battle tactics in the horrible years ahead.
Shermans brigade was the last to join the wash of men
flowing east on the Warrenton pike and across the farm fields, striving to get
themselves gone over Bull Run. As each of his regiments took their turn in the
fire and was driven back, he had tried to gain control of them in the stream
valley below the hill and get them into action again, but they slipped through
his fingers like sand. So his brigade was gone with the rest. Only Sykes small
contingent of regulars stood firm, at the pike intersection with the Sudley
road, exchanging volleys with Elzeys and Earlys brigades sweeping over
McDowells right. Touched by the fire on the knee and shoulder, his horse shot
through the leg, Sherman escaped the field, swept up in the mortification of
retreat, rout, confusion.
Sherman wrote his wife on July 24: The battle was nothing
to the shameless rout that followed. I shall make a requisition for two nurses
per soldier to nurse them in their helpless, pitiful condition. Oh, but that we
had regulars. Shermans brigade lost 3 officers killed, 15 wounded; 117 volunteers
were killed, 193 wounded, McDowells whole army over 900 dead, 1,200 wounded,
300 missing. Of the 58 field pieces the army carried to Bull Run, all but
twelve were lost to the enemy, along with thousands of rifles and hundreds of
horses and and wagons.
Event: Ricketts Guns Prove Useless
Battery I, 1st U.S. Artillery was at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, commanded by Captain John Magruder, when called to Washington in January 1861. The Battery upon arrival at Washington
consisted of four 6-pounder bronze Napoleons and two
12-pounder howitzers. Arriving in February, along with the West Point Battery,
the battery was put immediately to training the volunteers arriving with state
militia batteries in the use of the guns. When Magruder resigned
on April 20
and went with the Confederacy, Captain James B Ricketts was assigned the
received the news of the assignment at Fort Monroe where he was stationed on
garrison duty. He came immediately to Washington, assumed command of the
battery, and continued the training of recruits, using the smoothbore field
pieces. When Virginia formally seceded from the Union, he took the Battery across the Potomac and continued drilling new cannoneers on the plain beyond Arlington.
No more than a week before McDowell set his army in motion
on the roads to Centreville, Battery Is six smoothbore guns were replaced with
six brand new Parrott rifled guns (Model 1861) of 2.9 inch caliber. Robert P.
Parrott, the manufacturer of these pieces also provided special ammunition: a
wrought iron ring sabot projectile, nine inches in length and weighing nine
pounds. Accompanying the shells were wooden fuse plugs with paper time fuses.
These shells were tested by the War Department in June 1861, but Rickettss gun
crews would not have had much time to practice with the new pieces, since they
were not received by Ricketts until shortly before McDowells movement began.
Ricketts moved with Griffin, at McDowells order, to the position on Henry
Hill, he unlimbered and went into action on the west side of the Henry familys
farmhouse. Taking sniper fire from the upper windows of the house as he
arrived, Ricketts fired several shells at it, killing Mrs. Henry, elderly and
bedridden inside. As he testified at a hearing of the Committee on the Conduct
of the War, in a very short time we were not in a condition to move, on
account of the large number of our horses that were disabled. It was the
hottest place I ever saw in my life, the enemy guns delivering a terrible fire
Under the hail of cannon and rifle fire coming at his
battery, the cannoneers shoved shell after shell into the tubes of the guns,
fused them, pulled the lanyards and repeated the process for an hour or more:
the shells though did not damage. These guns were designed as long range
weapons and this fact combined with the design of the shells, caused the
projectiles to fall over the rebel gun line, impact the ground behind, burrow
into the earth and detonate harmlessly. In contrast, Jacksons gun line,
composed largely of smoothbores, fired round shot at an angle at the ground,
causing the balls to bounce along and ricochet into the Union infantry and
cannoneers knocking them down like king pins in a bowling alley. Then, turning
to canister in the infantry charges and countercharges that ensued in the
struggle to capture the Union guns, Jacksons pieces threw curtains of iron
pellets in the intervals, thoroughly wrecking the organization of the infantry
supports that appeared on the crest. The difference in the killing efficiency
of the smoothbores in the close quarters of the plateau, compared to the
Parrott rifles spelled the difference between victory and defeat.
When the New York Fire Zouaves panicked under the fire of
the 33rd Virginia and fled the hill, the flight carried with it the battalion
of U.S. Marines, the Marines not stopping until they reached the crossroads at
the bottom of the hill. By then the 14th Brooklyn Volunteers, from Porters
brigade, appeared in formation and climbed the hill in an effort to retake the
guns Griffin had lost and Ricketts was losing. The Marines, rallied by their
officers, joined the Brooklyn rush as remnants of other regiments followed, and
a mass of Union blue appeared again at the crest, just at Jacksons gun line
had limbered and gone to the rear out of ammunition. Recognizing this, the Brooklyn men, along with the Marines, drove the rebels from the guns and followed them as
they retreated across the plain. The attackers swept over 300 yards and as they
came into the fringe of the pine trees where Jacksons Virginia Brigade was
positioned, they were blasted with a devastating volley from the 4th and 27th Virginia regiments.
The Brooklyn men fell away at this, but the Marines came on,
plunging into the pines, grappling hand-to-hand. Rebel fire intensified, and
the Marines began to falter. Another Virginia regiment threw its weight into
the moment and the Marines began backing away, then again in full flight they
raced across the plateau and threw themselves over the crest as the 7th Georgia
Regiment, called up by Jackson from his reserve, charged after them and
recaptured Ricketts now useless guns. Ricketts, now lying severely wounded by
one of the guns, raised his hand feebly in surrender as the rebels ran over
The Marines rallied yet again, this time going up the Sudley
road where they joined the remnants of the 27th NY, 14th Brooklyn, and 1st Minnesota crouched against the sunken roads embankment, just at the saddle between the
hills. Up the road behind came the 69th NY from Shermans brigade and this
regiment led a charge onto the crest behind Griffins guns, but Jackson
released the 8th and 18th Virginia who stormed across the open space and
volleyed heavy fire into the front of the 69th, staggering its formation,
splintering it into a rearward running crowd of men.
Sherman now had stopped the straggling flow of men down the
road, regrouped as many units as he couldsquads, bits of companies, men with
no field officers to guide themand got them moving onto the crest of the hill,
but the 2nd and 8th South Carolina from Bonhams brigade arrived on the run and
their fire swept the crest clear again.
It was all over now. To the right, over on Chinn Ridge, Colonel
Oliver O. Howards brigade, trying to get around the rebel left flank, took in
the face the full smashing weight of Elzeys and Earlys brigades and the
soldiers in the ranks became overwhelmed with fear and began running toward the
crossroads, a flow of men moving in rivulets, mingling and churning about in
confusion with the bits of the many regiments that had lost the battle for the
Hindsight: McDowells Tactical Mistakes
should not have taken Richardsons brigade away from Tyler and used it to
strengthen Miless division.
should have ordered Tyler as his first priority to gain control of the stone
bridge in order to get Aryes and Carlisles batteries across the run as quickly
as possible and into action.
Sherman should have been ordered to
turn the bridge defenses, then with Keyes and Schencks brigades, supported by Richardson, crossing over, Tyler should have attacked the hill from the northeast while
Hunter and Heintzelman attacked it from the northwest. The combination would
have been overpowering.
3. He had
no batteries, but Ricketts to use against Jacksons guns. He had failed to
bring across Bull Run the right guns.
Tyler was attacking Stone Bridge, Miles should have been at least feinting an
attack on Blackburns Ford.
should have had the eight regiments of New Jersey troops at Centreville. He
offers no explanation why they were not there.
Immediately upon the mob that was McDowells army
pouring over the bridges into Washington, the press began fixing the blame:
Patterson was to blame for not holding Johnston in the Valley; the regulars
were to blame for driving their artillery cassions through the regiments, the
volunteers were to blame for not having the grit it takes to stand in the fire;
the officers were to blame for being tin soldiers, good for nothing but sham
battles. Confronting Lincoln in the Cabinet Room, General Scott said: Im to
blame because I didnt stand up when the army was not in condition for fighting,
and resist it to the last.
Lincoln gave him that cold-eyed, heartless lawyer stare of
his: Are you implying that I forced you to fight this battle? Lincoln asked between gritted teeth. No, of course, Scott said, as he walked out.
The day after the battle, a letter came to Lincoln from Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune: Can the rebels be beaten
after all that has occurred? The gloom in this city funerealfor our dead at Bull Run were many, and they lie unburied yet. On every brow sits sullen, scorching, black
despair. Lincoln nodded his head and tossed Greeleys letter aside, and wrote
down on a piece of paper the following:
1. Let the blockade be pushed
forward with all possible dispatch.
2. Let the
forces here be reorganized as rapidly as possible.
And the same day, a message at Lincolns behest was sent to George B. McClellan:
Washington, D.C., July 22, 1861
General George B. McClellan, Beverly, Va
Circumstances make your presence here
necessary. Come hither without delay.
Under the prodding of Lincolns hand, John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, in the House of Representatives, offered a resolution declaring why the Lincoln
Government was at war, which the 106 Republicans in control immediately
adopted: The disunionists had forced the war on the country. The war, the
resolution prattled on, was being waged not for conquest or subjugation or
interference with rights, but to defend the Constitution. Of the 176 representatives,
all but four voted for it. In the Senate, of the 82 senators present, only five
voted against it.
After the passage of this, one of the first legislative acts
of the House was the passage of a bill authorizing the confiscation of the
property of rebels.
Meanwhile the three year volunteers responding to Lincolns call kept swarming into Washington.
President Davis Stands Pat
As the 7th Georgia Regiment was taking hold of Rickettss
guns for good, President Davis stepped off a train at Manassas Junction,
mounted a horse and rode among a cavalcade to Henry Hill, arriving there after
the last of the Union volunteers were over Bull Run. Meeting Johnston and
Beauregard, Davis rode with them to a farmhouse near Mitchells Ford where they
conferred as to what more it was practicable, under the circumstances, to do.
Both generals concurred that despite the enemys rout, it
was not practical to pursue them up to the string of forts that had been
erected on the Bull Run side of the Potomac. Beauregard made the case that
there were strong fortifications there, occupied by garrisons, braced with
artillery, which had not been in the battle, and were therefore not affected by
the panic which had seized McDowells army. He described these fortifications
as having wide, deep ditches, with palisades which would prevent scaling the
walls. Nor were any sappers and miners available that could be used to
undermine the fortifications. And even if the fortifications might be overcome,
the enemy would retreat across the Potomac bridges, burning them before the
Confederates could seize them. The other choice was to cross the Potomac and move down the left bank toward Washington. But, here, too, fortifications would
be encountered and there was Pattersons army at Charlestown to deal with in
the Confederate rear.
Returning to Richmond the following day, Davis encountered
press reports in which Beauregard was reported as saying, but for lack of
transportation and supplies the army would have pursued the enemy to Washington. At this, Davis took up pen and wrote:
My dear sir: I think you are unjust. .
. Under the circumstances of our army, it would have been extremely hazardous
to have done more than was performed. Enough was done for glory, and the
measure of duty was full. Let us show the untaught that their desires are
unreasonable rather than give form to the criticisms always easy to those who
judge after the event.
General Lee, who held his post at Richmond during the Bull
Run Campaign, read over the reports of the battle as they came into the
Adjutant-Generals office and he was very pleased. There were Confederate
officers present at the battle, he could see, that would surely rise to the
highest levels of command as he organized the Army of Northern Virginia. The
names ring down the years to us:Lees wing commanders, Stonewall Jackson and
James Longstreet handled brigades at Bull Run as did Richard Ewell, Joe Kershaw, Bob
Rodes, and D.R. Jones. These latter officers would handle divisions, Ewell eventually a corps; Featherston,
Steuart, Garland, Garnett, Hunton, Kemper, Wheat, and Barksdale, brigades; John
Imboden, Wade Hampton and JEB Stuart would prove to be outstanding cavalry
commanders; and among the artillery battery captains, the names of Alburtis,
Standard, Rosser, and Miller would prove stand-outs. It was a good start in
what Lee knew would be a losing war.
BOOKS AVAILABLE TO READ
JoAnna M. McDonald, We Shall Meet Again: The First Battle of Manassas(Bull Run) July 18-21, 1861. Oxford University Press, 1999.
William C. Davis, A History of the First Major Campaign
of the Civil War: Battle of Bull Run. Doubleday & Co., 1977.
R.H. Beatie, Jr., Road to Manassas: The Growth of Union
Command in the Eastern Theatre from the Fall of Sumter to the First Battle of Bull Run. Cooper Square Publishers, 1864.
Francis F. Wilshin, Manassas (Bull Run) National Battlefield Park Virginia. National Park Service Historical Handbook
Series No. 15, Washington D.C., 1953.
James B. Fry, McDowell and Tyler in the Campaign of Bull Run, 1861, D.Van Nostrand, Publisher, 1884.
Robert Patterson, A Narrative of the Campaign in the
Valley of the Shenandoah in 1861. Sherman & Co. 1865.
Report of the Conduct of the War, Part I.Washington: Government Printing Office 1863.
Official Records of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 51
Part 1-3, 1886.
Blue & Gray Magazine: The Battle of First Manassas (150th Anniversary Edition) Vol: XXVII, #5.
Ted Ballard, Staff Ride Guide: Battle of Bull Run. Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington D.C., 2007.
G.T. Beauregard, The First Battle of Bull Run.
Battles & Leaders, Vol II.
The Congressional Globe: The Debates and Proceedings of
the Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress. Washington 1862.