The view from the Top of the Knoll: Capt. John C. Tidball's memoir of the First Battle at Bull Run.
No one has improved on William Tecumseh Sherman's one-sentence description of the Union army's performance at that battle: "It is now generally admitted," he wrote more than twenty years after the event, "that it was one of the best-planned battles of the war, but one of the worst-fought." In July 1861 neither the Union nor the Confederacy had a coherent strategy for waging war, and neither side was militarily ready. But Union politicians were convinced that if the North made a bold appearance, the Rebels would run. While a strategic case could be made for attacking the Confederate army at Bull Run, it was a battle fought not for strategic reasons, but for political reasons. The northern press pushed an ill-prepared Union army into action, and the Confederate Army pushed it off the plains of Manassas back to Washington. The battle ended with the Army of the North, as Sherman put it, "in a state of disgraceful and causeless flight."(2)
Events of the spring of 1861 pulled the North and South relentlessly toward that first major battle of the War. On March 5, only one short day after his inauguration, Lincoln was greeted with the news that dwindling food supplies would force an evacuation of Fort Sumter within four to six weeks. Sumter was one of only two Southern forts of any significance still in federal possession at the end of the Buchanan presidency; the other was Fort Pickens in Pensacola Harbor. Lincoln, in one of the first major decisions of his new presidency, ordered a secret expedition to reinforce Fort Pickens, but on Fort Sumter decided to wait out Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Cautiously, a few weeks later, he notified the Confederacy that he intended to send provisions only--no men or arms--to Sumter. Incessant demands from South Carolina for action to redeem Southern honor provoked Davis into a decision that would forever cast him as the aggressor who started the Civil War; he ordered Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard, the Confederate Commander at Charleston, to attack. Two days later, on April 14, Fort Sumter surrendered.(3)
By this time Lt. John C. Tidball was already on his way to Fort Pickens. In the absence of its captain, William Barry, Tidball was in charge of Battery A, 2d U.S. Artillery, and on April 17, he disembarked in the heavy surf off Santa Rosa Island in Pensacola Harbor. Bvt. Maj. Henry Hunt's Company M, 2d U.S. Artillery was also there, along with an assortment of regular army infantry and engineering personnel who were rushed to the scene to prevent the invasion of the island by Confederate forces at Pensacola. Barry and Hunt would rise to the very top of the Union artillery corps during the long conflict ahead; they would also, along with many other regular army artillerists, see action in the first battle at Bull Run. The Fort Pickens relief expedition arrived just in time to thwart the plans of Confederate brigadier general Braxton Bragg to attack the Union post. By mid-May, the old fort was secure, and Tidball and the other regular army officers were chafing at their isolation on this distant tropical island. In a letter home Tidball wrote, "We find that our elegant light battery is entirely out of place by being in this fort, and we all think it would be a wise policy to send us back for service with the new troops that are now being raised in the North to operate in the field."(4)
In late June orders arrived ordering Hunt's and Barry's batteries to embark for the east coast. Unsurprisingly, Tidball was elated, not only at the prospect of being returned to the mainland, but also because he received an unexpected promotion. The creation of the Fifth Artillery Regiment resulted in Barry and Hunt being promoted to majors in the new unit. "This boosted me up to the rank of Captain," Tidball wrote, "a rank that a year before I could not see even with the aid of a powerful field glass." Battery A of the 2d Artillery had been commanded by James Duncan in the Mexican War and had, Tidball believed, won distinction above all others during that conflict. "I was proud now to be its commander," he wrote, "and hoped that under me it would lose none of its former prestige." On the sixth of July the new captain loaded his guns and horses aboard ship and embarked for New York, proud of his new command, and eager to lead it into action.
After a most delightful passage north we arrived at New York on July
14th. The following day we disembarked and taking cars arrived at Washington
late at night on the day following. Here we received information that
McDowell's army was already on the move in quest of the enemy then supposed
to be somewhere near Centreville about twenty miles from Washington. A note
from McDowell informed us to join him at once or we would miss the
Tidball went at once to the arsenal and spent what little remained of the night in packing his chests with ammunition. The battery was short of horses, a number having been left at Pickens, but fortunately the corral of the depot quartermaster was nearby, and they replenished from his stock. Although they could find no wagons in which to carry either provisions or forage, they started out, and after a "hot and dusty march, caught up with the army about five miles this side of Centreville." The Union army was then in camp, having completed its second day out from Washington. "Here," Tidball wrote, "by lively skirmishing among some batteries that we knew we secured a day's rations for the men and some food for ourselves. We fortunately found a field of oats which had not yet been foraged upon and from it secured a scant supply for our horses."(6)
Because Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell, the commander of the Union forces, chose Major Barry, the senior artillery officer present, as his chief of artillery, Tidball was elevated to the command of Barry's company. At that time artillery batteries were assigned to infantry brigades, one to each brigade. "Having arrived late," Tidball ruefully noted, "I had to take what was left." What was left was Blenker's brigade of Miles's division, consisting of four regiments, all of which were German except the Garibaldi Guards, which was Italian. These volunteer troops were disdainfully described by Tidball as eastern city regiments, picturesque in gay uniforms, which "had seen much service in parades and at shutzenfests, although they did not seem to possess much stamina as soldiers." As Tidball observed, these were features common to a large pan of the army: "The call of the President had brought forth all the uniformed militia organizations of the land, and they took to the field in the gay uniforms they had used for their holiday parades. They were certainly a variegated lot; but in a little while these showy uniforms gave way to the army blue, except here and there where the Zouave dress continued to be worn." But Colonel Louis Blenker showed his Prussian military training. He was a fine-looking man, Tidball thought, military to the backbone, and "in his handsome uniform of cadet grey he looked every inch the dashing soldier."(7)
Tidball found that dropping down suddenly into the midst of the army was bewildering after being isolated at Fort Pickens for so many months, but he began to learn something of the nature of the campaign and the topography of the country as the army moved forward to Centreville. Having been raised on a farm in Ohio, he astutely appraised the surrounding rural scene:
The whole country round about is rolling and picturesque, and to a great
extent wooded. Some of the forest is of the original growth of hardwoods,
but a great deal is "old field pine" sprung up on abandoned fields. The
soil, naturally thin, had been exhausted by many years of thriftless
tillage. In this respect it was typical "Old Virginia." Here and there, at
distant intervals, were mansions which bore evidence of some pretension in
the days of their owner's prosperity, but generally the farm buildings were
rickety, and in connection with their surrounding fields, overgrown with
briars, sassafras and mullens, gave an impression that the country had
gone to seed.
Because they had occupied the ground since the latter part of May, all of this terrain was familiar to the Confederate troops led by Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard, McDowell's West Point classmate and described by Tidball as a mercurial little Frenchman, ambitious and dashing, "hot from his Fort Sumter success." To McDowell and his troops, however, "it was terra incognito, and it was difficult if not quite impossible for him to get guides or even reliable information from the people of the country, all of whom were in sympathy with his adversaries, or in fear of their vengeance."(8)
Tidball regarded McDowell as a man of ability, but saw underneath his serious characteristics "a good deal of the comical":
He had it is true great physical powers, but his figure was not of a
comely order. He was of medium stature, but his body was long in proportion
to his legs. His head, although well formed and large enough, appeared small
and bullet-shaped when attached to his fleshy figure by a neck short and
thick. His countenance, always florid from rugged health, was of the
Holland type, and his legs although short were in other respects
well-proportioned to his general figure. They were attached to his body by
broad rolling hips that worked up and down when he walked. Notwithstanding
all this seeming clumsiness, he was in the waltz, of which he was extremely
fond, light of foot and tripped it off with a sylph-like grace. The virtue
of temperance he carried to such an extreme that he eschewed not only the
beverages that intoxicate but tea and coffee as well. Yet while so
abstemious as to drinking he set no bounds to his eating, for which his
equatorial dimensions gave him great capacity. He cultivated eating to a
fine art, and was not only a gourmand, but a bon vivant, being as highly
skilled in the preparation of recherche dishes as a Delmonico chef.
Intimately associated with his total abstemiousness in drinking was his
abhorrence of tobacco in every shape and form.
Neither did he use profane language, nor indulge in light or trifling conversation, evidently feeling that his intellect and attainments were above this. "Having none of the vices of ordinary mortals and but few of their weaknesses, he imagined himself on a higher plane than they, and thus imagining, thought himself as ranking with the gods, and he assumed dignity accordingly." Were it not for McDowell's foibles--which also included falling asleep while standing and conversing, and frequently tumbling from his saddle--Tidball concluded, he "would probably have become a great man." Despite his physical prowess and his long army experience, however, McDowell lacked self-confidence. Before the battle, he confessed to William Howard Russell, the famous London Times correspondent, that compared to European armies he feared the reporter would "think little of us, generals and all." Russell, who was to write a controversial description of the Union army's defeat at Bull Run, would later encounter Tidball's battery on the field.(9)
By July 18 the five divisions of McDowell's army had reached the outskirts of Centreville. Daniel Tyler, who enjoyed an excellent reputation in the Old Army, commanded the First Division. David Hunter led the Second Division; he had spent forty years in uniform, though seeing no action. Commanding the Third Division was Samuel Heintzelman, a veteran of the Mexican and Indian conflicts with a record for bravery. Theodore Runyon led the Fourth Division; he was a cipher, a militia general from New Jersey with little experience. Dixon S. Miles, commander of the Fifth Division, had more experience than all the rest but also a reputation for losing battles with the bottle. At 7 A.M. on July 18, Tyler ordered his division forward toward Centreville, with Col. Israel B. "Fighting Dick" Richardson's brigade in the lead. Just behind a light battalion of infantry, a quarter of a mile in advance of the rest of Richardson's brigade, were two twenty pounder field guns manned by regular U.S. artillerymen. "These West Point-trained artillery officers of the 2d United States Artillery were objects of some curiosity to the volunteers in Richardson's and other brigades. `If there was anything we volunteers early in the war had a great reverence for,' wrote a man in Schenk's brigade, `It was a "regular" officer. We looked on them as superior beings.'" This much-admired unit would have been Hunt's Battery M, 2d U.S. Artillery, which the main body of Richardson's brigade followed into Centreville at 9 A.M. on July 18. As the rest of McDowell's army straggled in, it was well for the federal army that Beauregard did not make any aggressive movements, Tidball thought, for McDowell's men, "not soldiers but civilians in uniform, unused to marching, hot, weary and footsore had dropped down as they halted and bivouacked along the roads about Centreville."(10)
While McDowell rested his men and waited for provisions, Tyler decided to reconnoiter Mitchell's and Blackburn's Fords along the road to Manassas in accordance with McDowell's orders to keep up the impression that the Union force was moving on Manassas; however, McDowell had also instructed him not to bring on an engagement. Before long, Tyler had visions of marching unopposed into Manassas and ordered up the remainder of Richardson's brigade, along with Lt. Samuel N. Benjamin's Battery G, 1st U.S. Artillery, and Capt. Romeyn B. Ayres Battery E, 3d U.S. Artillery, known as "Sherman's Battery" to most men on both sides. There were more Confederates along Bull Run than Tyler bargained for, and after a hot artillery duel and a repulsed infantry charge, he withdrew to Centreville. Not much more than a skirmish, Southerners dignified their victory with the name "Battle of Bull Run," while the depressed Federals dismissed it as the "affair at Blackburn's Ford."(11)
Meanwhile, Tidball was desperately searching for rations for his men and forage for his horses; the 5 officers, 145 enlisted men and 102 horses in his light battery consumed wagonloads of provisions every day, and he had none. He finally found Blenker's Brigade, but nowhere could he get information of either a commissary or quartermaster train. "These small matters," he sardonically noted, "had evidently been overlooked by McDowell when preparing his army for the march, or perhaps the 'On to Richmond' pressure had been so great that he had no time for such preparations." The lack of supplies was only one facet of the general disarray that typified the state of the Union army. Tidball explained many years later in his lengthy discourse on "The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion" that he omitted the first battle of Bull Run from his treatise because everything military "was in a state of newness and without any systematic organization." There was certainly nothing systematic about getting food to the soldiers, and as a consequence of the delay in bringing forward supplies, for two days the army lay within striking distance of the enemy waiting for a provision train to come up, while the troops suffered from hunger and growing discontent. As soon as Tidball learned of the arrival of rations, he sent a request for provisions to the brigade commissary, and when that failed to get results, he sent an officer, who returned empty-handed. He then decided personally "to lay the matter before Blenker."(12)
It was almost dark as Tidball began to search for the grove of pines where he was told Blenker had his headquarters. "When nearing this clump, my ears were saluted by a din of voices issuing from it," he wrote, "so unlike the quiet that usually surrounds a headquarters camp at night." He hesitated for a moment but saw ahead a shadowy opening in the thicket, which he discovered was a pathway cut in a brake of pine saplings. He proceeded farther and found that it terminated in a small chamber also cut from the brake, lighted by a flickering I torch which cast an intermittent glow upon the pine branches overhead and around, and deepened the shadowy spots among the foliage into gloomy holes. It was from this "weird cavern" that came the voices he had heard---of men wildly gesticulating and talking. He asked for Colonel Blenker, and at once one of them stepped forward and saluted him with "all that military precision for which European officers are so remarkable." He saw at once it was Blenker himself, and proceeded "without circumlocution" to state his business. While doing so and receiving Blenker's reply, Tidball glanced around him and saw a keg of beer propped up on stakes driven into the ground, and a table improvised from cracker boxes covered with mugs and glasses.
Standing around, drinking and talking excitedly, but talking either in
German or in such broken English that I could scarcely make anything out of
what was said, was a group of officers, most of whom I recognized to be
colonels and other field officers of Blenker's brigade. When not drinking
they were talking, and all talked at once, each endeavoring to gain
attention by elevating his voice above the rest, and gesticulating more
violently. But one of them seemed to have a little more of the floor than
the rest, acquired evidently from a glamour of prestige through his
boldness in having ridden, as he claimed, down to the very edge of Bull Run
and from there had looked over upon the enemy on the further side. This bold
feat had apparently inspired him with great contempt for the foe, for he
asserted with tremendous emphasis that if only permitted he could take his
regiment down and "clean dem fellows out like yon streak of lightening," and
then the way would be open for the army to Richmond. All seemed to be of the
same opinion, expressing themselves volubly upon the proper method of making
war. The only moment of silence that anyone allowed himself was when he was
drinking. In their vehemence they thumped the table with their sword
scabbards and shook their fists in the air as though striking at Jeff Davis
in person. There was not much time lost between drinks, and as they drank
the more eager did they become for the fight.
Blenker expressed his regrets at having given Tidball so much trouble, but after conferring with his commissary, informed him that all the provisions had been issued and there were none left except a few boxes of crackers, which he was keeping as a reserve. After "considerable parlaying," in which Tidball threatened to carry his complaint to General McDowell, Blenker finally consented to release the crackers to the irate artilleryman. While retrieving the crackers, Tidball discovered some bacon hidden away among some bushes, from which he sent "a reasonable share" back to his battery. Before leaving, Blenker invited him to take a glass of beer, and while Tidball consumed it, the German general loftily informed him that he would have no fear of losing any of his guns so long as he was attached to Blenker's Brigade, an assurance that probably gave Tidball little comfort, considering his low opinion of volunteers.(13)
The delay at Centreville waiting for the provision train not only rested McDowell's men, but enabled his engineers to search for terrain to support a flank movement to maneuver the enemy away from his strong position along Bull Run. The country towards the right in the direction of Sudly Springs, some two miles above the Stone Bridge, appeared the most favorable to turn the enemy's left, force him from his defensive position and, if possible, destroy the railroad leading from Manassas to the Shenandoah Valley; McDowell decided to strike in that direction. In Tidball's words, "it was certainly a well laid plan," and McDowell issued orders for the movement to commence the night of July 20th. The delay also offered an opportunity for throngs of Washingtonians to visit the army, and they came in carriages bringing baskets of food and drink. Indeed, the demand for picnic lunches in Washington was unprecedented. As London Times reporter William Howard Russell sarcastically observed, "The French cooks and hotel-keepers have arrived at the conclusion that they must treble the prices of their wines and of the hampers of provisions which the Washington people are ordering to comfort themselves at their bloody Derby." The sightseers were under no military restraint and passed to and from among the troops as they pleased. "Among these were Senators and Representatives," Tidball wrote, "who, visiting the regiments from their states, took advantage of the occasion to `address a few words to the boys'" (emphasis John C. Tidball's). Many of these visitors were of such prominence that McDowell could not ignore their presence, and much of his valuable time was consumed in giving them audience.(14)
In carrying out McDowell's plan, Miles's Division, with Richardson's brigade of Lyle's division, and a strong force of artillery, was to remain in reserve at Centreville, prepare defensive works there against a possible rebel counterattack on Union lines of communication, and threaten Blackburn's Ford; Tidball's Battery A, 2d U.S. Artillery, with its two six-pounder smooth bore guns and two twelve-pound howitzers, was part of this rearguard. Early in the forenoon of July 21, he took his post on a "prominent knoll" overlooking the valley of Bull Run, about a mile from Centreville, just west of "the old dilapidated turnpike from Alexandria to Warrenton." There he stood, his "elegant light battery" at the ready, prepared to move quickly to any point where the firepower of his four guns was required. It was the moment he had been training for since he left West Point thirteen years earlier.(15)
The Turnpike was soon clogged with sightseers from Washington, who came in all manner of vehicles--some in stylish carriages, some in city hacks, and still others in buggies, on horseback, and even on foot. William Howard Russell joined the many Washingtonians who set out that morning to view the Confederate rout. As his carriage appeared at his door in Washington, he swallowed a cup of tea and a morsel of bread, put the remainder of the tea into a bottle, got a flask of light Bordeaux, a bottle of water, a paper of sandwiches, and having replenished his small flask of brandy, stowed them all away in the bottom of the gig. It was Sunday, and there was a general holiday atmosphere, Tidball observed, and all manner of people were represented in the crowd, from hotel waiters to the "most grave and noble senators."
As they approached, the projecting knoll on which I was posted seemed to them
an eligible point of view, and to it they came in throngs, leaving their
carriages along the side of the road with the horses hitched to the wooden
fence at either side. When all available space along the road was occupied
they drove into the vacant fields behind me and hitched their horses to the
bushes with which it was in a measure overgrown. As a rule they made directly
for my battery, eagerly scanning the country before them, from which now came
the roar of artillery and from which could occasionally be heard the faint
rattle of musketry. White smoke rising here and there and showing distinctly
against the dark green foliage, indicated the spot where the battle was in
Sometime after noon William Howard Russell passed through Centreville, observing "two German regiments," undoubtedly Blenker's, with a battery of artillery, probably Tidball's; he then headed in the direction of the battle.(16)
As Tidball was "plied with questions innumerable" from his visitors, he must have reflected that there was nothing in his training or field experience that prepared him for anything quite like this. To his impromptu audience he explained as best he could the plan of the operations then in progress. Invariably, he was asked why he was not where the fighting was, to which he "could only reply that the plan of the battle required that we should guard the left until the proper time came for us to engage. To make my explanation more lucid I said if the enemy were allowed freedom to break through here where would you all be?" Most of the sightseers were evidently disappointed at what they saw, or did not see. Tidball assumed they expected to observe "a battle as represented in pictures; the opposing lines drawn up as on parade with horsemen galloping hither and thither." In search of that spectacle, they hurried on in the direction of the sound of battle, leaving their carriages by the roadside or in the fields. Among the dignitaries who halted a little while with Tidball were several that he knew, including three of the most prominent members of the U.S. Senate. Tidball wrote:
One party in particular attracted my attention. This was Dr. Nicholls, then
in charge of the government Insane Asylum; Senator Wilson from Massachusetts,
Chairman of the Senate Military Committee; "Old Ben" Wade, Senator from Ohio,
and a wheelhorse of the Republican party; and "Old Jim" Lane, Senator from
Kansas, another political war horse. All of these were full of the "On to
Richmond" fervor, and were impatient to see more of the battle. I
endeavored to dissuade them from proceeding further, that
if they would only remain a while they would probably see as much as they
would care to see. But Old Jim was fiery, he said he must have a hand in it
himself. His friends not wishing to go so far as that tried to convince him
that he could do no good in the fight without a gun. "O, never mind that," he
said, "I can easily find a musket on the field. I have been there before and
know that guns are easily found where fighting is going on. I have been there
before and know what it is." He had been a colonel of an Indiana regiment
during the Mexican War, and this was the old fire sparkling out again.
Nothing could hold him back, and off the party started down the slope and
over the fields in the direction of the firing. I saw nothing more of them
until late in the afternoon.(17)
While Tidball was entertaining dignitaries from Washington, a furious battle was being fought three miles to the east. McDowell had started deploying his troops early that morning. Tyler's division was to threaten the Stone Bridge and open fire on it at daybreak to divert attention from the turning column. But the flanking march proved difficult, and did not cross at Sudley Springs until more than two hours later than planned. Across Bull Run, anchoring the extreme left of the Confederate line was a "demibrigade" of just two regiments under the command of Col. Nathan G. "Shanks" Evans of South Carolina, a West Point classmate of Tidball's. Evans was a rude brawler of an officer, insubordinate, gruff, rough-hewn and intemperate. It was said that he was followed everywhere by a Prussian orderly with a wooden one-gallon drum of whiskey on his back. Tidball recalled Evans from his first days at West Point, when during the election year of 1844 party spirit was at the boiling point and the new cadets were "full of campaign talk," particularly those from the South: "Well do I remember the ranting of one N. George Evans, a nimble-jointed youth from South Carolina, a typical son of his sunny clime, who from his knockneedness was dubbed "Shanks" Evans. With his vehemence he downed every adversary, and even sought among his more silent companions new fields in which to press his conquests." Tyler's operations against the Stone Bridge were feeble and ineffective, and Evans was soon satisfied that he was in no danger from his front. When he perceived the Union movement from Sudley Springs to turn his position, although he had no instructions to guide him in the emergency that had arisen, he did not hesitate. Forming a line of battle at right angles to his former line, he not only repulsed but pursued the troops that attacked him. Virtually alone in those first crucial hours when he stopped McDowell's flanking movement, Evans provided time for Confederate reinforcements to arrive. His action was described by a senior Union officer as one of the "best pieces of soldiership" on either side during the battle.(18)
By 1 P.M. Beauregard had formed his line, and McDowell decided to soften the already shaky enemy with a concerted attack from his two powerful batteries, Company I of the 1st U.S. Artillery commanded by Capt. J. B. Ricketts, with six guns, and Company D of the 5th U.S. Artillery commanded by Capt. Charles Griffin, also with six guns. The big guns of what Beauregard referred to as "the renowned batteries of the United States regular army," were soon hurling destructive projectiles at the rebel troops. But the batteries were unprotected, and Major Barry, until recently Tidball's battery commander but now Mcdowell's chief of artillery, went off to bring up the New York Fire Zouaves for infantry support. The red-legged New Yorkers were cut up--first by "Jeb" Stuart's cavalry, and then the 33d Virginia Infantry. They withdrew and left Ricketts and Griffin on their own. When the blue-coated Virginia infantry advanced toward the batteries, Barry ordered the big guns not to fire, thinking they were federal troops coming to support the batteries. "They are confederates," Griffin shouted, "as certain as the world, they are confederates." Barry was adamant. "I know they are your battery support," he replied. Then the rebel troops fired a volley into the guns. "That was the last of us," groaned Griffin; "we were all cut down." In an instant fifty battery horses were slain, making it impossible to withdraw the guns. Men fell right and left, including Ricketts, who was shot out of his saddle and later captured. Griffin ran back to the Zouaves and begged them for support, but they declined to advance, and then "in utter confusion" fled to the rear in their gaudy uniforms. As Tidball wrote, Ricketts and Griffin were "equal to all the artillery brought against them. It was not until they were lost that the battle was lost." It was another turning point of the battle, and the tide soon swung against the Union Army.(19)
McDowell watched the sun beat hard on his fleeing troops, seeing the retreat first become a rout and then a panic. After "begging the men to form a line, and offer the appearance, at least, of organization," McDowell sent orders back to Miles's Division for a brigade to move forward and protect the retreat. Colonel Blenker's brigade was detached for this purpose and was ordered forward. It was about 4 P.M., Tidball recalled, when an aide, Major Wadsworth, "came hurriedly to me with instructions from General McDowell to hasten with my battery down the turnpike toward the Stone Bridge." The messenger was Maj. James S. Wadsworth, New York Militia, aide-de-camp to General McDowell. Unaware of the headlong retreat of the Union troops, Tidball supposed that his orders were "simply in accordance with the development of the battle and that the turning movement had now progressed so far that we could now cross over and take part in it." After entertaining congressmen and other sightseers for the better part of the day, it seemed that finally, his hour had come, and he was to join the fight.(20)
To get to the turnpike he had to go through Centreville, where he saw Colonel Miles, "sunning himself on the porch of the village inn." By this time the road was crowded with ambulances carrying the wounded, and other vehicles, all hurriedly passing to the rear. Miles, evidently in ignorance of what was transpiring at the front, asked Tidball "what was up," and Tidball could only answer that he had been ordered to proceed down towards the Stone Bridge. But the farther he proceeded, the thicker the throng became of wagons, ambulances and other vehicles. The road was cut on the side of a hill, and the steep banks on both sides prevented him from taking to the fields. His horses were scraped and jammed by vehicles struggling to pass in the opposite direction, and as far as he could see ahead the road was crowded and impassable. Finally, it became impossible for him to gain another inch, and while standing waiting for a thinning out of the struggling mass,
a man came riding up towards me, saying excitedly "whose battery is this?" I
told him that I commanded it. "Reverse it immediately and get out of here, I
have orders from General McDowell to clear the road," and added that the army
had been ignominiously defeated and was now retreating. He was a curious,
wild looking individual. Although the day was oppressively hot he had on an
overcoat--evidently a soldier's overcoat dyed a brownish black. On his head
he wore a soft felt hat, the brim of which flopped up and down at each of his
energetic motions. But notwithstanding the broadness of the brim it did not
protect his face from sunburn, and his nose was red and peeling from the
effects of it. He had no signs of an officer about him and I would have taken
him for an orderly had he not had with him a handsome young officer whom I
subsequently became well acquainted with, Lieutenant, afterwards Colonel,
Audenried. Seeing that this young officer was acquainted with my lieutenant,
afterwards General Webb, of Gettysburg fame, I sidled up to him and inquired
of him who the stranger was who was giving me such peremptory orders. He told
me that he was Colonel Sherman, to whom I now turned and begged his pardon
for not having recognized him before.(21)
Tidball explained his orders to Sherman, but Sherman said it made no difference--the road must be cleared, and added that he could do no good even if he got to the Stone Bridge. Tidball immediately reversed his battery by unlimbering the carriages, and after proceeding a short distance to the rear, where the bank was less steep, turned out into a field, where he put his guns in position on a knoll overlooking the valley towards Cub Run. In the distance he could see a line of skirmishes and occasional puffs of smoke; this was Sykes's battalion of regulars covering the rear. He had not been in this position long before he saw "his friends of the forenoon," Senators Wilson, Wade, and Lane hurrying through the field up the slope towards him. Dr. Nicholls was not now of the party; being younger and more active than the others, Tidball thought he had probably "outstripped them in the race":
Lane was the first to pass me; he was mounted barebacked on an old
flea-Bitten gray horse with rusty harness on, taken probably from some of the
huxter wagons that had crowded to the front. Across the harness lay his coat,
and on it was a musket which, sure enough, he had found, and for ought I know
may have done some valorous deeds with it before starting back in the panic.
He was long, slender and hay-seed looking. His long legs kept kicking far
back to the rear to urge his old beast to greater speed, and so he sped on.
Next came Wilson, hot and red in the face from exertion. When young he had
been of athletic shape but now he was rather stout for up-hill running. He
too was in his shirt sleeves, carrying his coat on his arm. When he reached
my battery he halted for a moment, looking back and mopping the perspiration
from his face exclaimed, "Cowards! Why don't they turn and beat back the
scoundrels?" I tried to get from him some points of what had taken place
across the Run, but he was too short of breath to say much. Seeing Wade
toiling wearily up the hill he hollered to him, "Hurry up, Ben, hurry up,"
and then without waiting for "Old Ben" he hurried on with a pace renewed by
the few moments of breathing spell he had enjoyed. Then came Wade, who
considerably the senior of his comrades, had fallen some distance behind. The
heat and fatigue he was undergoing brought pallor to his countenance instead
of color as in the case of Wilson. He was trailing his coat on the ground as
though too much exhausted to carry it. As he
approached me I thought I had never beheld so sorrowful a countenance. His
face, naturally long, was still more lengthened by his heavy under-jaw, so
heavy that it seemed to overtax his exhausted strength to keep his mouth
shut. I advised him to rest himself for a few minutes, and gave him a drink
of whiskey from a remnant I was saving for an emergency. Refreshed by this he
In the throng of civilians hurrying toward Washington Tidball recognized another familiar face: "Among the notables who passed through my battery was W. H. Russell, L.L.D., the war correspondent of the London Times." Russell, Tidball said, was considered an expert on war matters, because of his reports to the Times during the Crimean war, and subsequently from India during the Sepoy mutiny. "Of average stature he was in build the exact image of the caricature which we see of John Bull--short of legs and stout of body, with a round chubby face, flanked on either side with mutton chop whiskers." He, like all the others, was dusty and sweaty but notwithstanding was making good time, yet not so fast that his quick eye failed to notice Tidball's battery, which Tidball said he later described in his report as looking "cool and unexcited." "He bounded on like a young steer--as John Bull he was, but while climbing over an old wooden fence in his path the top nail broke, pitching him among the brambles and bushes on the further side." Russell's own published account of his withdrawal from the scene of the battle imparts somewhat more dignity to his demeanor; he described himself as coolly directing traffic and advising Union officers to slow down their retreat. In a private letter written the next day, however, he dramatized his experience: "I was nearly murdered--once had a very narrow escape." His report of the battle was graphic and full, Tidball thought, but so uncomplimentary to the volunteers that they dubbed him "Bull Run Russell."(23)
As other picnickers returned they took the first carriage available, "or the best if he had his wits about him enough to make a choice," then jumping into the carriage, off they drove as fast as lash and oaths could make their horses go. Carriages collided tearing away wheels; then horses were cut loose and ridden without saddle. Tidball thought that the panic was due to a rumor "that the enemy had a body of savage horsemen known as the Black-horse Cavalry, which every man now thought was at his heels; and with this terrible vision before them of those men in buckram behind them they made the best possible speed to put the broad Potomac between themselves and their supposed pursuers."(24)
Learning that McDowell had arrived from the field and was endeavoring to form a line on which the disorganized troops could be rallied, Tidball moved his battery to the left, where he found Richardson. McDowell was also present and so was Miles, who was giving orders to Richardson.
For some reason these orders were displeasing to Richardson, and hot words
ensued between him and Miles, ending, finally, in Richardson saying, "I will
not obey your orders, sir. You are drunk, sir." This scene, to say the least
of it, was an unpleasant one, occurring as it did when we expected to be
attacked at any moment by the exultant enemy. Miles turned pitifully to
McDowell as though he expected him to rebuke Richardson, but as McDowell said
nothing he rode away crestfallen and silent.
"Miles did look a little curious and probably did have a wee dropie," thought Tidball, "but his chief queerness arose from the fact that he wore two hats--straw hats, one over the other," a not uncommon custom in very hot climates that Tidball assumed Miles acquired when serving in Arizona.(25)
Miles's division together with Richardson's brigade, Sykes's battalion of regulars, Palmer's regular cavalry battalion and four regular batteries made a strong ,nucleus for a new line on the heights of Centreville, but the Black Horse Cavalry did not materialize nor, indeed, did any other Confederate force. General Joseph E. Johnston, who had saved Beauregard's skin by his timely arrival from the Shenandoah, later explained that pursuit was simply impossible. "We had neither the food nor transportation at Manassas necessary to a forward movement," he said. Tidball said the reason for the rebel failure to move against Washington was because in victory, the southerners "were almost as demoralized as the vanquished." The result was that the occasion called for "no sacrifices or valorous deeds by the staunch regulars of the rear guard." A few rounds of shell and canister were all that was necessary to discourage the worn-out rebels, and the exhausted federal troops "drifted by as though they had no more interest in the campaign. "A rear guard was formed of Richardson's and Blenker's brigades with Hunt's and Tidball's batteries, which, after seeing the field clear of stragglers, took up the line of march at about two o'clock of the morning of July 22.(26)
Delayed by the necessity of removing wrecked carriages and wagons abandoned by the previous day's picnickers, the rear guard did not reach Fairfax Court House until sometime after daylight. That village had been ransacked by hungry soldiers, and as Tidball came up he saw some Union cavalrymen "making merry" over the contents of a store. Seizing the loose end of a bolt of calico, they made off at full gallop, allowing it to unroll and flow behind as a long streamer. The Fire Zouaves, Tidball revealed,
were also into all the deviltry going on; they had been educated to it in
New York. The showiness of their uniforms made them conspicuous as they
roamed over the country, and although less than a thousand strong they
seemed ten times that Number, so ubiquitous were they. Although they had not
been very terrifying to the enemy on the battlefield they proved themselves
a terror to the citizens of Washington when they arrived there.(27)
The first of the Union troops reached Long Bridge about daybreak on the 22d. Including the turning march around by Sudley Springs and back again, this was a march of forty-five miles in thirty-six hours, besides heavy fighting from about 10 A.M. until 4 P.M. on that hot July day. Putting in a good word for the volunteers, Tidball thought it was "a very good showing for unseasoned men, proving that they had endurance and only lacked the magic of discipline to make of them excellent soldiers." Early in the forenoon of the 22d, a drizzling rain set in, adding greatly to the discomfort of the retreating troops; they poured over Long Bridge into Washington, D.C., in the most pitiable condition. The men whose dust-saturated clothing now became muddy had by now turned to mud wandered about the streets of Washington, endeavoring to obtain food and shelter. "Overcome by fatigue and want of sleep they dropped down upon the sidewalks, steps of houses, open lots, anywhere, and were soon fast asleep--deep sleep that made them oblivious for a time to rain, hunger and fatigue." Others, after visiting saloons, became boisterous in the streets and carried terror to the hearts of the peaceable citizens of Washington. There appeared to be no one in charge anywhere to restore order and discipline. Two or three days later, Tidball recalled,
I went over to the city and while passing along Pennsylvania saw a group of
rebel prisoners being escorted up Fourteenth Street by a squad of
cavalry. These were attacked by a mob of Zouaves who, pelting them
with bricks and stones swore they would kill them. The cavalry men did all
in their power to protect the prisoners, but it looked as though they
would be overpowered. At this moment Captain Baird, then
of the Adjutant General's Department, but subsequently a general of
distinction, rushed out of Willard's hotel and asserted his authority in
so vigorous a manner as to rescue the prisoners from the fiery Zouaves.(28)
The first battle at Bull Run is firmly imbedded in history as a glorious victory for the South, and a crushing defeat for the North, but was it less than that? No territory changed hands, and by one reckoning the Union forces fought more effectively than the Confederates because they inflicted more casualties for each soldier engaged than did the South. But it was unquestionably a crushing blow to the expectations of the North because those expectations were so high and so unrealistic. The Union learned that it had an adversary who could fight, a lesson taught again and again before the war ended. As Tidball wrote, "In the minds of the South it confirmed them in its much vaunted boast that one Southerner was equal to two Yankees."(29)
Tidball must have been disappointed at missing the action at Bull Run, but he did not dwell on it when he wrote his account of his experiences there, perhaps because during the ensuing four years he was to fight in so many battles. And what aspect of the first Bull Run campaign did he recall most vividly when he wrote his memoirs? It was the evening in the pine brake with Louis Blenker and his officers that stayed most strongly with him: the throng of nattily uniformed Germans standing in the flickering torchlight, drinking, gesticulating and loudly conversing. "So curious and weird was this scene and so dutchy withal, that it impressed itself on my mind more indelibly than any other event of the Bull Run campaign" (emphasis John C. Tidball's).(30)
Following the battle, Tidball remained on the Virginia side doing picket duty until September, when he went into camp at Washington. There he mounted his cannoneers to form a horse battery with six guns that "became celebrated in the annals of the Army of the Potomac" because of its rapid and witheringly accurate fire against the enemy. Tidball took his battery into battle at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Mechanicsville, Gaine's Mill, Malvem Hill, Harrison's Landing, the Second Battle of Bull Run, and Antietam. He went on to command an artillery brigade that included his old unit, Battery A of the Second U.S. Artillery, which fired the opening gun at the battle of Gettysburg. Impatient with the torpid rate of advancement in the regular army, Tidball accepted an appointment as colonel of the New York Fourth Heavy Artillery. Later, as commander of the 2d Corps artillery of the Army of the Potomac, he participated in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna and Cold Harbor. Tidball was brevetted brigadier general, USV, on August 1, 1864, for gallant and distinguished service in the battles of the Potomac, Spotsylvania Court House, and operations in front of Petersburg, and later was brevetted major general, USV, for gallant and meritorious services at Fort Stedman and Sedgwick, where he commanded the 9th Corps artillery. General Grant praised Tidball's actions at Fort Stedman for effectively deploying a large number of artillery pieces "so as to sweep the narrow space of ground between the lines very thoroughly." In 1865 he was brevetted brigadier general, USA, for war service.(31)
After the war, Tidball reverted to his regular army rank of captain and fulfilled a variety of peacetime assignments, including Commandant of the District of Alaska at Sitka, while he authored the Manual of Heavy Artillery, which was adopted as a textbook at the U.S. Military Academy in 1880. In 1881 he was appointed aide-de-camp to commanding general of the army William, Tecumseh Sherman, whom he accompanied on a ten-thousand-mile journey through the western United States in 1883; his journal for this trip was published in its entirety the following year. Tidball was for five years commandant of the Artillery School at Fort Monroe, as Barry and Hunt had been before him; "Tidball Street" still traverses the post. He retired in 1889 and a few years later found himself being spoken of in the same reverential tones he had once used to describe his own heroes. "What memories stir, a young lieutenant wrote in 1893, "at the mere mention of the names of John Sedgwick, C. E Smith, A. A. Humphreys, James Duncan, H. J. Hunt, W. E Barry, J. C. Tidball and other lieutenants and captains of the 2d Artillery." He was confirmed Brigadier General, USA Ret. in 1904 and died May 15, 1906 at the age of 81, the last surviving member of his West Point class, remembered by veterans of the War of the Rebellion for his "intrepidity, self-possession and coolness under fire."(32)
(1) His attachment to the artillery, as he wrote years later, "caused me to adhere to it during the late war, even when it would have been greatly to my advantage to have left it for advancement in other branches." "Getting Through West Point," manuscript, 106, John C. Tidball Papers, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York.
(2) William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman (New York: The Library of America, 1990), 199.
(3) William L. Barney, Battleground for the Union: The Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction, 1848-1877 (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1990), 135-41. See also Grady McWhinney, "The Confederacy's First Shot," Civil War History 14 (Mar. 1968): 5, wherein the author joins the debate on whether Lincoln or Davis was responsible for the commencement of hostilities and produces an often-overlooked letter dated April 3, 1861, from Davis to Bragg revealing Davis's willingness to turn Bragg and his troops loose for an assault on Fort Pickens. Bragg was afraid of failure, and Davis shifted his attention to Sumter and directed Beauregard to open fire. McWhinney concludes, "Thus war came at Fort Sumter only because the Confederates were neither subtle enough nor strong enough to begin it at Fort Pickens."
(4) Regimental Returns, 2d U.S. Artillery, Jan. 1861-Dec. 1870, Adjutant General's Office, RG M744, roll 13 (microfilm) National Archives, Washington D.C.; John C. Tidball, Journal, typescript, p. 4, Special Collections, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Tidball graduated from West Point, eleventh in the Class of 1848. His antebellum postings included service in Florida during the Seminole Wars and a season commanding a military escort for the Whipple expedition on the 32d Parallel Pacific Railway Survey in 1853-54, described in Eugene C. Tidball, "John C. Tidball: Soldier-Artist of the Great Reconnaissance," Journal of Arizona History 37 (Summer 1996): 107-30. From 1854 to 1861, prior to his joining the Fort Pickens relief expedition, he saw service with the Coast Survey and at the Fort Monroe Artillery School. John H. Calef, "John C. Tidball," Annual Reunion of the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 12, 1908 (Saginaw, Mich.: Seeman and Peters, 1908), 36 (hereafter cited as Annual Reunion, 1908); Barry graduated from West Point in 1838, seventeenth in his class. He served on the frontier and in the Mexican War, and from 1856 to 1859 was a member of the Board of Light Artillery, which revised field artilllery tactics. John T. Hubbell and James W. Geary, ed., Biographical Dictionary of the Union (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press,1995), 29. Hunt graduated a year after Barry, nineteenth in his class. After serving in the Mexican War, where he suffered two wounds and received two brevets, he served with Barry on the board of Light artillery. Ibid., 267; John C. Tidball to Dr. R. S. Satterlee, May 12, 1861, Tidball Papers.
(5) "Fort Pickens," Tidball Memoirs, manuscript, 206-13, John C. Tidball Papers, West Point. On the same date of his promotion to artillery captain, Tidball was made a captain in the 12th Infantry, one of the new regiments. Although the senior captain in the 12th, he wrote that "I felt too much joy in my promotion to a captaincy in my old regiment, and especially to the command of so distinguished a battery." He declined the infantry captaincy, thus consigning himself and his career to the severe limitations in advancement inherent in the artillery branch of service. For a full account of Tidball's experience at this Union post, see Eugene C. Tidball, "Fort Pickens Relief Expedition of 1861: Lt. John C. Tidball's Journals," Civil War History 42 (Dec. 1996): 322-39.
(6) Tidball, John C. "Bull Run," Tidball Memoirs, manuscript, 214-15a, Tidball Papers.
(7) Irvin McDowell graduated from West Point in 1838, twenty-third in his class of forty-five. He taught at West Point, saw action in the Mexican War, but in the antebellum years served mostly as a staff officer at the headquarters of the army. When the war began, he held the rank of brevet major. Warren W. Hassler, Jr., Commanders of the Army of the Potomac (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1962), 3-4; Louis Blenker was born in 1812, and after service in the Bavarian Legion, was a leading member of the 1848 revolutionary government. He was forced to leave Germany, and came to the U.S. in 1849. A New York City businessman, he was commissioned Colonel of the 8th N.Y. regiment in April 1861. Mark M. Boatner III, Civil War Dictionary (New York: David Mackay,1988), 69; Tidball, "Bull Run," 215a-16a.
(8) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 216b-19, 223-24.
(9) Ibid., 226-30; Hassler, Commanders of the Army of the Potomac, 6.
(10) William C. Davis, The Civil War: a Historical Account of America's War of Secession (New York: Smithmark,1996), 15; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington. D. C.: GPO, 1880-1901), ser. 1, vol. 2:3 14-15 (hereafter cited as OR); William C. Davis, Battle at Bull Run, (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State Univ. Press,1977) 112; Tidball, John C. "Bull Run," 242.
(11) Davis, Battle at Bull Run,112-31; James B. Fry, "McDowell's Advance to Bull Run," Battles and Leaders of the Civil War 4 vols. (1884; reprint New York: Castle, n.d.), 1:179. Tidball had once served in "Sherman's Battery." Before leaving West Point, he had designated the Third Artillery as the regiment to which he desired to be assigned. Exactly why he had selected this unit he didn't know, except that he had been captivated by General Taylor's remark during the Mexican War, "A little more grape, Captain Bragg," and imagined that such thrilling battle incidents were characteristic of this regiment. Upon graduating in 1848, Tidball received a printed order from the War Department assigning him to Company E, Third Artillery Regiment, and ordering him to report to the commanding officer of that regiment. "Now here, at the very start," he later wrote, "was a poser. Who was the commanding officer of my regiment and what was his post office address?" He finally learned by corresponding with the Adjutant General in Washington that his first assignment was to Captain Sherman's light battery at Fort Brown, Texas. He made his way there, and was grumpily received by his battery commander, who was to become "the other General Sherman." Thomas West Sherman was a division commander during the war and lost his right leg leading an assault at Port Hudson. An officer of unquestioned ability, he was an iron disciplinarian and was in some ways unfitted to handle volunteers; he continued in the regular army after the war and retired in 1870 with the rank of major general. "Getting Through West Point," manuscript, Tidball Papers, 153-55; Hubbell and Geary, Biographical Dictionary of the Union, 474-75.
(12) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 231-32a; Regimental Returns, 2d U.S. Artillery, Jan. 1861-Dec. 1870, Adjutant General's Office, RG M744, roll 13 (microfilm); "The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion," Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States 12 (July 1891): 697.
(13) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 232a-38.
(14) Ibid., 245-46, 249. Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington (New York: Carrol & Graf, 1991), 99.
(15) Tidball, John C. "Bull Run," 247, 262-65. This is the first knoll on which Tidball would situate his battery. Today it is occupied by suburban homes and streets, but looking to the South and West, it is still possible to appreciate the commanding view he selected for his guns. Blenker described Tidball's battery as standing "in front of the left wing of the Garibaldi Guard." OR, vol. 2:427.
(16) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 265-67; William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1954), 217-21.
(17) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 267-71; Charles Henry Nicholls, a trained physician and psychiatrist, is best known as the first superintendent of the Government Hospital for the Insane (now St. Elizabeth's Hospital). Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, 20 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962) 7:489. Henry Wilson, an important American politician for more than two decades, helped organize the Free Soil Party in 1848 and in 1855 was elected to the United States Senate, a position he held for seventeen years. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, he was intimately connected with the important military legislation enacted during the war. Benjamin Franklin Wade was elected to the United States Senate from Ohio in 1851. A Republican and abolitionist, with the outbreak of war he became one of the most belligerent men in Congress. As chairman of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, he repeatedly urged President Lincoln to dismiss democratic Generals like George B. McClellan. James Henry Lane was colonel of an Indiana Volunteer Regiment in the Mexican War. After serving in Congress, he emigrated to Kansas, where he joined the Free State movement and in 1859 was elected to the senate as a Republican when Kansas was admitted to statehood in 1861. Hubbell and Geary, Biographical Dictionary of the Union, 593-94, 561-62, 296.
(18) Fry, "McDowell's Advance to Bull Run," Battles and Leaders, vol. 1:185n, 183-85; Davis, Battle at Bull Run, 162-63,246; Tidball, John C. "Getting Through West Point," Memoirs, chap. I, 68-69.
(19) Davis, Battle at Bull Run, 203n. 13; Fry, "McDowell's Advance to Bull Run," Battle and Leaders, vol. 1:189; G. T. Beauregard, "The First Battle of Bull Run." Battles and Leaders, vol. 1:201; Ed Bearss, First Manassas Battlefield Map Study, (Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, n.d.) 97; Tidball, John C.," Bull Run," 257.
(20) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 271; OR, vol. 2:320-22.
(21) Tidball, John C. "Bull Run," 271-75. Joseph Crain Audenried graduated from West point on June 24, 1861, and joined twenty other members of his class in the First Battle of Bull Run less than a month later. He was wounded at Antietam, received three brevets, and served as aide-de-camp to Generals Grant and Sherman from 1863 to 1880. He attained the rank of colonel, and he died in 1880. Paul W. Child, ed., Register of Graduates and Former Cadets of the United States Military Academy (West Point: Association of Graduates, 1990), 284. Alexander Stewart Webb graduated from West Point in 1855 and had been promoted to 1st lieutenant, 2d U.S. Artillery just three months before the battle of Bull Run. He later served with distinction during the Peninsula campaign. Ten days after being promoted to brigadier general, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for helping to repulse Pickett's charge at Gettysburg. There is a statue of him in the bloody angle at Spotsylvania, where he fell, severely wounded. He retired lieutenant colonel USA in 1870, and then spent nearly a third of a century as the president of City College of New York. Hubbell and Geary, Biographical Dictionary of the Union, 574.
(22) Tidball, John C. "Bull Run," 276-80. This was Tidball's second knoll of the day. Presently in the midst of suburbia, it is strategically located on the Warrenton Turnpike, now a four lane highway, where it indisputably commands the approach to the Cub Run bridge. The author is indebted to James M. Burgess, Jr. of the National Park Service, who personally guided him to the two points where Tidball stationed his battery that day. While inspecting Blenker's brigade Colonel Miles reported that he "found Tidball's battery in admirable position." OR, vol. 2:425. It was Wade, not Lane who displayed heroics on the field at Bull Run. Personally fearless, he played a dramatic part in momentarily stemming a portion of the Union retreat by threatening panic-stricken soldiers with his rifle near Fairfax. Hubbell and Geary, Biographical Dictionary of the Union, 561; Malone, American Dictionary of Biography (1936) 10:304; Leech, Reveille in Washington, 102.
(23) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 281-83; Russell, My Diary, 230; Martin Crawford, ed., William Howard Russell's Civil War (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1992), xxxix-xliii, 94. Most Americans were not as generous as Tidball when Russell's account of the battle was published. Because he did not arrive at the battlefield until midafternoon, in his report he concentrated entirely on the Federal retreat, and for many people Russell's portrait of Federal demoralization became the single compelling image of the engagement. Russell was unprepared for the chorus of dissent that greeted his Bull Run dispatch, and referred to himself as "the best abused man in America."
(24) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 283-84. The existence of the "Black Horse Cavalry," dismissed as the subject of rumor by Tidball, is given credence by J. P. Farley, who joined Tidball's battery fresh out of West Point around the time of the first battle of Bull Run. "After our troops had traveled a distance of some ten miles in retreat, the field batteries of the Confederate Army and their `Black Horse Cavalry' fell upon our flanks, and this, indeed, without having to make any advance whatever. The impression, nevertheless, created upon the minds of those in flight was, that they had been followed for ten miles or more; that the rear of the column was probably annihilated, and that the cavalry had cut its way through and was closing upon the center and even the head of the column. Such impression was, as all must agree, well calculated to throw even the very best troops into a panic. This attack of the Black Horse Cavalry was effected by simply fording Bull Run stream, or crossing, one by one, of the several bridges. The appearance of cavalry, under the circumstances, filled our troops with dismay." Postscript by Gen. J. P. Farley, USA, "A Distinguished Horse Artilleryman," Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States 42 (July-Nov. 1908): 127.
(25) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 285-88. Miles's behavior resulted in his court martial, with a peculiar result: The court found that Richardson was justified in applying the term drunkenness to Miles, but also that Miles had been ill for several days and that the surgeon had prescribed medicines for him, and on the day of the battle had prescribed for him small quantities of brandy. In conclusion, the court considered his illness as "a very slight extenuation of the guilt attached to his condition," and could not find sufficient evidence to convict Miles, adding that a proper court could only be organized "with the greatest inconvenience at present, and that it would not be for the interests of the service" to convene such a court. The army obviously wanted to get the defeat at Bull Run behind it, and dodged the issue. OR, vol. 2:438-39. Before the end of the next year both antagonists in this unseemly spat were dead. Richardson, Tidball wrote, was an officer of the 3d infantry of the "old" army and was a gallant tighter. "He was Mortally wounded at Antietam. Miles was killed at Harpers Ferry the day before Antietam, and his name has gone into history loaded with opprobriums because a few minutes before his death he caused the white flag of surrender to be hung out. He was neither a coward nor a traitor, but too strict a constructionist of one of General Hallack's silly orders." Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 287a.
(26) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 288, 295; John D. Imboden, "Incidents of the First Bull Run," Battles and Leaders, vol. 1:239; Fry, "McDowell's Advance to Bull Run," Battles and Leaders, vol. 1:191.
(27) Tidball, John C. "Bull Run," 288-90.
(28) Ibid., 290-94. The nervy officer who chased off the Zouaves was Absalom Baird, who graduated from West Point in 1849, a year after Tidball. He was General Tyler's assistant adjutant general at Bull Run and later saw action in numerous battles in the West, becoming one of the Army's best and most commended division commanders. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading an assault against a confederate position near Jonesboro and retired in 1888 with the rank of brigadier general. Hubbell and Geary, Biographical Dictionary of the Union, 20-21.
(29) Tidball, John C., "Bull Run," 296.
(30) Ibid., 238.
(31) "History of Light Company A, 2d Artillery During the Late War of the Rebellion," Papers re. 2d U.S. Artillery, Records Relating to Service in the U.S. Army, RG 391, Entry 64, box 1 of 2, (microfilm); John H. Calef, Annual Reunion, 1908; John C. Tidball, "The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865," Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States 13 (May 1892): 472; Hyland C. Kirk, Heavy Guns and Light: A History of the Fourth New York Heavy Artillery (New York: C. T. Dillingham, 1890), 442-43; Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (1885; reprint, New York: The Library of America, 1960), 692-93.
(32) Report of the General of the Army to the Secretary of War, z883, 48 Cong., 1 Sess., House Executive Document, no. 1, pt. 2 (Serial 2182), (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1884): 203-52. For an account of a portion of a journey through the western United States with Sherman, see Eugene C. Tidball, "General Sherman's March Through Montana," Montana Magazine of Western History 44 (Spring 1994): 46-59; and "General Sherman's Last March," Colorado History 1 (1997): 1-29; "The Second United States Artillery," comment by 1st Lt. Eli D. Hoyle, Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States 14, (Sept. 1893): 1042; Annual Reunion 1908, 37.
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|Author:||Tidball, Eugene C.|
|Publication:||Civil War History|
|Date:||Sep 1, 1998|
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