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Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Manassas)
Part of the American Civil War
File:Bull run bridge 1862.jpg
Ruins of Stone Bridge at Bull Run Creek, Manassas, Virginia, March 1862.
Date August 28–30, 1862[1]
Location Prince William County, Virginia
Result Confederate victory
File:US flag 34 stars.svg United States (Union) File:CSA FLAG 28.11.1861-1.5.1863.svg CSA (Confederacy)
John Pope Robert E. Lee
62,000[2] 50,000[2]
Casualties and losses
approx. 10,000 killed and wounded[3] approx. 1,300 killed
approx. 7,000 wounded[3]

The Second Battle of Bull Run, or, as it was called by the Confederacy, the Battle of Second Manassas, was fought August 28–30, 1862,[1] as part of the American Civil War. It was the culmination of an offensive campaign waged by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia against Union Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of Virginia, and a battle of much larger scale and numbers than the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) fought in 1861 on the same ground.

Following a wide-ranging flanking march, Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson captured the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction, threatening Pope's line of communications with Washington, D.C. Withdrawing a few miles to the northwest, Jackson took up defensive positions on Stony Ridge. On August 28, 1862, Jackson attacked a Union column just east of Gainesville, at Brawner's Farm, resulting in a stalemate. On that same day, the wing of Lee's army commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet broke through light Union resistance in the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap and approached the battlefield.

Pope became convinced that he had trapped Jackson and concentrated the bulk of his army against him. On August 29, Pope launched a series of assaults against Jackson's position along an unfinished railroad grade. The attacks were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. At noon, Longstreet arrived on the field from Thoroughfare Gap and took position on Jackson's right flank. On August 30, Pope renewed his attacks, seemingly unaware that Longstreet was on the field. When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter's V Corps, Longstreet's wing of 25,000 men in five divisions counterattacked in the largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war.[4] The Union left flank was crushed and the army was driven back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rearguard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster. Pope's retreat to Centreville was nonetheless precipitous.[5]

Background and opposing forces[]

Key Union commanders

After the collapse of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign in the Seven Days Battles of June 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed John Pope to command the newly formed Army of Virginia. Pope had achieved some success in the Western Theater, and Lincoln sought a more aggressive general than McClellan.[6]

The Union Army of Virginia was divided into three corps of 51,000 men, under Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel (I Corps); Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks (II Corps); and Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell, who had led the losing Union army at First Bull Run (III Corps). Parts of three corps (III, V, and VI) of McClellan's Army of the Potomac and Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's IX Corps (commanded by Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno), eventually joined Pope for combat operations, raising his strength to 77,000.[7]

On the Confederate side, Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was organized into two "wings" or "commands" of about 55,000 men. The "right wing" was commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet, the left by Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson. The Cavalry Division under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was attached to Jackson's wing.[8]

Key Confederate commanders
File:Northern Virginia Campaign Aug7-28.png

Northern Virginia Campaign, August 7–28, 1862.      Confederate      Union

Pope's mission was to fulfill two basic objectives: protect Washington and the Shenandoah Valley; and draw Confederate forces away from McClellan by moving in the direction of Gordonsville.[9] Based on his experience fighting McClellan in the Seven Days, Robert E. Lee perceived that McClellan was no further threat to him on the Virginia Peninsula, so he felt no compulsion to keep all of his forces in direct defense of Richmond. This allowed him to relocate Jackson to Gordonsville to block Pope and protect the Virginia Central Railroad.[10]

Lee had larger plans in mind. Since the Union Army was split between McClellan and Pope and they were widely separated, Lee saw an opportunity to destroy Pope before returning his attention to McClellan. He committed Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill to join Jackson with 12,000 men. On August 3, General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck directed McClellan to begin his final withdrawal from the Peninsula and to return to Northern Virginia to support Pope. McClellan protested and did not begin his redeployment until August 14.[11]

On August 9, Nathaniel Banks's corps attacked Jackson at Cedar Mountain, gaining an early advantage, but a Confederate counterattack led by A.P. Hill drove Banks back across Cedar Creek. Jackson's advance was stopped, however, by the Union division of Brig. Gen. James B. Ricketts. By now Jackson had learned that Pope's corps were all together, foiling his plan of defeating each in separate actions. He remained in position until August 12, then withdrew to Gordonsville.[12] On August 13, Lee sent Longstreet to reinforce Jackson.

From August 22 to August 25, the two armies fought a series of minor actions along the Rappahannock River. Heavy rains had swollen the river and Lee was unable to force a crossing. By this time, reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac were arriving from the Peninsula. Lee's new plan in the face of all these additional forces outnumbering him was to send Jackson and Stuart with half of the army on a flanking march to cut Pope's line of communication, the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Pope would be forced to retreat and could be defeated while moving and vulnerable. Jackson departed on August 25 and reached Salem (present-day Marshall) that night.[13]

On the evening of August 26, after passing around Pope's right flank via Thoroughfare Gap, Jackson's wing of the army struck the Orange & Alexandria Railroad at Bristoe Station and before daybreak August 27 marched to capture and destroy the massive Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. This surprise movement forced Pope into an abrupt retreat from his defensive line along the Rappahannock. During the night of August 27–28, Jackson marched his divisions north to the First Bull Run (Manassas) battlefield, where he took position behind an unfinished railroad grade below Stony Ridge.[14] The defensive position was a good one. The heavy woods allowed the Confederates to conceal themselves, while maintaining good observation points of the Warrenton Turnpike, the likely avenue of Union movement, only a few hundred yards to the south. There were good approach roads for Longstreet to join Jackson, or for Jackson to retreat to the Bull Run Mountains if he could not be reinforced in time. Finally, the unfinished railroad grade offered cuts and fills that could be used as ready-made entrenchments.[15]

In the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap on August 28, Longstreet's wing broke through light Union resistance and marched through the gap to join Jackson. This seemingly inconsequential action virtually ensured Pope's defeat during the coming battles because it allowed the two wings of Lee's army to unite on the Manassas battlefield.[16]


August 28: Brawner's Farm (Groveton) []

File:Second Bull Run Aug28.png

Action at Brawner's Farm, August 28.

The Second Battle of Bull Run began on August 28 as a Federal column, under Jackson's observation just outside of Gainesville, near the farm of the John Brawner family, moved along the Warrenton Turnpike. It consisted of units from Brig. Gen. Rufus King's division: the brigades of Brig. Gens. John P. Hatch, John Gibbon, Abner Doubleday, and Marsena R. Patrick, marching eastward to concentrate with the rest of Pope's army at Centreville. King was not with his division because he had suffered a serious epileptic attack earlier that day.[17]

Jackson, who had been relieved to hear earlier that Longstreet's men were on their way to join him, displayed himself prominently to the Union troops, but his presence was disregarded. Concerned that Pope might be withdrawing his army behind Bull Run to link up with McClellan's arriving forces, Jackson determined to attack. Returning to his position behind the tree line, he told his subordinates, "Bring out your men, gentlemen." At about 6:30 p.m., Confederate artillery began shelling the portion of the column to their front, John Gibbon's Black Hat Brigade (later to be named the Iron Brigade). Gibbon, a former artilleryman, responded with fire from Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery. The artillery exchange halted King's column. Hatch's brigade had proceeded past the area and Patrick's men, in the rear of the column, sought cover, leaving Gibbon and Doubleday to respond to Jackson's attack. Gibbon assumed that, since Jackson was supposedly at Centreville (according to Pope), and having just seen the 14th Brooklyn Zouaves of Hatch's Brigade reconnoiter the position, that these were merely horse artillery cannons from Jeb Stuart's cavalry.[18] Gibbon sent aides out to the other brigades with requests for reinforcements, and sent his staff officer Frank A. Haskell to bring the veteran 2nd Wisconsin Infantry up the hill to disperse the harassing cannons. Gibbon met the 2nd in the woods saying, "If we can get you up there quietly, we can capture those guns."[19]

Our men on the left loaded and fired with the energy of madmen, and the 6th worked with equal desperation. This stopped the rush of the enemy and they halted and fired upon us their deadly musketry. During a few awful moments, I could see by the lurid light of the powder flashes, the whole of both lines. The two ... were within ... fifty yards of each other pouring musketry into each other as fast as men could load and shoot.

Maj. Rufus R. Dawes, 6th Wisconsin[20]

The 2nd Wisconsin, under the command of Col. Edgar O'Connor, advanced obliquely back through the woods the Federal column was passing through. When the 430 men emerged from the woods on John Brawner's farm they were quietly formed and advanced up the hill. Upon reaching the plateau, they deployed skirmishers who drove back Confederate skirmishers. They soon received a heavy volley into their right flank by 800 men of the fabled Stonewall Brigade, commanded by Col. William S. Baylor. Absorbing the volley from 150 yards (140 m), the 2nd Wisconsin did not waver, but replied with a devastating volley at the Virginians in Brawner's orchard. The Confederates returned fire when the lines were only 80 yards (73 m) apart. As units were added by both sides, the battle lines remained close together, a standup fight with little cover, trading mass volleys for over two hours. Jackson described the action as "fierce and sanguinary." Gibbon added his 19th Indiana. Jackson, personally directing the actions of his regiments instead of passing orders to the division commander, Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, sent in three Georgia regiments belonging to Brig. Gen. Alexander R. Lawton's brigade. Gibbon countered this advance with the 7th Wisconsin. Jackson ordered Brig. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble's brigade to support Lawton, which met the last of Gibbon's regiments, the 6th Wisconsin.[21]

After Trimble's brigade entered the action, Gibbon needed to fill a gap in his line between the 6th Wisconsin and the rest of the Iron Brigade regiments. Doubleday sent in the 56th Pennsylvania and the 76th New York, who advanced through the woods and checked the new Confederate advance. These men arrived at the scene after dark and both Trimble and Lawton launched uncoordinated assaults against them. Horse artillery under Captain John Pelham was ordered forward by Jackson and fired at the 19th Indiana from less than 100 yards (91 m). The engagement ended around 9 p.m., with Gibbon's men slowly retreating backwards still firing, making their line at the edge of the woods. Doubleday's regiments retired to the turnpike in an orderly fashion. The fight was essentially a stalemate, but at a heavy cost, with over 1,150 Union and 1,250 Confederate casualties. The 2nd Wisconsin lost 276 of 430 engaged. The Stonewall brigade lost 340 out of 800. Two Georgia regiments—Trimble's 21st and Lawton's 26th—each lost more than 70%. In all, one of every three men engaged in the fight was shot. Confederate Brig. Gen. William B. Taliaferro wrote, "In this fight there was no maneuvering and very little tactics. It was a question of endurance and both endured." Taliaferro was wounded, as was Ewell, whose left leg was shattered by a Minié ball and had to be amputated.[22]

In a few moments our entire line was engaged in a fierce and sanguinary struggle with the enemy. As one line was repulsed another took its place and pressed forward as if determined by force of numbers and fury of assault to drive us from our positions.

Jackson had not been able to achieve a decisive victory with his superior force (about 6,200 men against Gibbon's 2,100),[24] due to darkness, his piecemeal deployment of forces, the wounding of two of his key generals, and the tenacity of the enemy. But he had achieved his strategic intent, attracting the attention of John Pope. Pope wrongly assumed that the fight at the Brawner Farm occurred as Jackson was retreating from Centreville. Pope believed he had "bagged" Jackson and sought to capture him before he could be reinforced by Longstreet. Pope's dispatch sent that evening to Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny stated, in part, "General McDowell has intercepted the retreat of the enemy and is now in his front ... Unless he can escape by by-paths leading to the north to-night, he must be captured." Gibbon conferred with King, Patrick, and Doubleday as to the next move, because McDowell was "lost in the woods." Per Gibbon's recommendation, the only remaining Federal force still between Lee and Jackson moved out at 1 a.m. heading east on the pike towards Centreville.[25]

Pope issued orders to his subordinates to surround Jackson and attack him in the morning, but he made several erroneous assumptions. He assumed that McDowell and Sigel were blocking Jackson's retreat routes toward the Bull Run Mountains, but the bulk of both units were southeast of Jackson along the Manassas-Sudley Road. Pope's assumption that Jackson was attempting to retreat was completely wrong; Jackson was in a good defensive position, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Longstreet to begin attacking Pope. Despite receiving intelligence of Longstreet's movements, Pope inexplicably discounted his effect on the battle to come.[26]

August 29: Jackson defends Stony Ridge[]

File:Second Bull Run Aug29 1000.png

August 29, 10 a.m.: Sigel's attack.

Jackson had initiated the battle at Brawner's farm with the intent of holding Pope until Longstreet arrived with the remainder of the Army of Northern Virginia. Longstreet's 25,000 men began their march from Thoroughfare Gap at 6 a.m. on August 29; Jackson sent Stuart to guide the initial elements of Longstreet's column into positions that Jackson had preselected. While he waited for their arrival, Jackson reorganized his defense in case Pope attacked him that morning, positioning 20,000 men in a 3,000-yard (2,700 m) line to the south of Stony Ridge. Noticing the build up of I Corps (Sigel's) troops along the Manassas-Sudley Road, he ordered A.P. Hill's brigades behind the railroad grade near Sudley Church on his left flank. Aware that his position was geographically weak (because the heavy woods in the area prevented effective deployment of artillery), Hill placed his brigades in two lines, with Brig. Gen. Maxcy Gregg's South Carolina brigade and Brig. Gen. Edward L. Thomas's Georgia brigade in the front. In the center of the line, Jackson placed two brigades from Ewell's division (now under the command of Brig. Gen. Alexander Lawton following Ewell's leg amputation), and on the right, William B. Taliaferro's division, now commanded by Brig. Gen. William E. Starke.[27]

Pope's intention was to move against Jackson on both flanks. He ordered Fitz John Porter to move toward Gainesville and attack what he considered to be the Confederate right flank. He ordered Sigel to attack Jackson's left at daybreak. Sigel, unsure of Jackson's dispositions, chose to advance along a broad front, with Brig. Gen. Robert C. Schenck's division, supported by Brig. Gen. John F. Reynolds's division (Heintzelman's III Corps) on the left, Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy's independent brigade in the center, and Brig. Gen. Carl Schurz's division on the right. Schurz's two brigades, moving north on the Manassas-Sudley Road, were the first to contact Jackson's men, at about 7 a.m.[28]

The actions in Sigel's attack against A.P. Hill's division was typical of all the battles near Stony Ridge that day. Although the unfinished railroad grade provided natural defensive positions in some places, in general the Confederates eschewed a static defense, absorbing the Union blows and following up with vigorous counterattacks. (These were the same tactics that Jackson would employ at the Battle of Antietam a few weeks later.) Schurz's two brigades (under Brig. Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig and Col. Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski) skirmished heavily with Gregg and Thomas, with both sides committing their forces piecemeal. As Milroy heard the sound of battle to his right, he ordered two of his regiments to assist Schurz. They achieved some success, and the 82nd Ohio breached the Confederate lines in a ground depression known as the Dump, but were eventually repulsed. Schenck and Reynolds, subjected to a heavy artillery barrage, answered with counterbattery fire, but did not advance their infantry.[29]

Assuming that Kearny's division of the III Corps was poised to support him, Schurz ordered another assault against Hill around 10 a.m. Kearny did not move forward and the second assault failed. Historians have faulted Kearny for his actions that day, blaming a personal grudge that Kearny held against Sigel.[30]

File:Second Bull Run Aug29 1200.png

August 29, 12 noon: Longstreet arrives, Porter stalls.

By 1 p.m., Sigel's sector was reinforced by the division of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker (III Corps) and the brigade of Brig. Gen. Isaac Stevens (IX Corps). Pope also arrived on the battlefield, expecting to see the culmination of his victory. By this time, Longstreet's initial units were in position to Jackson's right. Brig. Gen. John Bell Hood's division straddled the turnpike, loosely connected with Jackson's right flank. To Hood's right were the divisions of Brig. Gens. James L. Kemper and David R. "Neighbor" Jones. Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox's division arrived last and was placed into reserve.[31]

Stuart's cavalry encountered Porter, Hatch, and McDowell moving up the Manassas-Gainesville Road and a brief firefight halted the Union column. Then a courier arrived with a message for Porter and McDowell, a controversial document from Pope that has become known as the "Joint Order". Historian John J. Hennessy described the order as a "masterpiece of contradiction and obfuscation that would become the focal point of decades of wrangling." It described the attacks on Jackson's left, which were already underway, but was unclear about what Porter and McDowell were supposed to do. Rather than moving "to" Gainesville and striking Jackson's supposedly unprotected right flank, it described a move "toward" Gainesville and "as soon as communication is established [with the other divisions] the whole command shall halt. It may be necessary to fall back behind Bull Run to Centreville tonight." Nowhere in the order did Pope explicitly direct Porter and McDowell to attack and he concluded the order with "If any considerable advantages are to be gained from departing from this order it will not be strictly carried out," rendering the document virtually useless as a military order.[32]

Meanwhile, Stuart's cavalry under Col. Thomas Rosser deceived the Union generals by dragging tree branches behind a regiment of horses to simulate great clouds of dust from large columns of marching soldiers. At this time, McDowell received a report from his cavalry commander, Brig. Gen. John Buford, who reported that 17 regiments of infantry, one battery, and 500 cavalry were moving through Gainesville at 8:15 a.m. This was Longstreet's wing arriving from Thoroughfare Gap, and it warned the two Union generals that trouble lay to their front. The Union advance was again halted. For some reason, McDowell neglected to forward Buford's report to Pope until about 7 p.m., so the army commander was operating under two severe misconceptions: that Longstreet was not near the battlefield and that Porter and McDowell were marching to attack Jackson's right flank.[33]

As Longstreet's men were placed into their final positions, General Lee ordered an offensive against the Union left. (Longstreet later remembered that Lee "was inclined to engage as soon as practicable, but did not order.") Longstreet, however, saw that the divisions of Reynolds and Schenck extended south of the Warrenton Turnpike, overlapping half of his line, and he argued against making the attack at that time. Lee eventually relented when Jeb Stuart reported that the force on the Gainesville-Manassas Road (Porter and McDowell) was formidable.[34]

File:Second Bull Run Aug29 1500.png

August 29, 3 p.m.: Grover's attack.

Pope, assuming that the attack on Jackson's right would proceed as he thought he had ordered, authorized four separate attacks against Jackson's front with the intent of diverging the Confederates' attention until Porter delivered the fatal blow. Brig. Gen. Cuvier Grover's brigade attacked at 3 p.m., expecting to be supported by Kearny's division. Grover was fortunate to accidentally strike through a gap in a line that opened between Thomas and Gregg. His spirited bayonet charge was successful temporarily, but Kearny once again did not move forward as ordered and Pope did not intend to support a major attack. Brig. Gen. Dorsey Pender's brigade beat back the attack.[35]

Reynolds was ordered to conduct a spoiling attack south of the turnpike and encountered Longstreet's men, causing him to call off his demonstration. Pope dismissed Reynolds's concern as a case of mistaken identity, insisting that Reynolds had run into Porter's V Corps, preparing to attack Jackson's flank. Jesse Reno ordered a XI Corps brigade under Col. James Nagle to attack the center of Jackson's line again. This time Brig. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble's brigade was driven back from the railroad embankment, but Confederate counterattacks restored the line and pursued Nagle's troops back into the open fields until Union artillery halted their advance.[36]

File:Second Bull Run Aug29 1700.png

August 29, 5–7 p.m., Kearny's attack, Hood vs. Hatch.

At 4:30 p.m., Pope finally sent an explicit order to Porter to attack, but his aide (his nephew) lost his way and did not deliver the message until 6:30 p.m. In any event, Porter was in no better position to attack then than he was earlier in the day. But in anticipation of the attack that would not come, Pope ordered Kearny to attack Jackson's far left flank, intending to put strong pressure on both ends of the line. At 5 p.m., for the first time in the battle, Kearny's fierce offensive reputation was realized and he surged forward with ten regiments, striking A.P. Hill's depleted division and threatening to roll up Jackson's left flank. During the most severe fighting of the day, counterattacks by the brigades of Brig. Gens. Lawrence O'Bryan Branch and Jubal A. Early repulsed the Union advance.[37]

On the Confederate right, Longstreet observed a movement of McDowell's force away from his front; the I Corps was moving divisions to Henry House Hill to support Reynolds. This report caused Lee to revive his plan for an offensive in that sector. Longstreet once again argued against it, this time due to inadequate time before dusk. He suggested instead that a reconnaissance in force could feel the position of the enemy and set up the Confederates for a morning attack. Lee agreed and Hood's division was sent forward. At the same time, Pope, who maintained his delusion that the Confederates were retreating, sent the division of John P. Hatch west on the turnpike to pursue. Hood and Hatch collided briefly at the Groveton crossroads, but the short, violent confrontation ended at darkness and both sides withdrew. Longstreet and his subordinates again argued to Lee that they should not be attacking a force they considered to be placed in a strong defensive position, and for the third time, Lee canceled the planned assault.[38]

When Pope learned from McDowell about Buford's report, he finally acknowledged that Longstreet was on the field, but he optimistically assumed that Longstreet was there only to reinforce Jackson while the entire Confederate army withdrew; Hood's division had in fact just done that. Pope issued explicit orders for Porter's corps to rejoin the main body of the army and planned for another offensive on August 30. Historian A. Wilson Greene argues that this was Pope's worst decision of the battle. Since he no longer had numerical superiority over the Confederates and did not possess any geographical advantage, the most prudent course would have been to withdraw his army over Bull Run and unite with McClellan's Army of the Potomac, which had 25,000 men nearby.[39]

One of the historical controversies of the battle involves George B. McClellan's cooperation with John Pope. In late August, two full corps of the Army of the Potomac (William B. Franklin's VI Corps and Edwin V. Sumner's II Corps) had arrived in Alexandria, but McClellan would not allow them to advance to Manassas because of what he considered inadequate artillery, cavalry, and transportation support. He was accused by his political opponents of deliberately undermining Pope's position, and he did not help his case in history when he wrote to his wife on August 10, "Pope will be badly thrashed within two days & ... they will be very glad to turn over the redemption of their affairs to me. I won't undertake it unless I have full & entire control." He told Abraham Lincoln on August 29 that it might be wise "to leave Pope to get out of his scrape, and at once use all our means to make the capital perfectly safe."[40]

August 30: Longstreet counterattack, Union retreat[]

File:Second Bull Run Aug30 1500.png

August 30, 3 p.m., Porter's attack.

The final element of Longstreet's command, the division of Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson, marched 17 miles (27 km) and arrived on the battlefield at 3 a.m., August 30. Exhausted and unfamiliar with the area, they halted on a ridge east of Groveton. At dawn, they realized they were in an isolated position too close to the enemy and fell back. Pope's belief that the Confederate army was in retreat was reinforced by this movement, which came after the withdrawal of Hood's troops the night before. At an 8 a.m. council of war at Pope's headquarters, his subordinates attempted to convince their commander to move cautiously. Probes of the Confederate line on Stony Ridge around 10 a.m. indicated that Stonewall Jackson's men were still firmly in their defensive positions. John F. Reynolds indicated that the Confederates were in great strength south of the turnpike. Fitz John Porter arrived later with similar intelligence. However, Heintzelman and McDowell conducted a personal reconnaissance that somehow failed to find Jackson's defensive line, and Pope finally made up his mind to attack the retreating Southerners.[41]

Shortly after noon, Pope issued orders for Porter's corps, supported by Hatch and Reynolds, to advance west along the turnpike. At the same time, Ricketts, Kearny, and Hooker were to advance on the Union right. This dual movement would potentially crush the retreating Confederates. But the Confederates were not retreating, and were in fact hoping to be attacked. Lee was still waiting for an opportunity to counterattack with Longstreet's force. Although he was not certain that Pope would attack that day, Lee positioned 18 artillery pieces under Col. Stephen D. Lee on high ground northeast of the Brawner Farm, ideally situated to bombard the open fields in front of Jackson's position.[42]

Porter's corps was actually not in position to pursue west on the turnpike, but was in the woods north of the turnpike near Groveton. It took about two hours for the 10,000 men to organize themselves for the assault against Jackson's line to their front, which would be focused on Jackson's old division, now led by Brig. Gen. William E. Starke. The lead division in the Union assault was commanded by Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, replacing Maj. Gen. George W. Morell: Col. Henry Weeks's brigade was on the left, Col. Charles W. Roberts's brigade in the center. Hatch's division came in on the right of the corps line. Two brigades of regular army troops under Brig. Gen. George Sykes were in reserve.[43]

The Union men faced a formidable task. Butterfield's division had to cross 600 yards (550 m) of open pasture land owned by widow Lucinda Dogan, the final 150 yards (140 m) of which were steeply uphill, to attack a strong position behind the unfinished railroad; Hatch's division had only 300 yards (270 m) to traverse, but was required to perform a complex right wheel maneuver under fire to hit the Confederate position squarely in its front. They experienced devastating fire from Stephen Lee's batteries and then withering volleys from the infantrymen in the line. Nevertheless, they were able to break the Confederate line, routing the 48th Virginia Infantry. The Stonewall Brigade rushed in to restore the line, taking heavy casualties, including its commander, Col. Baylor. In what was arguably the most famous incident of the battle, Confederates in Col. Bradley T. Johnson's and Col. Leroy A. Stafford's brigades fired so much that they ran out of ammunition and resorted to throwing large rocks at the 24th New York, causing occasional damage, and prompting some of the surprised New Yorkers to throw them back. To support Jackson's exhausted defense, which was stretched to the breaking point, Longstreet's artillery added to the barrage against Union reinforcements attempting to move in, cutting them to pieces.[44]

Having suffered significant casualties, Porter did not engage Sykes's reserve division and halted his assault, essentially leaving his lead brigades to extricate themselves without support. The withdrawal was also a costly operation. Some of the jubilant Confederates in Starke's brigade attempted a pursuit, but were beaten back by the Union reserves posted along the Groveton-Sudley Road. Overall, Jackson's command was too depleted to counterattack, allowing Porter to stabilize the situation north of the turnpike. Concerned about Porter's situation, however, Irvin McDowell ordered Reynolds's division to leave Chinn Ridge and come to Porter's support. This may have been the worst tactical decision of the day because it left only 2,200 Union troops south of the turnpike, where they would soon face ten times their number of Confederates.[45]

File:Second Bull Run Aug30 1600.png

August 30, 4 p.m.: Start of Longstreet's attack.

File:Second Bull Run Aug30 1630.png

August 30, 4:30 p.m.: Union defense of Chinn Ridge.

Lee and Longstreet agreed that the time was right for the long awaited assault and that the objective would be Henry House Hill, which had been the key terrain in the First Battle of Bull Run, and which, if captured, would dominate the potential Union line of retreat. Longstreet's command of 25,000 men in five divisions stretched nearly a mile and a half from the Brawner Farm in the north to the Manassas Gap Railroad in the south. To reach the hill, they would have to traverse 1.5 to 2 miles (3.2 km) of ground containing ridges, streams, and some heavily wooded areas. Longstreet knew that he would not be able to project a well coordinated battle line across this terrain, so he had to rely on the drive and initiative of his division commanders. The lead division, on the left, closest to the turnpike, was John Bell Hood's Texans, supported by Brig. Gen. Nathan G. "Shanks" Evans's South Carolinians. On Hood's right were Kemper's and Jones's divisions. Anderson's division was held as a ready reserve. Just before the attack, Lee signaled to Jackson: "General Longstreet is advancing; look out for and protect his left flank."[46]

The Union defenders south of the turnpike consisted of only two brigades, commanded by Cols. Nathaniel C. McLean (Schenck's division, Sigel's I Corps) and Gouverneur K. Warren (Sykes's division, Porter's V Corps). McLean held Chinn Ridge, Warren was near Groveton, about 800 yards (730 m) further west. Hood's men began the assault at 4 p.m., immediately overwhelming Warren's two regiments, the 5th New York (Duryée's Zouaves) and 10th New York (the National Zouaves). Within the first 10 minutes of contact, the 500 men of the 5th New York lost almost 300 shot, 120 of them mortally wounded. This was the largest loss of life of any infantry regiment in a single battle during the entire war. The Zouave regiments had been wearing bright red and blue uniforms, and one of Hood's officers wrote that the bodies laying on the hill reminded him of the Texas countryside when the wildflowers were in bloom.[47]

As Pope and McDowell realized the danger of their situation, they ordered units to occupy Henry House Hill, but until that could occur, McLean's brigade was the only obstacle to the Confederate onslaught. His 1,200 Ohioans in four regiments lined up, facing west on Chinn Ridge, with one artillery battery in support, and were able to repulse two assaults, first by Hood and then by Shanks Evans's brigade (Kemper's division). The third assault, by Col. Montgomery D. Corse's brigade (also Kemper's division), was successful. McLean's men mistakenly believed the men approaching the southern tip of the ridge were friendly and withheld their fire. When they realized their mistake, a fierce firefight ensued for over 10 minutes at virtually point-blank range. Added fire from a Louisiana artillery battery caused the Union line to collapse. The Ohio brigade suffered 33% casualties, but they gave Pope an additional 30 minutes to bring up reinforcements.[48]

The first two Union brigades to arrive were from Rickett's division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Zealous B. Tower and Col. Robert Stiles. Tower's brigade was overwhelmed by attacks from three sides. His artillery battery was captured and he was seriously wounded. Stiles's brigade, following Tower, fell victim to two newly arrived brigades from Kemper's division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins and Col. Eppa Hunton. During this intense fighting, the commander of the 12th Massachusetts, Col. Fletcher Webster (son of the statesman Daniel Webster), was mortally wounded. Two more Union brigades poured into the battle from Sigel's I Corps, commanded by Cols. John Koltes and Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski, but had no more success than their predecessors. Both brigades were driven off in disorder and Koltes was killed. The lead elements of Jones's division, the brigades of Cols. George T. Anderson and Henry L. Benning, swept all Union resistance off Chinn Ridge by 6 p.m. However, the successful Confederate assault came at a high cost, both in men (Hood's and Kemper's divisions suffered heavy losses and were at least temporarily incapable of further offensive action) and in time. Henry House Hill was still several hundred yards away and there was only an hour of daylight remaining.[49]

R.H. Anderson failed to avail himself of the most significant advantage three hours of fighting on Chinn Ridge and Henry Hill had forged. Because he did not, the Confederates' last opportunity to destroy Pope's army dwindled with the day's light.

John J. Hennessy, Return to Bull Run[50]
File:Second Bull Run Aug30 1700.png

August 30, 5 p.m.: Final Confederate attacks, beginning of the Union retreat.

During the first two hours of the Confederate assault, Pope had been able to place four brigades in defense of Henry House Hill: two from Reynolds's division, one from Sykes's, and Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy's independent brigade. Lee realized that additional combat power would be required to complete his assault, so he ordered Richard Anderson's division from its reserve position. While these troops were moving up, D.R. Jones launched an attack on the hill with the brigades of Benning and G.T. Anderson. With 3,000 men, this was the largest concentrated attack of the afternoon, but it was poorly coordinated and the four Union brigades held their ground. Additional pressure was applied with the arrival of two brigades from Anderson's division: Brig. Gens. William Mahone and Ambrose R. Wright. The regulars from Sykes's division had no natural defensive advantage on the end of the line and they were driven back toward the Henry House. Inexplicably, Anderson declined to exploit his opening, perhaps because of the growing darkness. The hill remained in Union hands.[51]

Stonewall Jackson, under relatively ambiguous orders from Lee to support Longstreet, launched an attack north of the turnpike at 6 p.m., probably as soon as his exhausted forces could be mustered. Historian John J. Hennessy called Jackson's delays "one of the battle's great puzzles" and "one of the most significant Confederate failures" of the battle, greatly reducing the value of his advance.[52] The attack coincided with Pope's ordered withdrawal of units north of the turnpike to assist in the Henry House Hill defense and the Confederates were able to overrun a number of artillery and infantry units in their fierce assault. By 7 p.m., however, Pope had established a strong defensive line that aligned with the units on Henry House Hill. At 8 p.m., he ordered a general withdrawal on the turnpike to Centreville. Unlike the calamitous retreat at the First Battle of Bull Run, the Union movement was quiet and orderly. The Confederates, weary from battle and low on ammunition, did not pursue in the darkness. Although Lee had won a great victory, he had not achieved his objective of destroying Pope's army.[53]


Union casualties were about 10,000 killed and wounded out of 62,000 engaged; the Confederates lost about 1,300 killed and 7,000 wounded out of 50,000.[54] As the Union Army concentrated on Centreville, Lee planned his next move. He sent Jackson on another flanking march in an attempt to interpose his army between Pope and Washington. Pope countered the move and the two forces clashed a final time at the Battle of Chantilly (also known as Ox Hill) on September 1. Lee immediately began his next campaign on September 3, when the vanguard of the Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River, marching toward a fateful encounter with the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam.[55]

A splendid army almost demoralized, millions of public property given up or destroyed, thousands of lives of our best men sacrificed for no purpose. I dare not trust myself to speak of this commander [Pope] as I feel and believe. Suffice to say ... that more insolence, superciliousness, ignorance, and pretentiousness were never combined in one man. It can in truth be said of him that he had not a friend in his command from the smallest drummer boy to the highest general officer.

Brig. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams (II Corps division commander)[56]

Pope was relieved of command on September 12, 1862, and his army was merged into the Army of the Potomac as it marched into Maryland under McClellan. He spent the remainder of the war in the Department of the Northwest in Minnesota, dealing with the Dakota War of 1862. Pope sought scapegoats to spread the blame for his defeat. On November 25, 1862, Fitz John Porter was arrested and court-martialed for his actions on August 29. Porter was found guilty on January 10, 1863, of disobedience and misconduct, and he was dismissed from the Army on January 21. He spent most of the remainder of his life fighting against the verdict. In 1878, a special commission under General John M. Schofield exonerated Porter by finding that his reluctance to attack Longstreet probably saved Pope's Army of Virginia from an even greater defeat. Eight years later, President Chester A. Arthur reversed Porter's sentence.[57]

James Longstreet was criticized for his performance during the battle and the postbellum advocates of the Lost Cause claimed that his slowness, reluctance to attack, and disobedience to Gen. Lee on August 29 were a harbinger of his controversial performance to come on July 2, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee's biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, wrote: "The seeds of much of the disaster at Gettysburg were sown in that instant – when Lee yielded to Longstreet and Longstreet discovered that he would."[58]

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The National Park Service has established these dates for the battle. The references by Greene, Hennessy, Salmon, and Kennedy (whose works are closely aligned with the NPS) adopt these dates as well. However, all of the other references to this article specify that the action on August 28 was a battle separate from the Second Battle of Bull Run. Some of these authors name the action on August 28 the Battle of Groveton, Brawner's Farm, or Gainesville.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Eicher, p. 327.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Greene, p. 54. Most published figures for casualties are for the entire Northern Virginia Campaign, including the significant battles of Cedar Mountain and Chantilly. The campaign casualties reported by Eicher (p. 334) are Union 14,462 (1,747 killed, 8,452 wounded, 4,263 captured/missing); Confederate 9,474 (1,553 killed, 7,812 wounded, 109 captured/missing).
  4. National Park Service. There were Confederate offensives in the war that employed more men—57,000 at Gaines' Mill, for instance—but they involved multiple, piecemeal attacks over longer periods.
  5. National Park Service
  6. Eicher, p. 318; Martin, pp. 24, 32-33; Hennessy, p. 12.
  7. Martin, p. 280; Eicher, p. 318; Hennessy, p. 6.
  8. Hennessy, pp. 561-67; Langellier, pp. 90-93.
  9. Esposito, Map 54.
  10. Whitehorne, Overview, np.
  11. Hennessy, p. 10; Esposito, Map 56.
  12. NPS Cedar Mountain summary.
  13. Salmon, pp. 127-28; Eicher, pp. 322-23; Esposito, Map 58.
  14. NPS Manassas Station Operations summary.
  15. Hennessy, pp. 145, 200-01; Greene, p. 17.
  16. NPS Thoroughfare Gap summary.
  17. Greene, p. 19.
  18. Dawes, p. 60.
  19. Herdegen, p. 91; Greene, pp. 19-21; Eicher, p. 326; Salmon, p. 147.
  20. Dawes, p. 62.
  21. Herdegen, pp. 91-92; Hennessy, pp. 173-80; Greene, p. 21; Salmon, p. 147.
  22. Hennessy, pp. 180-88; Eicher, p. 326; Greene, pp. 22-23; Salmon, p. 147.
  23. Ropes, p. 134.
  24. Time-Life, p. 139.
  25. Nolan, pp. 92-93; Hennessy, p. 194.
  26. Greene, pp. 23-24; Hennessy, p. 194.
  27. Greene, pp. 24-25; Hennessy, pp. 201-02.
  28. Hennessy, p. 204; Greene, pp. 26-27.
  29. Salmon, p. 148; Whitehorne, Stop 5; Hennessy, pp. 205-14; Eicher, p. 328; Greene, p. 27.
  30. Martin, pp. 171-72; Hennessy, pp. 221-22; Greene, p. 27.
  31. Greene, pp. 27-28; Hennessy, pp. 226-28.
  32. Esposito, map 62; Greene, pp. 28-29; Hennessy, pp. 232-36.
  33. Greene, p. 29; Hennessy, p. 227.
  34. Longstreet, p. 181; Greene, pp. 29-30; Hennessy, pp. 230-31.
  35. Martin, pp. 181-82; Greene, p. 32; Hennessy, pp. 245-58.
  36. Greene, p. 33; Martin, pp. 183-84; Hennessy, pp. 259-65.
  37. Greene, pp. 33-35; Hennessy, pp. 270-86; Martin, pp. 185-88.
  38. Hennessy, pp. 287-99; Longstreet, pp. 183-84; Martin, pp. 189-90; Greene, pp. 35-37; Eicher, p. 329.
  39. Hennessy, pp. 304-07; Greene, pp. 37-38.
  40. Hennessy, pp. 241-42; Greene, p. 38.
  41. Hennessy, pp. 311-12, 323-24; Martin, p. 209; Greene, p. 39.
  42. Greene, pp. 39-40; Eicher, p. 329; Hennessy, pp. 313-16.
  43. Hennessy, p. 318; Greene, p. 40.
  44. Salmon, p. 150; Hennessy, pp. 339-57; Greene, pp. 41-43.
  45. Martin, pp. 219-20; Hennessy, pp. 358-61; Greene, pp. 43-44.
  46. Esposito, map 63; Eicher, p. 331; Martin, pp. 223-24; Greene, p. 45; Hennessy, pp. 362-65.
  47. Hennessy, pp. 366-73; Greene, p. 45; Martin, p. 223-26. Martin claims that this was the largest Union infantry regiment loss of the war.
  48. Hennessy, pp. 373-93; Greene, p. 46.
  49. Hennessy, pp. 393-406; Martin, pp. 231-37; Greene, pp. 47-49.
  50. Hennessy, p. 421.
  51. Martin, pp. 235-43; Greene, pp. 49-52; Hennessy, pp. 408-424.
  52. Hennessy, p. 427.
  53. Eicher, p. 331; Martin, pp. 246-48; Greene, p. 52; Hennessy, pp. 424-438.
  54. Greene, p. 54; Eicher, p. 327.
  55. Harsh, pp. 163-73.
  56. Hennessy, p. 471.
  57. Warner, p. 379.
  58. Gallagher, pp. 140-57; Wert, pp. 166-72.


Further reading[]

  • Beaudot, William J. K., and Herdegen, Lance J., An Irishman in the Iron Brigade, Fordham University Press, 1993, ISBN 978-0-8232-1501-0.

External links[]

Coordinates: 38°48′45″N 77°31′17″W / 38.81246°N 77.52131°W / 38.81246; -77.52131

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