Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Battle of 2nd Manassas – Brawner's Farm

On the morning of August 28th, Jackson was concentrating his scattered forces northward around the old battlefield of Bull Run, where the Confederates had won a grand victory in the first battle of the war. Pope, who by now knew of Jackson's presence in his rear, was advancing north towards Jackson at Manassas, but he had neglected to scout for the position of the rest of the Confederate army. Lee had moved with Longstreet's Corps two days before, and they were marching to join Jackson, along the same route, a few days behind. On this very day Longstreet captured Thoroughfare Gap, driving off the Federals and clearing the way for his union with Jackson. Jackson had to hold out against Pope until the army was reunited when Longstreet arrived. However, this did not stop his usual aggressiveness. He wanted to strike a blow at Pope, and lure him to assault him, and so formed his men in an old railroad cut, and waited for an opportunity. Around sunset, a Union column was sighted moving across the Confederate front. A Confederate staff officer vividly remembered the occurrence:
Jackson rode out to examine the approaching foe, trotting backwards and forwards along the line of their handsome parade marching by, and in easy musket range of their skirmish, but they did not seem to think that a single horsemen was worthy of their attention-how little they thought that this single, plainly dressed horseman was the great Stonewall himself, who was then deliberating in his own mind the question of hurling his eager troops upon their devoted heads. ... Sometimes he would halt, then trot on briskly, halt again, wheel his horse and bass again along the front of the march column, or rather along its flank. About a quarter of a mile off, troops were now opposite us. All felt sure Jackson could never resist that temptation, and that the order to attack would come soon, even if Longstreet was beyond the mountain. Presently General Jackson pulled up suddenly, wheeled and galloped toward us. ... [T]ouching his hat in military salute, said in as soft a voice as if he had been talking to a friend in ordinary conversation, 'Bring up your men gentlemen.' Every officer whirled around and scurried back to the woods at full gallop. The men had been watching their officers with much interest and when they wheeled and dashed toward them they knew what it meant, and from the woods arose a hoarse roar like that from cages of wild animals at the scent of blood.
The divisions of Ewell and Taliaferro charged toward the Federals, which proved to be the division of Rufus King, commanded in his absence by Abner Doubleday, one of the officers at Fort Sumter. The unit the Confederates hit first was the Iron Brigade under John B. Gibbon, one of the few Western Units in the army. It was also known as the Black Hat Brigade because of their distinctive headgear. They did not take to the heels, but instead stood and fought hard against the superior numbers facing them. Major Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin remembered:
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. I saw a rebel mounted officer shot from his horse at the very front of the battle line. It was evident that were were being overpowered and that our men were giving ground. The two crowds, they could hardly be called lines, were were within ... fifty yards of each other pouring musketry into each other as fast as men could load and shoot. Two of General Doubleday's regiments ... now came suddenly into the gap on the left of our regiment, and they fired a crashing volley. Hurrah! They have come at the very nick of time. The low ground saved our regiment, as the enemy overshot us in the darkness.
The fighting continued fiercely for two and a half hours around Brawner's Farm. Both sides fought hard and many men fell. Confederate General Taliaferro remembered:
A farm-house, an orchard, a few stacks of hay, and a rotten "worm" fence were the only cover afforded to the opposing lines of infantry; it was a stand-up combat, dogged and unflinching, in a field almost bare. There were no wounds from spent balls; the confronting lines looked into each other's faces at deadly range, less than one hundred yards apart, and they stood as immovable as the painted heroes in a battle-piece. There was cover of woods not very far in rear of the lines on both sides, and brave men--- with that instinct of self-preservation which is exhibited in the veteran soldier, who seizes every advantage of ground or obstacle---might have been justified in slowly seeking this shelter from the iron hail that smote them; but out in the sunlight, in the dying daylight, and under the stars, they stood, and although they could not advance, they would not retire. There was some discipline in this, but there was much more of true valor. In this fight there was no maneuvering, and very little tactics---it was a question of endurance, and both endured.
The fighting finally wound to a close around 9:00 pm. Neither side was able to drive the other from the field. The Federals had held their own, and Jackson had been unable to crush them. Casualties had been high on both sides. Especially important to Jackson was the loss of two of his division commanders, Taliaferro and Ewell were both wounded. Many units were now mere shadows of their former selves, the famed Stonewall Brigade for example, left 340 on the field of the 800 men with which they entered the battle.

Pope was now alerted to Jackson's exact position, and doubtless a battle would follow the next day. Jackson however, had reason to be confident of his position. He occupied a strong defensive position, and Longstreet was marching fast to join him.
Brawner Farm - Mansassas NBP
Brawner Farm. Source.


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