August 30 This day during the American Civil War

August 30, 1862 – The Second Battle of Bull Run day 3 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 lying on the hill reminded him of the Texas countryside when the wildflowers were in bloom. 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. The first two Union brigades to arrive were from Ricketts’s division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Zealous B. Tower and Col. John W. Stiles. (James Ricketts had been at the same battlefield a year earlier, at First Bull Run; he commanded a regular gun battery and was captured at the fight for Henry Hill.) 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 routed 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. 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. 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. 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.

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