Manassas: The March, The Mayhem, The Memory, Pt. 1

BEFORE THE BATTLE: THE MARCH THAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE

2nd Virginia’s March to Manassas – Dennis Frye
Total Running Time: 5:07

There was an urgency in the ranks of the 2nd Virginia Infantry in July 18, 1861, urgency and emergency. Word had arrived at Winchester that there was an attack just outside of Manassas Junction, that the Union army was advancing rapidly against a small force under Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard at Manassas Junction. Joe Johnston and his army at Winchester needed to leave the Valley immediately, and to scurry to Manassas Junction, to reinforce the Confederates there and to stop this Union advance. And so Jackson’s men hurriedly began to march east from Winchester – to the Shenandoah River, crossing at Berry’s Ferry in Clarke County. . .

In fact the river was high, the river was almost chest-deep at that point and when the 2nd Virginia came to the river crossing, it stopped. It was pondering: “Well, do we wait for a ferry? How do we get across? Do we need rope to help keep our balance?” and all of the sudden the 33rd Infantry of the Virginia Brigade just splashed right in to the water . . . 2nd Infantry standing there on the road – ruminating, contemplating the water – and the 33rd Infantry just rushes right in to the water. Well the 2nd Virginia was greatly embarrassed. So sure enough, as soon as the 33rd had left the bank, all of 2nd Virginia trudged right into the water, all except one company. A ferry did arrive and Company C, a Clarke County Company, got on a ferry boat and one of the locals carried them across the river. They didn’t get wet.

They then continued on up and over the Blue Ridge, back down the east side of the Blue Ridge and now we’re in Piedmont, Virginia. This was important, because at the Village of Piedmont, you could get on the train of the Manassas Gap Railroad. And so the 2nd Infantry rushed to Piedmont where they would get on the train.

Even here an interesting thing happened. These men would be placed in cattle cars. They would be tightly stuffed into these very tight structures on rails and be prepared to move.

Not everybody in the 2nd Virginia was crammed into a cattle car. Lawson Botts’ Company, Company G from Charles Town, spied what looked to be a much better car – a passenger car, and so they immediately apprehended the car – the passenger car – and Company G, those boys, had comfortable seats. Well, all a sudden, this brash young man comes in and says: “You can’t take this car. This car can’t be yours.” Lawson Botts and the boys say: “Well, why not?”

– and Sandie Pendleton, who was on Johnston’s staff at the time, said: “Because this is for the officers of the Brigade.” And at that point the Botts’ Greys said: “We are equal to our officers. We deserve these seats, and you are going to have to be forced to remove us from this car.” End of discussion. They rode in luxury to Manassas Junction. And so that would be the last fun, fun moment for these boys of 2nd Virginia. That train ride to Manassas Junction, and then it became very serious. They would get off the train, they would march to Mitchell’s Ford along Bull Run; they would see the sight of the very first fighting at Blackburn’s Ford on July the 18th and they knew at this point, they now were going to face the Union Army in strength. They knew now that real business was at hand and most importantly – this is probably what was happening on that train ride – these men were in conversations. They were in conversations about the future of their new country, the Confederacy. They understood the weight of responsibility that was now upon their shoulders. What was going to happen? Would they stand and fight? Will they be drilled and disciplined to the point that they would withstand bullets and shots from cannon. Would they indeed be able to withstand the attack of the enemy. Would they survive or would they die?

“The 2nd Virginia Infantry at the First Battle of Manassas – Dennis Frye
Total Running Time: 7:37

THE BAPTISM OF FIRE

July 21, 1861 – Sunday – sunrise: Thomas Jonathan Jackson “rises” the First Virginia Brigade and he will order them forward on to a plateau, not right along Bull Run, about a mile away from the creek. The plateau soon will become known as Henry Hill. It is a farm, a disheveled, rather unkempt farm of the widow, Judith Henry. And there on a slope, Jackson will place his men on the ground, along the tree line that was principally a pine forest. And there they will wait for the morning on July 21. Now they will hear battle in the distance. They’ll hear fighting in the distance. The battle had opened in the morning, as the Union army was advancing, cross Bull Run and trying to flank the Confederate position of P.G.T. Beauregard there holding the fords of Bull Run. So this flanking movement actually succeeded. The Union Army went around the Confederate left flank, had crossed Bull Run and was attacking now the Confederate left and rear. At Mathew’s Hill where the real intense fighting really began, the Confederate line had collapsed, had collapsed.

The Union Army was advancing. The Confederates had retreated into a deep draw, and were now crawling their way up Henry Hill. And here came the Federals in quick pursuit. The Confederates who had been fighting that morning would pass through Jackson’s line – wounded men, men who were just completely disoriented, they couldn’t believe that they had been beaten – men using their weapons as crutches, men crawling, blood, even those men who were so wounded it didn’t appear that they would make it, being brought through to the rear. This is what Jackson’s men saw. It was not promising. And it didn’t look good for the Confederacy. The momentum was on the side of the Union army by noon on July 21, 1861. Now, interesting enough, Jackson is standing there, holding there, calmly, deliberately, waiting in position, not yet fighting. One of the commanders, who had been fighting earlier in the day, with the South Carolina brigade,

General Bernard Bee, would arrive and see Jackson and Jackson’s men and he would yell: “There stands Jackson like a stone wall. Rally around the Virginians!” And the name “Stonewall Jackson” was born.

And so Jackson’s men now – wait. And the Union Army approaches. One of the first things that happens is Union artillery begins to pound the position, at first at a distance, and tree limbs are being broken. And this forest, this pine forest over which Jackson’s men are resting near, again down on the ground, down behind the slope. They can’t even see the main Union Army, but they certainly can hear, see, and feel the shells. In fact, some of the men in the 2nd Virginia would joke, that the shell fire was very ineffective because the shells were plopping down and not exploding, and they would soon discover that the reason the shells weren’t exploding is that the Federal artillerist, in their haste to fire upon the position, had failed to cut the fuses. And so the shells never were set off. And so they were falling like rocks from the heavens, landing in the midst of the 2nd Infantry, but doing very little damage both to the 2nd, the Stonewall, and or the First Virginia Brigade.

Well, then it changed. By mid-afternoon, the Union artillery advanced to within several hundred yards of Jackson’s line, and began to enfilade or fire in to the flank of Jackson’s positions. Now Jackson’s line on Henry Hill had the 33rd Virginia Infantry on its extreme left. And immediately beside, just to the right of the 33rd is the 2nd Virginia Infantry. That was the area that began to be hammered by the Union artillery. And so the 33rd Virginia will spring up and advance against this battery and seize it, but only temporarily. And then the engagement begins and for the next few hours, there will be a bloodbath on Henry Hill.

The 2nd Virginia Infantry will be very exposed. The 33rd Infantry will withdraw from the position, exposing the 2nd Virginia as the extreme left of Jackson’s position, and they too will be battered by repeated artillery and Union infantry charges – to the point that the 2nd Virginia is going to be really cut up that day. Usually, when you go into your first fight, it’s not your worst fight. It’s never your worst fight. But for the 2nd Virginia Infantry, the Battle of First Bull Run, the Battle of First Manassas, July 21, 1861 – would be the worst day in the history of the 2nd Virginia Infantry. The 2nd Virginia would suffer more casualties on Henry Hill than it would in four more years of fighting. They would suffer fifteen men killed outright, fifty-three men wounded on the field that day and an additional number that would be missing in action – all totaled just under eighty men as casualties in the 2nd Virginia Infantry, huge losses on Henry Hill, huge losses during that fight. Now, Jackson and the Confederates are gonna hold that day. More reinforcements will arrive from Johnston’s army. The Union Army, alternately, will be forced to withdraw precipitously from the field. And the Battle of First Bull Run – the Battle of First Manassas, as it was known in the Confederacy – will become a great Confederate victory. And Thomas Jonathan Jackson, “Stonewall,” and his Brigade – now re-christened the Stonewall Brigade – will be given much credit for that victory, but the cost was extreme. The cost was extraordinary. First battle, first blood, First Manassas would forever remain the first and worst day of Civil War in the history of the 2nd Virginia Infantry.

Two Brothers Die at Manassas – Dennis Frye
Total Running Time: 7:01

THE LEGACY

Prior to July 21st, 1861, prior to the Battle of Manassas, there was a lot of romance, a lot of romance in the Civil War. After July 21, 1861, much of that romance dissolved. It dissolved in blood, it dissolved in death, and it dissolved in graves. 2nd Virginia suffered severely on the plains of Henry Hill. Fifteen men killed outright – killed in action; fifty-three wounded. Three of those dead were from Berkeley County, Martinsburg. But even before I get to those men, who were privates in the ranks, I think it’s important to look at the leadership, look at the command, and just how deadly that day was, and how difficult that day was to those who commanded the 2nd Virginia.

Col. Allen himself was wounded when the battle began, especially right there on Henry Hill and put out of commission, knocked out of commission. Now his wound was an interesting wound, it was actually caused by a tree limb falling on him. Remember 2nd Virginia was down on the ground right along a tree line; and as a result of artillery firing, tree limbs were breaking and falling down from the heavens. Allen won’t be crushed by one of these, he will be incapacitated. So the colonel of the regiment, the man in command, is suddenly no longer available. Then we start the fighting. Three of the captains, three of the company commanders, are going to be wounded in the fighting. John W. Rowan, who is commander of Company A, the Jefferson Guards, the most experienced veteran militia company of the 2nd Infantry, is going to be wounded in the fight with an ankle wound – out of action.

Then we have the captain of Company C – William Nelson – one of the Clarke County Companies – he’s going to be wounded with a bullet in the breast and miraculously would survive. Then finally another company – Clarke County company – the commander of that company is actually going to be wounded in the left thigh. So we have three of the ten company commanders are going to go down with severe wounds, incapacitating wounds – so bad in fact that most of these men will never be able to return to their company after July 21, 1861. But those three men from Martinsburg really just tug at your soul. It made the war personal. It made the war human. It made the end result of war – which is killing and death – so real for the people of the Shenandoah Valley in Berkeley County and specifically Martinsburg. These three young men – two of them are brothers – killed in action on Henry Hill. Henry Tucker Conrad, they called him “Tucker”: twenty-one years old, he attended the University of Virginia. At the time that he enlisted, he was a divinity student. He was studying at the divinity school at the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria. On July 21st, he met the Divine Maker. His brother in the ranks beside him – Company D – John Nadenbousch Company, Martinsburg – Holmes Addison Conrad: twenty-three years old – actually born on my birthday – a graduate of the Winchester Academy, he also attended the University of Virginia. Before the war, he was the principal of the Martinsburg Academy – dead, killed with his brother, July 21st. And for this family, it didn’t end. Their cousin, Peyton R. Harrison, who was twenty-nine years old and a lawyer, would also be killed that day, another member of Company D from Martinsburg. Incidentally, Peyton Harrison – his widow – would file a claim to the Confederate Government for his service, and she would receive compensation for his services, a total of fifty-six dollars. That’s not compensation for the death of your husband.

All three of these young men are today buried in Martinsburg, at Old Norborne Cemetery. They are forever symbols of sacrifice, they are forever symbols of belief in a cause, they are forever soldiers in the 2nd Virginia Infantry, they are forever men of the Stonewall Brigade who stood at First Manassas like a stone wall. And they died standing there like a stone wall.

Videos:

Frye, Dennis. “The March to Manassas.” American Military University Civil War Scholars. 1 July 2011 Web. 1 July 2011.

Frye, Dennis. “The 2nd Virginia Infantry at the First Battle of Manassas.” American Military University Civil War Scholars. 1 July 2011 Web. 1 July 2011.

Frye, Dennis. “2 Brothers Die at Manassas.” American Military University Civil War Scholars. 1 July 2011 Web. 1 July 2011.

Flickr Sets:

cannonmouth.jpg
front of a cannon by Jim Surkamp

manassasdetail.abbot.jpg
Battlefield at Bull Run, Virginia Fought July 21, 1861 by Henry L. Abbot” Baylor Library Digital Collections. 2 September 2006 Web. 10 July 2011.

HD_bottsL2c.jpg
“Lawson Botts.” House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College 6 Oct. 2008. Web. 5 May 2011.

File:Alexander Pendleton c1860s.jpg
Wikipedia English. Latest update 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 20 May 2011.

Barnard_Elliott_Bee1.jpg
Wikipedia English. Latest update 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 20 May 2011.

jameswallen.jpg
“James Walkenshaw Allen.” VMI Archives. 2 September 2007. Web. 10 July 2011.

wmnnelsonclarke.jpg
William Nelson Company C, 2nd Virginia Infantry
Gold, Thomas D. (1914). “History of Clarke County, Virginia.” Berryville, VA: C. R. Hughes Publishers. Print.

Gold, Thomas D. (1914). “History of Clarke County, Virginia.” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 28 Dec. 2010.

manas2.B&L.I.217.sylvester.jpg
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 1.” Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 1.” Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.

TAGS: Dennis Frye, American Public University, American Military University, Jim Surkamp, Bull Run, Manassas, July 21, 1861, http://amu.apus.edu , Stonewall Jackson, Bernard Bee, Joseph Johnston, 2nd Virginia, 33rd Virginia Infantry, Company D Nadenbousch, Holmes Addison Conrad, Henry Tucker Conrad,
Peyton R. Harrison, William Nelson, John W. Allen, P.G.T. Beauregard, Henry Hill, McDowell, Lawson Botts, Piedmont, Sandie Pendleton, http://justjefferson.com

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