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Our troops were divided into eight brigades, occupying the defensive line of Bull Run. Brigadier-general Ewell's was posted at the Union Mill's Ford; Brigadier-general D. R. Jones' at McLean's Ford; Brigadier-general Longstreet's at Blackburn's Ford; Brigadier-general Bonham's at Mitchell's Ford; Colonel Cocke's at Bal’s Ford, some three miles above, and Colonel Evans, with a regiment and battalion, formed the extreme left at the Stone Bridge. The brigades of Brigadiergeneral Holmes and Colonel Early were in reserve in rear of the right.
In his entire ignorance of the enemy's plan of attack, General Beauregard was compelled to keep his army posted along the stream for some eight or ten miles, while his wily adversary developed his purpose to him. The subsequent offirial reports of McDowell and his officers show that that commander had abandoned his former purpose of marching on Manassas by the lower routes from Washington and Alexandria, and had resolved upon turning the left flank of the Confederates.
The fifth division of his Grand Army, composed of at leasi four brigades, under command of General Miles, was to re main at Centreville, in reserve, and to make a false attack on Blackburn's and Mitchell's Fords, and thereby deceive Gen. eral Beauregard as to its intention. The first division, composed of at least three brigades, commanded by General Tyler, was to take position at the Stone Bridge, and feign an attack upon that point. The third division, composed of at least three brigades, commanded by Heintzelman, was to proceed as quietly as possible to the Red House Ford, and there remain, until the troops guarding that ford should be cleared away. The second division, composed of three or four brigades, commanded by Hunter, was to march, unobserved by the Confederate troops, to Sudley, and there cross over the run and move down the stream to the Red House Ford, and clear away any troops that might be guarding that point, where he was to be joined by the third or Heintzelman's division. Together, these two divisions were to charge upon, and drive away any troops that might be stationed at the Stone Bridge, when Tyler's division was to cross over and join them, and thus produce a junction of three formidable divisions of the
Grand Army across the run, for offensive operations against the forces of Genera. Beauregard, which the enemy expected to find scattered along the run for seven or eight miles-tho bulk of thein being at and below Mitchell's Ford, and so situated as to render a concerted movement by them utterly impracticable.
Soon after sunrise, the enemy appeared in force in front of Coloz el Evans' position at the Stone Bridge, and opened a light (annonade. The monstrous inequality of the two forces at this point was not developed. Colonel Evans only observed in his immediate front the advance portion of General Schenck's brigade of General Tyler's division and two other heavy brigades. This division of the enemy's forces numbered nine thousand men and thirteen pieces of artillery-Carlisle's and Ayres' batteries—that is, nine hundred men and two sixpounders confronted by nine thousand men and thirteen pieces of artillery, mostly rifled.
A movement was instantly determined upon by General Beauregard to relieve his left flank, by a rapid, determined attack with his right wing and centre on the enemy's flank and rear at Centreville, with precautions against the advance of his reserves from the direction of Washington.
In the quarter of the Stone Bridge, the two armies stood for more than an hour engaged in slight skirmishing, while the main body of the enemy was marching his devious way through the “Big Forest," to cross Bull Run some two miles above our left, to take our forces in flank and rear. This movement was fortunately discovered in time for us to check its progress, and ultimately to form a new line of battle nearly at right angles with the defensive line of Bull Run.
On discovering that the enemy had crossed the stream above liim, Colonel Evans moved to his left with eleven companies and two field-pieces to oppose his advance, and disposed his little force under cover of the wood, near the intersection of the Warrenton turnpike and the Sudley road. Here he was attacked by the enemy in immensely sr perior numbers.
The enemy beginning his detour from the turnpike, at a point nearly half-way between Stone Bridge and Centreville, bad pursued a tortaous, narrow track of a rarely used road, through a dense wood, the greater part of his way until near the Sudley road. A division under Colonel Hunter, of the Federal regular army, of two strong brigades, was in the ad vance, followed immediately by another division, under Colo. nel Heintzelman of three brigades, and seven companies o. regular cavalry, and twenty-four pieces of artillery-eighteer. of which were rifled guns. This column, as it crossed Bull Run, numbered over sixteen thousand men, of all arms, by their own accounts.
Burnside's brigade—which here, as at Fairfax Court-house led the advance-at about 9.45 A. M., debouched from a wood in sight of Evans' position, some five hundred yards distant from Wheat's Louisiana battalion. He immediately threw forward his skirmishers in force, and they became engaged with Wheat's command. The Federalists at once advanced, as they report officially, the 2d Rhode Island regiment volunteers, with its vaunted battery of six thirteen-pounder rifle guns. Sloan's companies of the 4th South Carolina were then brought into action, having been pushed forward through the woods. The enemy, soon galled and staggered by the fire, and pressed by the determined valor with which Wheat handled his battalion, until he was desperately wounded, hastened up three other regiments of the brigade and two Dahlgren howitzers, making in all quite three thousand five hundred bayonets and eight pieces of artillery, opposed to less than eight hundred men and two six-pounder guns.
Despite the odds, this intrepid command, of but eleven weak companies, maintained its front to the enemy for quite an hour, and until General Bee came to their aid with his command.
General Bee moving towards the enemy, guided by the firing, had selected the position near the now famous "Henry House," and formed his troops upon it. They were the 7th and 8th Georgia under Colonel Bartow, the 4th Alabama, 2d Mississippi, and two companies of the 11th Mississippi regi ments, with Imboden's battery. Being compelled, however to sustain Colonel Evans, he crossed the valley, and formed on the right and somewhat in advance of his position. Here the joint force, little exceeding five regiments, with six field pieces, held the ground against about fifteen thousand Federal troops. A fierce and destructive conflict now ensued--the fire was withering on both sides, while the enemy swept our short, thin lines with their numerous artillery, which, according to their official reports, at this time consisted of at least ten rifle guns and four howitzers. For an hour did these stout-hearted men, of the blended commands of Bee, Evans, and Bartow, breast an unintermitting battle-storm, animated surely by something more than the ordinary courage of even the bravest men under fire.
Two Federal brigades of Heintzelman's division were now brought into action, led by Rickett's superb light battery of six ten-pounder rifle guns, which, posted on an eminence to the right of the Sudley road, opened fire on Imboden's battery. At this time, confronting the enemy, we had still but Evans' eleven companies and two guns-Bee's and Bartow's four regiments, the two companies 11th Mississippi under Lieutenant-colonel Liddell, and the six pieces under Imboden and Richardson. The enemy had two divisions of four strong brigades, including seventeen companies of regular infantry, cavalry, and artillery, four companies of marines, and twenty pieces of artillery. Against this odds, scarcely credible, our advance position was still for a while maintained, and the enemy's ranks constantly broken and shattered under the scorching fire of our men; but fresh regiments of the Federals came upon the field, Sherman's and Keyes' brigades of Tyler's division, as is stated in their reports, numbering over six thousand bayonets, which had found a passage across the Run, about eight hundred yards above the Stone Bridge, threatened our right.
Heavy losses had now been sustained on our side, both in numbers and in the personal worth of the slain. The 8th Georgia regiment had suffered heavily, being exposed, as it took and maintained its position, to a fire from the enemy, already posted within a hundred yards of their front and right, sheltered by fences and other cover. The 4th Alabama also suffered severely from the deadly fire of the thvusands of muskets which they so dauntlessly confronted under the immediate leadership of the chivalrous Bee himself.
Now, however, with the surging mass of over fourteen thousand Federal infantry pressing on their front and under the incessant fire of at least twenty pieces of artillery, with the fresh brigades of Sherman and Keyes approaching—the latter already in musket range-our lines gave back, but under orders from General Bee.
As our shattered battalions retired, the slaughter was deplorable. They fell back in the direction of the Robinson House, under the fires of Heintzelman's division on one side, Keyes' and Sherman's brigades of Tyler's division on the other, and Hunter's division in their rear, and were compelled to engage the enemy at several points on their retreat, losing both officers and men, in order to keep them from closing in around them. Under the inexorable stress of the enemy's fire the retreat continued. The enemy seemed to be inspired with the idea that he had won the field; the news of a victory was carried to the rear, and, in less than an hour thereafter, the telegraph had flashed the intelligence through all the cities in the North, that the Federal troops were completing their victory, and premature exultations ran from mouth to mouth in Washington.
If the enemy had observed the circumstances and character of this falling back of a portion of our lines, it would have been enough to have driven him in consternation from the field. With the terrible desperation that had sustained them so long in the face of fivefold odds and the most frightful losses, our troops fell back sullenly; at every step of their retreat staying, by their hard skirmishing, the flanking columns of the enemy
The retreat was finally arrested just in rear of the Robinson House by the energy and resolution of General Bee, assisted by the support of the Hampton Legion, and the timely arrival of Jackson's brigade of five regiments. A moment before, General Bee had been well-nigh overwhelmed by superior numbers. He approached General Jackson with the pathetic exclamation, “General, they are beating us back;" to which the latter promptly replied, “Sir, we'll give them the bayonet.” General Bee immediately rallied his over-tasked troops with the words, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let na determine to die here, and we will conquer."
In the mean time, the crisis of the battle and the full devel. opment of the enemy's designs had been perceived by oui