Wednesday, July 20, 2011

First Battle of Manassas

First Battle of Manassas, Marker No. C-44Prince William County, VA
Marker No. C-44

Marker Text: On the Matthews Hill, just to the north, the Confederates replused the attack of the Unionists, coming from the north, in the forenoon of July 21, 1861. The Union force, reinforced, drove the Confederates to the Henry Hill, just to the south. There the latter reformed under cover of Stonewall Jackson. In the afternoon, McDowell vainly attempted to rally his retreating troops on the Matthews Hill after they had been driven down the Henry Hill.

  Note that the first sentence of the marker is incorrect, and should read: On the Matthews Hill, just to the north, the Confederates repulsed the attack of the Unionists, coming from the north, in the forenoon of July 21, 1861.

Location: On U.S. Route 29 (Lee Highway, formerly the Warrenton Turnpike) north of VA Route 234 (Sudley Road, on the left when traveling south, north of the Manassas National Battlefield Park’s Stone House parking lot. Grouped with three other markers C-34 (First Battle of Manassas); G-15 (Henry House); and G-16 (James Robinson House). Erected by the Conservation & Development Commission in 1931.

First Battle of Manassas, Marker C-44 on Lee Highway pull off

Marker C-44 is on the far left, photo taken looking southwest on U.S. Route 29 in distance is intersection with Sudley Road at Stone House.

  General Irwin McDowell commander of the Union forces had planned to use Tyler's division at the Stone Bridge as a diversionary attack, while Davies' brigade did the same at Blackburn's Ford. At the same time, Hunter's and Heintzelman's divisions would cross Bull Run at Sudley Springs and attack from the north. After crossing Bull Run almost three hours later than planned, the Union forces would proceed southeast coming over Matthews Hill to the north of this marker. Matthews Hill is on the opposite side of the road from this marker looking north.

  McDowell had hoped to move his troops across Bull Run unnoticed, but the Confederates had built signal stations on high elevations and from one of station, signalmen spotted the Union advance and signaled Colonel Nathan G. Evans whose troops were at the Stone Bridge, of the Union movement toward Sudley Ford. Evans realized that the Union forces intended to attack the left flank of the Confederate army, namely his own tiny command. He sent word to General P. G. T. Beauregard's headquarters at once and then took action on his own. Evans knew that he needed to stop or delay the Union troops long enough for Beauregard to send reinforcements. Faced with three full brigades in his front and two divisions coming at him off to the left, Evans had but one thought. Outnumbered around twenty-to-one, he decided to attack.

Photo taken at Henry Hill looking toward Matthews Hill

Photo taken from Henry Hill looking toward Matthews Hill at horizon with the Stone House in the middle of photo. (Click any photo to enlarge)

  When Beauregard was notified that Federal troops were massing on his left flank, he realized that this must be the main attack so he began to shift his own troops.

  McDowell's Federal troops numbered about 18,000 men in the main attack column and it was only thanks to the quick reactions of Colonel Evans and his small brigade that Beauregard did not suffer a major disaster. He quickly moved his small force to Matthew's Hill to block the Federal move, across the road from this marker at the top of the hill to the north. Sounds of the fighting drew other brigade commanders to Evans' aid on their own initiative. Brigadier General Barnard Bee and Colonel Bartow joined Evans' defensive line and deployed their men to his right to extend and strengthen it.

First Bull Run or Manassas Stone Marker on Matthews Hill

Older 1928 marker indicating the location of the Battle of First Manassas behind the Stone House with Matthews Hill in the background up the hill.  Text of marker is below.

  The Confederate position was still badly outnumbered and eventually the imbalance between the two armies were felt by the Confederates. With Tyler's division threatening the right flank and rear of the Confederate position after having forced a crossing at the Stone Bridge, and their left flank now being overlapped by Federal reinforcements, the three Confederate brigades broke to the rear, heading toward the cleared plateau of the Henry House Hill. Unfortunately, the Federals were too slow to follow-up their success and allowed the Southern brigade commanders to rally the remnants of their units behind Jackson's brigade which had just arrived and formed a line of battle on the reverse slope of Henry House Hill.

  This marker stands with three other markers on the side of the road. There is a small gravel pull off on Lee Highway (the old Warrenton Turnpike and today, U.S. Route 29) at these markers. They can also be reached on foot from the Manassas National Battlefield Park's Stone House parking lot to the west or from a pleasant walk from the park's Visitors Center on Sudley Road. Originally, this marker and the others were located further to the west closer to Sudley Road by the Stone House. Standing at this gravel pull off with these four markers you are standing in the midst of a great deal of the fighting of the First Battle of Manassas as both sides crossed this road between Matthews Hill to the north and Henry Hill to the south.

  An early marker on the battlefield erected in 1928 to mark the location of the battle is located behind the Stone House on Matthews Hill next to Sudley Road.

First Bull Run or Manassas Stone Marker erected in 1928Battlefield of Bull Run or First Manassas
July 21, 1861

Marker Text: Confederates under General Beauregard defeated Federals under General McDowell. General Jackson given name of “Stonewall” on this field. Generals Bee and Bartow killed. Old stone house used as hospital. This marker erected July 21, 1928.

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