ISSUE NUMBER 5

HISTORICAL MINIATURES BY GEORGE GRASSE
HISTORICAL MINIATURES JOURNAL

AUGUST 2009

HISTORICAL MINIATURES JOURNAL ISSUE NUMBER 5

PUBLISHED BY GEORGE GRASSE

PHOTO TOUR OF THE FIRST BATTLE OF BULL RUN 1861 (PART 1)

By George Grasse

 

OVERVIEW FROM MATHEWS HILL.  This is the view that the first Union troops had of what was to be the battlefield of the First Battle of Bull Run, 21 July 1861.   It is taken from the broad crest of Matthews Hill.  At the far edge of the crest at the line of artillery pieces is a large swale and across from it is Buck Hill where a large part of Evans' Confederate Brigade attempted a delaying action after discovering the Union flank march along the Sudley Springs Road off camera to the right.  The Confederate brigades of Bee and Bartow came up to support Evans and between them they made several attempts to disrupt the deployment of Hunter's Union division.  However, the Union brigades of Burnside and Porter were able to repel the Confederates and, with more troops arriving from Heintzelman's Union division, the Confederate line collapsed around noon.  From Buck Hill, Evans, Bee, and Bartow retreated in some disorder across the Centreville Road (now US 29) and up the slopes of Henry House Hill which can be seen in the far distance marked by a small field just above the barrel of the gun in the center of this photo.  The main battle would be fought there.1

 

MATHEWS HILL AND HENRY HILL.  Union troops crested the hill and could see Evans' Brigade fading away in the distance.  The M. Matthews house was in this immediate area.  Also seen from this view is the Henry House and probably the Confederate brigades of Bee and Bonham forming up just behind the house off to the right and near the skyline.  Other Unions brigades in column continued down the Sudley Springs Road toward Henry House Hill will the immediate infantry on Matthews Hill started forward to keep pressure on Evans.

 

MANASSAS NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD MAP:  Matthews Hill is number 3 (blue circle) on the map.  Union troops were arriving from Sudley Springs which is number 4 on the map.  Evans' Confederate Brigade was on Bull Run at the Stone Bridge, number 11.  General Evans recognized the flanking movement, left the smaller portion of his brigade to cover the bridge and marched with the larger portion to contend the Union column from Sudley Springs.  The first clash occurred on Matthews Hill.  As several Union brigades came on line against Evans, the Confederate line was threatened and Evans fell back over Buck Hill, past the Stone House, across the Centreville Road, and up the slope of the Henry House Hill towards the Robinson House.  By this time, the Confederate brigades of Bee and Bonham had arrived and were deploying into line on Henry House Hill in the general vicinity of the Park's Visitor Center.  (This map courtesy of the National Service)

 

THE STONE HOUSE: The left photo shows the back of the Stone House standing at the crossroads of the Centreville and Sudley Springs roads.  The Henry House is visible at the top of the hill across the road.  The right photo is within fifty feet of the Centreville Road looking up the slope of the Henry House Hill.  The house is visible at the crest with a large tree standing behind it.  At this level of ground, the Confederate brigades of Bee and Bartow could not be seen but their skirmishers were deployed just below the crest and reported the progress of the Union advance most of which would concentrate to the right of these photos using the axis of the Sudley Springs/Manassas Road as a guide.  This road is just visible in the left photo near the bottom right corner where cars are lined up at the traffic light.

 

HENRY HOUSE HILL - UNION POSITION: This photo was taken from the large "plateau" area of Henry House Hill looking towards the vicinity of Matthews Hill which is the small patch of open field just to the left of the large tree that stands next to the Henry House on the right.  Union troops came up the reverse slope on a broad front and immediately took fire from the three battered Confederate brigades of Evans, Bee, and Bartow.  Jackson's fresh Virginia brigade was on its way.  Their line runs from a point behind the camera off to the right.  The fire fight lasted some time with the Confederates getting the worst of it.  The gun line represents the approximate position of Griffin's and Rickett's exposed batteries with the supporting infantry line behind them slightly down slope. 2

 

MAP SHOWING PLACE NAMES AS THEY APPEARED IN 1861:  This map shows the relative location of the famous place names of the First Battle of Bull Run.  (This map courtesy of the National Park Service)

 

HENRY HOUSE HILL - CONFEDERATE POSITION:   This photo was taken near the spot where the Union position photo was taken and the view is to the northeast.  Jackson's Confederate brigade arrived on line relieving the battered brigades of Evans, Bee, and Bartow and was well supported with artillery.  In the high grass field on the right and in front of the woods is the location where Jackson's brigade formed up and then advanced to engage the Union brigades of Sherman, Porter, Franklin, and Willcox.3

 

THE FIELD BEHIND THE CONFEDERATE LINE:  Of significance is the placement of artillery pieces near the edge of the wood from which they could support Jackson and cover Evans, Bee, and Bartow. 

 

JACKSON'S RIGHT:  This photo was taken slightly down slope from Jackson's line.  This was General Bee's old position and roughly where he was killed.  Off camera to the left is where Confederate General Hampton's Legion came up to support Jackson.  Eventually, the brigades of Cocke and Bonham would arrive.  In a future issue, part 2 will cover the reverse of fortunes and the Confederate flank attack at the Chinn House. 

 

CAISSON:  This combination of wheeled vehicles is the caisson, one per gun.  It is a standard gun limber pulling a caisson unit which has two ammunition chests and spare wheel.  That's the author in the rider's seat.  Taken on Henry House Hill.

 

I TOOK THESE PHOTOS IN JULY 2009   

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END NOTES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY

1 National Park Service, Manassas National Battlefield Park brochure, Manassas, Virginia.  All photos were taken from National Park Service property

2 Hill, John.  The First Battle of Bull Run, American Civil War Notebook Series, Geoffrey Wheeler, editor.  CartoGraphics, Inc., Fairfax, VA, 1991

3 Hankinson, Alan.  First Bull Run 1861, Osprey Campaign Series.  London: Osprey Publications, 1991

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