Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 23.djvu/266
260 Southern Historical Society Papers.
The extract which you give from Colonel Munford's report (see for the report itself, page 534, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series i, Vol. II) is so entirely inaccurate and at variance with all my own experience, that I think it better to sup- plement your own narrative by giving a brief account of my obser- vation of some of the incidents of that memorable day. I did not at that time, as, perhaps, you are aware, belong to any organized com- mand, but had been, in company with a few choice companies, scout- ing in front of our army, and on the day of the first battle of Ma- nassas acted as a sort of free lance, taking in the battle from the various standpoints, which gave the best promise of interest and inci- dent. It is well understood now that we were on that day outgener- alled at every point. The Federal commander, by a sham attack on the i8th, had masked his real design, while he marched the bulk oi his army around by Sudley Mill, and thus precipitated a superior force upon the unprotected left flank and rear of the Confederates, turning our entire position, and rendering absolutely useless all the defences which had been erected at Manassas, the day being only saved by the indomitable courage of a few Confederate brigades, who fought with a persevering tenacity which has been rarely equalled and never excelled, on any of the great battlefields of the world. Our army numbered nearly 30,000, and less than 10,000 of number, through that long and terrible day, bore the whole brunt of the Federal onset. Step by step, contesting every inch of ground with desperate courage, our line was slowly but steadily driven back by the sheer weight of the Federal advance, outnumbered, as they were, almost ten to one.
Heintzelman, who commanded a division of the Federal army, stated in his report to the department at Washington, with grim satire, that their defeat was not the result of masked batteries or overwhelming numbers, but because regiments repulsed brigades, and brigades drove back divisions. But, notwithstanding this fact, the Confederate line was gradually forced back up the long slope leading to the Henry House. When reinforced by a few regiments of fresh troops, which had been hurried up from Manassas, the thin Confederate line closed up for a last stand on the apex of the ridge which overlooked the stone bridge and the whole ground over which the enemy had been advancing. I stood close behind, looking at the long, solid ranks of the enemy as they were massing for a final