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Melancholy News from Manassas.


July/August 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, July 23, 1861.


Last Night’s Dispatches.



Frightful Slaughter on Both Sides.


WASHINGTON, July 22.—Our troops, after taking three batteries and gaining a great victory, were eventually repulsed, and commenced a retreat on Washington. The retreat was in good order, with the rear well covered by a good column. Our loss is from 2,500 to 3,000. The fortifications around Washington are strongly reinforced by fresh troops.

After the latest information was received from Centreville at 7:30 last night, a series of events took place in the intensest degree disastrous. Many confused statements are prevalent, but enough is known to warrant the statement that we have suffered in a degree which has cast a gloom over the remnants of the army, and created the deepest melancholy throughout Washington. The carnage was tremendously heavy on both sides, and on ours is represented as frightful.

We were advancing and taking their masked batteries gradually but surely, and driving the enemy towards Manassas Junction, when they seemed to have been reinforced by General Johnston, who, it is understood, took command and immediately commenced driving us back, when a panic among our troops suddenly occurred and a regular stampede took place. It is thought that Gen. McDowell undertook to make a stand at or near Centreville, but the panic was so fearful that the whole army became demoralized, and it was impossible to check them either at Centerville or Fairfax Court House.

Gen. McDowell intended to make another stand at Fairfax Court House, but our forces being in full retreat he could not accomplish the object. Beyond Fairfax Court House the retreat was kept up until the men reached their regular encampments; a portion of whom returned to them, but a still larger portion coming inside the entrenchments. A large number of the troops in their retreat fell on the wayside from exhaustion, and scattered along the route all the way from Fairfax Court House. The road from Bull’s Run was strewn with knapsacks, arms, &c., some of our troops deliberately throwing away their guns and appurtenances the better to facilitate their travel. Gen. McDowell was in the rear exerting himself to rally his men, but with only partial effect. The latter part of the army, it is said, made their retreat in order. His orders on the field did not at all times reach those for whom they were intended. It is supposed the force sent out against our troops consisted, according to a prisoner’s statement, of about 30,000 men, including a large number of cavalry.

He further says that owing to reinforcements from Richmond and Strasburg, and other points, the enemy’s effective force was 90,000 men. According to the statement of two of the Fire Zouaves, they have only about 200 men left from the slaughter, while the Sixty-ninth and other regiments frightfully suffered in killed and wounded. The number cannot now be known.

Sherman’s, Carlisle’s, Griffin’s, and the West Point batteries were taken by the enemy, and the 8 siege 32-pound rifled cannon.

It is supposed all the provision trains were saved. Large droves of cattle were saved by being driven back. It is supposed here to-day that Gen. Mansfield will take command of the fortifications on the other side of the river, which are able it is said by military engineers to be held against any force that the enemy can bring against them. Large rifled cannon and mortars are being rapidly send over and mounted. An officer just from Virginia reports that the road from Centreville to the Potomac is strewn with stragglers.

The troops are resuming the occupation of the entrenchments on the line of the Potomac. Col. Heintzlemen [sic] was wounded in the wrist. In addition to those reported yesterday, it is said that Col. Wilcox, the gallant commander of a brigade, was killed. The city this morning is in the most intense excitement; wagons are continually arriving, bringing in the dead and wounded, and the feeling is awfully distressing. Both telegraph and steamboat communication is suppressed today to the public. The greatest excitement prevails throughout the city.


The following is an account of the beginning of the panic which resulted so disastrously to our troops. All our military operations went swimmingly, and Col. Alexander was about erecting a Pontoon across Bull Run, when a terrible consternation broke out among the teamsters who had incautiously advanced, and immediately after the body of the army lined the Warrington road. Their consternation was shared by numerous civilians who were on the ground, and soon our whole army was in retreat.

For a time a perfect panic prevailed, which communicated itself to the vicinity of Centreville, and every available conveyance was seized upon. Several similar alarms had occurred on previous occasions, caused by a change of position of our batteries, and it was most probable that this alarm was owing to the same fact.


WASHINGTON, July 22.—The Rhode Island battery was captured at the bridge across Bull’s Run, where their retreat was cut off. Their horses were all killed. It is reported the Black Horse cavalry made an attack on the rear of our retreating army, when the remnant of the Fire Zouaves turned and fired, killing but six of them.

The Seventy first New York lost half their men. The following regiments were engaged in the fight: the First, Second and Third Connecticut; First Regulars, composed of the second, third and eighth companies and 250 Marines; the Eighth and Fourteenth N. Y. Militia; First and Second Rhode Island; Seventy-first New York; Second New Hampshire; Fifth Massachusetts; First Minnesota; First Michigan; Eleventh and Thirty-eighth New York; Second, Fourth and Fifth Maine; Second Vermont, besides the several batteries.

It is vaguely reported that Gen. Patterson’s division arrived in the vicinity of Manassas this morning and commenced an attack on the rebel forces. He was within 25 miles of the battle ground yesterday, but the exhausted condition of his men prevented him from coming to Gen. McDowell’s aid. It is also reported that 4,000 of our troops have been sent to Fairfax from the other side of the river.

It is probable th number of killed and wounded is magnified by large numbers who are missing. The lowest estimate of the killed and wounded, may be placed at from 4,000 to 5,000.

It is known that on the day previous to the battle, a large number of the Ohio regiments, publicly protested against being led by General Schenck, and it was only through the importunities of Colonel McCook, in whom they placed all confidence, and other officers, that they were prevented from making a more formidable rebellion. It was known to our troops yesterday that Gen. Johnson [sic] had formed a junction with Beauregard on the night of the first action at Bull’s Run. Our men could distinctly hear the cars moving in from Manassas Junction and the cheers with which the Confederates hailed their newly arrived comrades. They knew the enemy was superior in numbers, and in their own position.

This was further confirmed by prisoners taken, but these facts were probably unknown at Washington. Gen. Schenck, as well as the older field officers, acted admirably. He collected his focus and covered the retreat, and up to the last moment was personally engaged in the endeavor to rally his men to make a stand at Centreville.

It was the arrival of fresh reinforcements to the enemy in superior numbers, which turned the scale of battle. The enemy before now might perhaps have more to boast of, if they had followed up their advantage last night.

The following is a partial list of the killed and wounded:

Killed—Capt. McCook, and the Lieut. Col. Of the Zouaves; Capt. Gordon, Company H, Eleventh Massachusetts; Col. Slocum of the Twenty-Second New York; Col. Wilcox of the First Michigan; Lieut. Col. Fowler of the New York Fourteenth.

Wounded—Col. Lawrence, of the Massachusetts Fifth; Col. Tompkins, of the New York Second; Colonel Farnham, of the Fire Zouaves; Capt. Ellis, of the New York Seventy-first; Col. Hunter, U. S. A.; Col. Clark, of the Massachusetts Eleventh; Major Losier, of the Fire Zouaves; Capt. Ricketts, of the artillery.

WASHINGTON, July 22.—The number of killed and wounded is gradually decreasing. Six hundred Zouaves have returned. It is now understood that Col. Wilcox, reported [k]illed, is living, though badly wounded.

WASHINGTON, Ju[ly] 23.—Gen. McClellan has been summoned by the government from Western Virginia, to repair to Washington to take command of the Potomac. Gen. Rosencrans [sic] takes his place in command of the army of Western Virginia.

The corps d’armee at Washington is to be instantly reorganized and increased. Officers of regiments already raised will be accepted with such rapidity as to insure that this will be accomplished.

WASHINGTON, July 22.—A private dispatch via Baltimore, says careful examination leads to the belief that only about 300 were killed. The Connecticut regiment, heretofore reported badly cut up, have nearly all returned. The first reports of the decimating of the Seventy-first New York and the Fire Zouaves, are untrue.

It is estimated that 22,000 of our troops were engaged in the battle yesterday, and only 15,000 at any one time. The whole battle occurred within a radius of a mile. It is now thought that the enemy left some of their batteries for the purpose of decoying our troops on.

The Associated Press agent from Centreville, at 2 o’clock this morning, gives the names of the dead there. Among them are Collins, of the Second Wisconsin.

Sherman’s battery, or the greater part of it has returned to Washington. The reason of the capture of the other batteries, was because their horses were shot.

Five hundred of the enemy’s cavalry have been seen since yesterday, near Bull’s Run.

A Southern Account.

NEW ORLEANS, July 22.—A dispatch from Richmond yesterday says a fight commenced near Manassas at 4 o’clock this morning; became general about 12, and continued until about 7, when the federalists retired, leaving us in possession of the field.

Sherman’s celebrated battery of light artillery was taken. It was a terrible battle with great strength on both sides. It is impossible to give details to-night.

RICHMOND, 22d, VIA NEW ORLEANS, 22.—The reports of the killed and wounded were so unreliable last night, owing to the confusion following the victory, that we refrained from mentioning them, fearful of giving pain to anxious hearts. Gen. Beauregard and Staff are safe.

Beauregard’s horse was shot under him. Gen. Johnston commanded the left, where the enemy made their fiercest attack. President Davis reached the field at noon, and took command of the centre. When the left was pressed the severest, he disengaged a portion of the enemy’s force and decided the fortune of the day.

No other reliable reports are received, but are hourly expected. It is stated that the enemy was commanded by Generals Scott, Patterson, and McDowell, and it is reported that the latter is seriously wounded.