Yesterday I had a pleasant morning at Harpers Ferry combining interesting history with an well preserved town nestled in beautiful scenery at the juncture of the Potomac and Shanandoah Rivers.
In due course I chartered a meandering route down to Manassas arriving later in the afternoon.
I’ve been really looking forward to visiting 1st Manassas. Why I hear you ask. Well it was a refight of 1st Manassas that was my introduction to Volley and Bayonet some 20 years ago. Goodness, was it really that long ago? When I first read the rules that a good friend Keith Adams had purchased I was convinced that the the rules would never work. The movement rates seemed to great and the combat system seemed overly simple. However, we organised the game and in due course started playing. What a great game and one that really captured the feel of the period.
So here I am, so many years later, and I finally get to visit the battlefield. What did I think? Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Arriving late in the day I didn’t get around all the battlefield so have delayed this post until I have managed to visit a few more locations.
I don’t want to get into a description of the battle here but a few points should probably be stated. While a demonstration was made at the Stone Bridge the main Union troops crossed Bull Run Stream up stream at Sudley Ford and Sudley Spring Ford. The latter is now covered covered by trees and far different from period photos.
The Union troops continued down Sudley Road where they were met by advanced and out numbered Confederates under Evans. As each side sent in reserves the battle escalated. Evans was deployed on a reverse slope on Matthews Hill. The guns on the crest are Union. Sudley Road is to the left.
Forced back the Rebels retreated in great disorder towards Henry House Hill, which can be seen below in the distance from Matthews Hill, viewed from Matthews Hill crest.
Now, we move over to Henry Hill. As with the other Civil War battlefields the use of well placed artillery considerably helps tell the story. The Union gun line along Henry Hill, is represented by around six guns, placed generally as they were historically around 2pm. They stretch from the visitor centre to the rebuilt Henry House.
The Warrenton Turnpike is now rather busy, but you have a great view from the Henry House Hill to the Stone House and Matthews Hill beyond. I could almost see the Confederates fleeing back from Matthews Hill from this vantage point. The photo below, shoes the Stone House, Buck Hill and behind Matthews Hill.
Indeed, moving northeast I nearly found myself caught up in the retreat around Robinson Lane. However, as I was there the Confederate right reformed. Below looking down Robinson Lane from the Union perspective. The remains of Robinson House, now foundations, are just a little further down the lane and to the left. This positioned formed the Confederate right on Henry Hill.
In the Confederate centre the a section of twelve Confederate guns can be seen slightly back from the Henry Hill crest. The guns were mostly mostly 6pdrs and seem to be represented correctly.
Jackson’s troops poured onto the battlefield coming up from the woods behind the cannons. It was here that Jackson, when told the Confederates were being driven back, calmly stated “We shall give them the bayonet”. While I was there I could almost imagine the Virginians forming behind as well as left on the flanks of the cannons. I continued to move along the Confederate lines until I noted the position of the 33rd Virginians formed behind this fence.
In the battle Captain Griffin (5th US Artillery) moved two howitzers forward on the U.S. right to enfilade the Confederate gun line. I was surprised how closely they were positioned to the Confederate line. As a result Colonel Cummings orders the advance of the 33rd Virginians on Griffin’s guns. The Virginians are deployed, assuming the guns are correctly placed at the tree line, a little to the left, of the muzzle of the forward gun in this photo.
That’s where I will leave 1st Manassas. By the time the Confederates expanded to their left onto Chinn Ridge the Union army was effectively broken.
My lasting memories of this battle are how close the troops, as well as guns, are on Henry Hill. At the same time the battle spans some distance. Poorly trained troops in road column, reinforcements arriving from different parts of the battlefield and poor command you have a fascinating battle. That sounds like the Volley & Bayonet scenario for 1st Bull Run!