2nd Manassas

2nd Manassas makes an interesting battle. Like Gettysburg it is spread over three days, though the first was only a few hours. It covers a reasonably large area and as such it takes a bit of travelling around the Manassas National Park, both by car and on foot, to explore. As you would expected I started at Brawner Farm.

First up is a view from the farm looking towards Warrenton Turnpike, just visible at the end of the field. The Confederate artillery further back engaged the Union troops on the turnpike. The Union infantry countered by advancing through the the woods to the left. A significant firefight developed over some length of line with the troops being less than 100 yards apart. There are a number of woods and tree lines at Manassas that were not present in 1862. This one was, but like many it likely had little undergrowth.

Another view, this time along part of the infantry line. Rebel infantry advanced from Stony Ridge to occupy these fences while the Union troops came forward out of the woods. The troops were reinforced and extended left.

Next stop was Battery Heights. An interesting location for its part in Brawner Farm fighting but also for the engagement against Pope on the 30th with an initial 18 Confederate guns grew to 36 pieces as they bombarded the Union troops attacking the right of Jacksons troops along the unfinished railroad. As always it is very easy to become disoriented on the battlefield and I did.

Of course I should include a photo of the direction the guns were firing, in the direction of Deep Cut.

The Unfinished Railway was rather interesting to visit, but not well developed with signage. In fact if I were to have one criticism of the 2nd Manassas Battlefield the limited signage would be it. Anyway, there are three points at which access to the Unfinished Railroad can be made.

The first is near Sudley Springs Ford. Here the defences vary between almost nothing to a gully at least 7 feet deep. I walked some distance along this section. Here is a view of a deeper section which was as deep as the Antietam Sunken Road, which is called “Bloody Lane”. The overgrown nature here detracts from the actual height, when seen by photo.

Further along, near the centre of Jackson’s line at the end of the Grovetown Road, the Railroad cut is very deep. Yet again the photos don’t do the cut justice. My impression was a cut six feet deep.

Further on Jackson’s right is an area known as Deep Cut. This open area of the Unfinished Railway was the focus of a significant Ynion attack. Interestingly, Deep Cut wasn’t as deep as I expected. However, the hill up to it was steep, even if the photo below doesn’t indicate the gradient. The monument, just visible on the ridge line, was built in 1865 by Union troops.

Next on the list of stops was the New York monuments. This section of the battlefield became active when Longstreet’s Corps arrived and later attacked.

First, looking from Union lines to Grovetown and Dogan House. Hood’s Texans advanced along a wood line to the left, but not shown, on the 29th.

On the 30th of August Longstreet’s Corps advanced. Below, Hood’s Division came from the right out of the woods and hit the New York regiments along the this low ridge. The monument to the 5th New York Regiment indicated that this regiment suffered greater loss of life in any one engagement than any other regiment in the Civil War.

The trees behind this ridge were not well developed. As a result this action was seen by the only remains Union troops in this area, those on Chinn Ridge. Soon the Rebels continued their advance. Desperate and confusing fighting developed on Chinn Ridge.

“We neared the Chinn House, when suddenly a long line of the enemy rose from behind an old fence and poured straight into our breasts a withering volley. It struck the long line like an electric shock, but the officers surged ahead cheering on the men. It was a decisive fight of about 10 minutes. The left of our brigade struck the enemy’s right and double it up. In a moment the blue line quivered and went to pieces.” Pvt. Alexander Hunter, 17th Virginia Infantry, Kemper’s Brigade.

A number of Union formations moved to try and stabilise the position by forming on the Sudley Road and Henry Hill. Meanwhile the 5th Battery, Maine Light Artillery, shown below, deployed on the ridge at 90 degrees to the original Chinn Ridge line to delay the Confederates.

Private Hunter records:

“Above us, on a gentle rise, was a battery – the guns hidden from view by a dense curtain of smoke. Nothing could be seen but the flash of guns. ‘Form into line men! Forward! Charge the battery!’ The veil of smoke lifted and we could see the muzzles of the guns. Then came a horrid roar and dull shock that seemed to shake the very earth, and then the dull thud of the balls as they tore through the bodies of the men. I looked around me. The ground was covered with the mangled dead and dying.” – Pvt. Alexander Hunter, 17th Virginia Infantry, Kemper’s Brigade.

That brings to end my time at Manassas. Well, with the exception of a photo of the Stone House, sitting peacefully at the centre of the battlefield witness to troops sometimes marching and sometimes routing, twice in 13 months.

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