First Bull Run Return to Henry House Hill

James N.

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Continued from previous thread: http://civilwartalk.com/threads/first-manassas-a-visit-to-matthews-hill.116325/#post-1173474

Part I - The Federal Surge

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The broken remnants of the tiny Confederate force that began the battle on nearby Matthews Hill fell back to the open plateau around the house and farm of widow Judith Henry known as Henry House Hill, arriving mid-morning to find the recently-arrived Virginia brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson sheltering in the woods on the rearward slope. Brig. Gen. Barnard E. Bee is supposed to have said something to his men on the order of "There stands Jackson like a stone wall - rally on the Virginians!"

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Today no one knows whether Bee's remark was meant to inspire or was made in reproach because of Jackson's failure to come to his support; when earlier he had told Jackson his men were being hard-pressed, his fellow brigadier's comment had been only "Sir, we'll give them the bayonet!" In any case, the name stuck, and ever after both Jackson and his brigade would be known as Stonewall.

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The remnants of the brigades of Bee, Col. Francis Bartow, and Col. Nathan Evans reformed in the vicinity of Jackson's line and that of his supporting battery, the Rockbridge Artillery. Following a lull in which the Federal force pulled itself together, another advance brought it to Henry Hill. The U. S. Regular batteries of Captains Charles Griffin and James Ricketts brought a total of eleven guns of various calibers forward onto the crest of the hill and into action. Ricketts' six guns were positioned between the current visitor center and Widow Henry's house, marked by the line of 10-pounder Parrott rifled cannon above.

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In the ensuing action here on Henry Hill, Confederate brigade commanders Bee and Bartow were both mortally wounded; Georgian Bartow's monument is above, that of Bee stands below near the statue of Jackson.

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Other commanders also fell in the battle here: South Carolina planter Colonel Wade Hampton fell at the head of his Hampton Legion. Fortunately, he would recover and go on to command a brigade of Confederate cavalry, and after the death of J. E. B. Stuart, the Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia before going to oppose William T. Sherman's march through his native state. His marker below is near the Henry House where he fell.

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As the Federal Artillery of Ricketts and Griffin went into action virtually unsupported, Jackson planned a surprise for them. His brigade still remained largely unseen in the fringe of woods, but his artillery was exposed, banging away at the Federal artillery at close range. Union Capt. Griffin took a section of his two short-range guns, 12-lb. howitzers like those seen below, and moved them into this position on the Confederate's flank so as to enfilade or shoot down the length of Jackson's gun line. Little did he realize he had brought them dangerously near some of Jackson's waiting infantry!

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Next, Jackson's attack.
 
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James N.

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Part II - Federal Debacle
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The graves of Judith Henry and her children outside the Henry House.

The 33rd Virginia Regiment of Jackson's Brigade was, like many units on both sides of this early battle, wearing what would become very non-traditional garb for Confederate troops, dark blue uniforms of the Virginia Militia, much like that of their general who still wore his U.S. Regulation-style uniform of a professor at Virginia Military Institute. When they emerged from the woods on Griffin's right front he was confused and held his fire just long enough for them to loose a volley which brought down many of his cannoneers and horses. In the resulting tumult, the rest of Jackson's brigade charged and took the remainder of Griffin's and Ricketts' guns.

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The Henry House and the plateau on which it stood became a scene of carnage as Federal troops made repeated charges to retake the now-silent guns, succeeding at times only to be driven back in their turn. At some point in the confusion, the two children and two servants of the 82-year-old invalid Judith Henry attempted to carry her to safety on her mattress, only to return her to her bed where she was killed sometime in the afternoon when a shell tore through the house. The small house, though damaged, somehow survived the battle, only to be dismantled that winter for firewood. Following the war, it was rebuilt in larger form on the same foundation; her grave remains outside, joined later by those of her two children, as seen below through a window.

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Several Federal counterattacks were made from the Sudley Road to the west of Henry Hill, to the left of the photo below; many famous Federal regiments were involved here, including the 13th Brooklyn, 11th New York (Ellsworth's Fire Zouaves), and 1st Minnesota. The New Yorkers were shaken by a charge of the 1st Virginia Cavalry of Col. J. E. B. Stuart which tore through their ranks and sent them reeling.

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Across the Sudley Road another threat loomed: Confederate reenforcements continued to arrive, directed by their commander Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to the threatened Confederate left where they were able to work their way around the Union flank. Using Chinn Ridge below as an avenue of approach, Confederate troops tired from their march but fresh to battle surged forward against the exhausted Federals.

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Passing the massive Chinn House, whose foundations are seen below, the brigades of Edmund Kirby Smith and Jubal Early encountered the last remaining as yet uncommitted Union brigade of Oliver O. Howard and pushed it back as the entire Federal line began to give way. At first the army of Irvin McDowell began a slow, sullen retreat, going back the way the men had come, along the Sudley Road and Stone Bridge on the Warrenton Turnpike. However, an overturned wagon further along on the bridge over Cub Run created chaos in the Federal ranks.

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Now it was the turn of the newly-christened Stonewall Brigade, along with most of the rest of Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard's army on Henry House Hill to surge forward to harry McDowell's broken force from the field; the victors were too exhausted however to do much more than shell the fleeing foe. Although Jackson urged a vigorous pursuit Beauregard and Johnston felt their combined force too spent to follow up the hard-won victory, leading to four years of additional warfare and the ultimate defeat of their cause.

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AUG

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And yet another good one James! All your battle threads should really get their own subforum here.
 

Patrick H

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Very nice thread with an extremely nice sense of time and place. Thank you for posting this.
 

James N.

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Although not part of the story of the battle proper, this Union victory monument, dedicated to the MEMORY of the PATRIOTS who fought here stands beside the reconstructed Henry House on the side opposite the graves of Mrs. Henry and her children. It and another almost identical to it that stands in the Deep Cut of the Unfinished Railroad commemorating the second battle were dedicated in the summer of 1865, making them among the oldest Civil War monuments.

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jackt62

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View attachment 75749

Although not part of the story of the battle proper, this Union victory monument, dedicated to the MEMORY of the PATRIOTS who fought here stands beside the reconstructed Henry House on the side opposite the graves of Mrs. Henry and her children. It and another almost identical to it that stands in the Deep Cut of the Unfinished Railroad commemorating the second battle were dedicated in the summer of 1865, making them among the oldest Civil War monuments.

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This photo shows the monument being dedicated in 1865
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