2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of 2nd Manassas - Friday, August 29, 1862
The Morning's Assaults

Unfinished Railroad Bed

On the morning of August 29, 1862, General John Pope had planned to achieve a great victory over General Thomas J. Jackson's outnumbered men hunkered down in the bed of an unfinished railroad. While holding Jackson's attention, General Pope planned to have Major General Fitz John Porter swing around the Confederate right and crush Jackson with a devastating flank attack. To set his plans in motion, he ordered Major General Franz Sigel to assault Jackson's left. He would do so for hours, yet Porter's flank attack did not come. General Sigel's report gives a small glimpse into the confusion of battle.

"...Our whole line advanced from point to point, taking advantage of the ground before us, until our whole line was involved in a most vehement artillery and infantry contest. In the course of about four hours, from 6.30 to 10.30 o'clock in the morning, our whole infantry force and nearly all our batteries were engaged with the enemy, Generals Milroy and Schurz advancing 1 mile and General Schenck 2 miles from their original positions.

At this time (10.30 o'clock) the enemy threw forward large masses of infantry against our right, but was resisted firmly and driven back three times by the troops of Generals Milroy and Schurz. To assist these troops, so hard pressed by overpowering numbers, exhausted by fatigue, and weakened by losses, I ordered one battery of reserve to take position on their left, and posted two pieces of artillery, under Lieutenant Blume, of Schirmer's battery, supported by the Forty-first New York Volunteer Infantry, beyond their line, and opposite the right flank of the enemy, who was advancing in the woods. These pieces opened fire with canister most effectively, and checked the enemy's advance on that point. I now directed General Schenck to draw his lines nearer to us, and to attack the enemy's right flank and rear by a change of front to the right, thereby assisting our troops in the center. This movement could not be executed by General Schenck with his whole division, as he became briskly engaged with the enemy, who tried to turn our extreme left.

At this critical moment, when the enemy had almost outflanked us on both wings, and was preparing a new attack against our center, Major-General Kearny arrived on the field of battle, and deployed by the Sudley Springs road on our right, while General Reno's troops came to our support by the Gainesville turnpike. With the consent of General Reno I directed two regiments and one battery, under Brigadier-General Stevens, to take position on the right of General Schenck-the battery on an eminence in front and center of our line, where it did excellent work during the rest of the day, and where it relieved Captain Dilger's battery, which had held this position the whole morning. Three regiments were posted between General Milroy and General Schenck, and two others, with two mountain howitzers, were sent to the assistance of General Schurz. Scarcely were these troops in position when the contest began with renewed vigor and vehemence, the enemy attacking furiously along our whole line..."

Like his commander, General Sigel thought that, although the day brought tremendous casualties on both sides, the Union teetered on the brink of victory. He would state, "At 6.15 o'clock Brigadier-General King's division, of Major-General McDowell's corps, arrived behind our front, and advanced on the Gainesville turnpike. I do not know the real result of this movement, but from the weakness of the enemy's cannonade and the gradually decreasing musketry in the direction of General Kearny's attack I received the impression that the enemy's resistance was broken and that victory was on our side; and so it was. We had won the field of battle, and our army rested near the dead and wounded who had so gloriously defended the good cause of this country."

The victory he sought was not to be. He would end his official report by lamenting, "...Our losses during the two days' battle in killed, wounded, and missing, according to the official lists sent in, are 92 officers and 1,891 non-commissioned officers and privates.." [5]