30 August 1862: “We hear of battles, and read descriptions of them; but it is only when on the field, and a spectator of the scene, that one can realize half their grandeur, or their horrors.”

Item description: Entry, dated 30 August 1862, from the diary of William Penn Lloyd (1837-1911) of Lisbon, Pa., 1st Lieutenant, A.A.G., First Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Calvary during the Civil War.

In this entry, a continuation of his 29 August entry, Lloyd reports on his involvement in the Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Battle of Manassas), fought in Prince William County, Va., 28-30 August 1862.

Item citation: From the William Penn Lloyd Diary and Notebooks, #3130Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Saturday 30th

Second Battle of Bull Run

It soon become evident by the movements of the enemy that they intend renewing the battle of yesterday, and as Thoroughfare Gap is no longer held by our troops, Jackson has no doubt been heavy reinforced  by Longstreet – We [find?] that the enemy had shifted his position further up the pike toward Manassas,^ and our line was accordingly formed to meet theirs.

The Corps de’ Armee of Fitz John Porter formed our Right – the center was held by Sigel, and the left by McDowell, and occupied the same ground that our Right had in the last years fight – Shortly after sunrise a cannon, from the extreme right, announced the opening of the battle, and in a few minutes the cannonading became General along this whole wing, and as the morning advanced the action gradually extended along our line, and by noon nearly all the artillery on our Right and Center had become engaged. The infantry too which till the present had remained inactive, now advanced to the attack; and the enemy’s lines soon began to waver and give ground before our steady and withering fire.

Everything appeared favorable to us ^ at that juncture and our troops with shouts and cheers moved forward, expecting soon to win the day, ^ but the fate of the battle, which now hung trembling in the balance was shortly to turn and all our hopes ^to be dashed to the earth – At 2 o’clock pm ^ the left wing, which had not yet mingled in the fight, was suddenly attacked – and in a short time the whole weight of the battle appeared to have shifted to this point. The fighting which up to the present had been comparatively moderate, now assumed the fiercest character. The incessant roar of musketry and the deep toned thunder of cannon as regiment after regiment came up, and battery after battery opened, mingled with the bursting of shells, the ominous and unearthly shriek of the rifled cannon shot, and the whistling of bullets, which appeared to thicken the air, showed that the action up till now was but a prelude to what was comming. Hotter and hotter, became the fire of the artillery, and closer drew the contending lines, till the space, [interweaving?] between the two armies, was filled with the struggling hosts. Wild and chaotic, indeed, was the scene, the field now presented, full forty-thousand men armed with the most improved implements of destruction, struggling in mortal combat. Dense clouds of [dust?] mingled with the smoke of battle, which rolled up in massive columns, soon hid the field from view, and it was only by the sound of the conflict or when, for a moment, the cloud which hung over the field, would shift and reveal the work of death, that you could discern when the battle raged the fiercest.

We hear of battles, and read descriptions of them; but it is only when on the field, and a spectator of the scene, that one can realize half their grandeur, or their horrors.

For more than two hours, the battle continued thus to rage, when the enemy having, [unperceived?] or [unheeded?] by our Genls., thrown a heavy body around on our left, suddenly poured a cloud of troops down on our flank and rear; and our exhausted columns, unable to withstand the torrent that came rolling against them, broke, and fell back in confusion. Here was the Great and fatal error of the day. From the time our left was attacked, till our flank was turned, Genl. Pope was repeatedly advised of the probability of the enemy attempting this movement; but deaf to all advice and entreats, he not only neglected to make the necessary disposition of his forces, to meet such a contingency; but continued with drawing troops from the extreme left, and marching them to the center and right, and even so for forgot the duties of a general, as to neglect having videtts out on the left to warn him of the approach of the enemy.

The consequence was that Jackson, while engaging our attention on the right and center, was massing the main body of his forces on our left, when our line was the weakest & suddenly opening his artillery from every hill at close ranges, and his dense columns of Infantry came sweeping like an avalanch down on our unprotected flank and rear. The whole left wing almost simultaneously gave way before the surging masses that were hurled against them. This was a terrible moment to the union soldier, who having fought all day had, when the palm of victory was within his reach, to be deprived of his hard earned laurels by the inefficiency of his Generals, and driven by an insulting [foe?], from the field. Our army went into this battle with high hope of success, for in point of numbers, position of ground, and everything else we fully equaled the enemy, but, alas! we had no General in chief competent to direct the movements of our army.

When Pope first came to our department, I expected much from him, bringing with him the reputation he did from the west, but alas! for both our cause and himself, his western laurels have been turned to eastern willows.

But to return to the battle scene, Before the spectator rushes a panic stricken crowd, composed of the men who had so nobly stood, and faced the battle, and gallantly fought through the long and wearysome hours of this bloody day, now dispirited, and disheartened, for the nearest private could discern the fatal error of our general, flying in indiscriminate confusion before the enemy. The horrors of last years Bull Run loomed up before our eyes, and soon all its miseries would have burst upon us, in ten fold fury, but for the timely arrival of Fitz John Parker, with his regulars, the Penn. Reserve Corps, and several Batteries of Artillery. The regulars advanced in scattered columns, to prevent the enemies’ artillery from cutting them up, till they came close to their advancing lines, when quickly massing into close column, they threw up their caps in defiance, before the enemy and rending the air with shouts, that rose far above the cannon roar, or the din of battle, rushed forward to the charge. It was a beautiful spectacle to see those long, regular black lines of brave men, coming forward from the tossing sea of confusion in the rear and throwing their solid Phalanx between the foe and our retreating army. The enemy’s columns came surging along like angry ocean billows, but the regulars met them unmoved and presented a grim battle front, firm as a wall of adamant, against which they poured their streaming hosts, only to be dashed back in confusion and dismay. By this time too, some of an artillery had got into position again and had commenced pouring a murderous fire of grape and canister into the rebels. Unable to break the lines of our regulars, and rapidly melting away before the [galling?] fire of our artillery the enemy’s columns sloly and sullenly like a lion deprived of his prey, fell back.

It being now too late to attempt to rally the left wing [return?] the lost fortunes of the day, the army slowly withdrew across Bull Run and before morning were resting on the heights around Centerville.

This ended the Second Battle of Bull Run, which unlike the first was not lost for the want of men, for we had as brave and efficient troops as ever were martialed on the field of battle and nobly did they do their duty too, and plenty of them, but for want of a General. Never was a man more completely out-generalled than Pope was today, and everywhere as I rode back through our retreating columns I could hear curses and execration heaped upon him and McDowell, by both officers and men.

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