Second Manassas

Last updated June 13th, 2007 by Jenny
Maxcy Gregg, hero at 2nd Manassas

Lee, in the meantime, had found Pope. Jackson's wing of the Army was posted so as to try and hold back Pope until James Longstreet, miles away, could arrive. Hill's men were posted near a railroad cut. Here, on August 29th, Hill's men staved off assault after assault by the Union troops. Maxcy Gregg's brigade of South Carolinians, which made up the flank, paid an incredibly high price in the form of casualties at the battle.When Gregg's men ran out of ammunition, the gallant South Carolinian sent word to Hill. "Tell General Hill my ammunition is exhausted, but that I will hold my position with the bayonet." Hill responded "He is the man for me!"

Gregg, a former fire-eater and strong advocate of secession, walked behind his men, lopping daises with his famous antique scimitar from the Revolutionary War, exhorting his soldiers with "let us die here, my men, let us die here!" Many of his Gamecock brigade did die there.

As the sun was starting to set, Hill sent back word to Jackson that he would try to hold the Federals back as best he could, though he was hard pressed and his Division was bloodied. Jackson told Hill through a courier that he "must beat them!" Jackson was concerned enough to follow Douglas, his courier, and to speak to Hill himself. Jackson told Hill, "General, your men have done nobly. If you are attacked again, you will beat the enemy back." Before the words had even left his mouth completely, the sound of fire came from Hill's front. "Here it comes!" Hill shouted and galloped off to meet the threat. Jackson shouted after him,"I'll expect you to beat them!"

One-armed, dashing Mexican War hero Phil Kearny led his crack Federals against the Light Division and gave Hill's men a hot time. Nearby desperate Louisiana troops even threw rocks at the Union soldiers when they ran out of bullets. The fighting was extremely fierce and brutal, but Hill's men managed to hang on and turn the tide. Hill sent word to Jackson of the victory. "General Hill presents his compliments and says the attack of the enemy was repulsed." A rare smile crept onto Jackson's face as he sent back word: "Tell him I knew he would do it!" The next day, Hill's men, though exhausted by trying to hold off repeated Union assaults, also helped to launch a brilliant counterattack spearheaded by James Longstreet's men that sealed a great victory for the Southern Army.

The Battle of Second Manassas

A description of the battle:

In order to draw Pope’s army into battle, Jackson ordered an attack on a Federal column that was passing across his front on the Warrenton Turnpike on August 28. The fighting at Brawner Farm lasted several hours and resulted in a stalemate. Pope became convinced that he had trapped Jackson and concentrated the bulk of his army against him. On August 29, Pope launched a series of assaults against Jackson’s position along an unfinished railroad grade. The attacks were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. At noon, James Longstreet arrived on the field from Thoroughfare Gap and took position on Jackson’s right flank. On August 30, Pope renewed his attacks, seemingly unaware that James Longstreet was on the field. When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by Fitz John Porter’s command, Longstreet’s wing of 28,000 men counterattacked in the largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war. The Union left flank was crushed and the army driven back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rearguard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster. Pope’s retreat to Centreville was precipitous, nonetheless. The next day, Lee ordered his army in pursuit. This was the decisive battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign.

On site resources for Second Manassas include the battle reports of Hill's Light Division, an account of Gregg's Brigade at Second Manassas written by Lieutenant Colonel Edward McCrady in 1884 (officer in the 12th South Carolina Infantry), and an account by Robert Mayo, an officer in Field's Brigade, 47th Virginia Infantry.

One-armed, dashing Mexican War hero Phil Kearny led his crack Federals against the Light Division and gave Hill's men a hot time. Nearby desperate Louisiana troops even threw rocks at the Union soldiers when they ran out of bullets. The fighting was extremely fierce and brutal, but Hill's men managed to hang on and turn the tide. Hill sent word to Jackson of the victory. "General Hill presents his compliments and says the attack of the enemy was repulsed." A rare smile crept onto Jackson's face as he sent back word: "Tell him I knew he would do it!" The next day, Hill's men, though exhausted by trying to hold off repeated Union assaults, also helped to launch a brilliant counterattack spearheaded by James Longstreet's men that sealed a great victory for the Southern Army.

Hill and Jackson may not have been good together when marching, but when it came time to get down to work, they could be spectacular together.

Manassas was the first time Hill commanded his division during a major defensive battle. His judgment proved clear during the heat of battle. His division suffered high casualties simply because it took the most fighting and not through any fault of his. Hill's coordination moving units between threatened sectors was superb. The only mar on his performance was a small gap between the brigades left in the lines when the division deployed.

The Rebels had solidly whipped the Army of Virginia and it fell back in disarray towards the safety of Washington DC. As the Confederates pursued their beaten foes, Hill's men were again engaged, this time in a rear guard fight at Ox Hill (Chantilly). Their opponents were again Kearny's men. The battle at Ox Hill had a surreal feel to it as it was fought in a thunderstorm with bright lightning. In the midst of trying to repulse the Rebel attacks, the Union General Philip Kearny, who was fond of saying "I can make men follow me to hell," and who had mockingly nicknamed McClellan the "Virginia Creeper," was shot in the back when he tried to escape capture. The Union army lost one of its better commanders in Kearny. Upon seeing his lifeless body, Hill -- who was never one to mock an honorable or hard-fighting enemy -- remarked "Poor Kearny. He deserved a better death than that."

After Ox Hill, the Second Manassas Campaign ended. The "miscreant," John Pope, was sent back west to deal with an uprising of Sioux Indians in Minnesota -- far away from Robert E. Lee and his wiley Army of Northern Virginia. Much to the delight of the men in the Army of the Potomac, their beloved General McClellan -- Hill's old friend -- was placed back in command of the Eastern theater.

Having won a spectacular victory at Second Manassas, Lee was now reluctant to again yield the initiative. This led Lee to make the costly decision to attempt and take the War into northern territory -- Lee was going to invade Maryland.

A.P. Hill was about to earn eternal glory. But first, he would get into more trouble with Jackson and even end up under arrest again.

Home >> Narrative >> Second Manassas | Related: Sharpsburg