Day After the Battle: The Sun Rises, but Shines Not

Monday, July 22, 1861

Through the deluge of rain, Confederate soldiers buried the Manassas dead on the battlefield where they had fallen. In the Confederate camps, a sense of normalcy quickly took over. They had been victorious, but, as General Johnston would later say, the Confederate army was “more disorganized by victory than that of the United States in defeat.”

General Jackson, soon to be widely known as “Stonewall Jackson” for his actions in the battle, thought the army should advance. There were stories of Jackson calling for cheers for President Davis, who had arrived at Manassas just as the battle was winding down, and asking for 10,000 men to take Washington, but they were probably exaggerations. 1

Though the air of normalcy took over the Rebel camps, Washington had anything but. Most of the Union army had made their way back to the camps and forts around the Potomac River by noon. General-in-Chielf Scott assumed, at first, that McDowell would rally his men at Centreville, but the retreat had turned into a route and, though it never came, the troops looked back over their shoulders in fear of a Confederate cavalry pursuit slashing into their rear.

Union General McDowell rode into Arlington, opposite the Potomac from Washington, and collapsed into a rocking chair, exhausted after a day and a half in the saddle. When he awoke, he ordered pickets and outposts established around Arlington and new regiments across the river from Washington.

As panic tore through the city, General Scott remained calm. Maybe in his old age, he was incapable of any other mood (he napped a lot), but maybe he realized that this was war and with war came rumors of every kind. Scott also called for the forts around Washington to be garrisoned.

McDowell was to select fifteen regiments and keep them on the Virginia side of the Potomac. This reduced his command from 45,000 to 15,000. His new army had no wagons, little artillery, only two companies of cavalry and was basically immobile. Most of McDowell’s recent command now fell under the jurisdiction of General Joseph Mansfield, in charge of all troops in the city.

President Lincoln, though gripped with depression, met with his Cabinet to discuss what went wrong. Blame quickly went to General Patterson’s blundering away from Johnston’s Confederate Army of the Shenandoah near Winchester. This allowed for Johnston to reinforce the Rebels at Manassas.2

Fortunately, Scott had already ordered Patterson’s early, yet overdue, retirement. As for McDowell, Scott was on top of that as well. The previous night found Scott ordering reinforcements to Washington. This included an order for General McClellan in western Virginia to bring as many men as he could to the Shenandoah Valley.3 McClellan, writing back on this date, said that he would have to fight through the Rebels at Monterey to get to Staunton in the Valley. With Beauregard’s and Johnston’s armies free of any threat from McDowell, they would be reinforced. He could not pull that off.

Rather, McClellan suggested that he reinforce his positions in western Virginia with a few regiments then take the B&O line to combine with Patterson’s command near Harpers Ferry. At first, Scott replied that McClellan should remain with his command, but as the morning wore on, Scott ordered him to Washington.

Circumstances make yonr presence here necessary. Charge Rosecrans or some other general with your present department and come hither without delay. 4

McClellan was a well known figure. Lincoln and his Cabinet were familiar with him and his successes in western Virginia that made him the War’s first hero. McDowell would not be outright fired, however. He would serve in some capacity under McClellan.5


Skirmish at Forsyth, Missouri

After two days of marching south from Springfield, Missouri, Captain Thomas Sweeney and his 1,200 Union soldiers reached Forsyth, believed to be the site of a depot and recruiting center for the pro-secessionist Missouri State Guard. They had arrived in the afternoon, but saw no secessionists to their front. By early evening, Sweeney sent out scouts, who stumbled upon a Missouri State Guard outpost manned by three soldiers. They were able to bring two of them before the Captain who questioned them on the number of enemy troops in Forsyth.

At first, they said that there were only 150 Rebels to their front. Acting on this information, Sweeney ordered a few companies of cavalry forward to clear the town. When the cavalry left camp, one of the prisoners warned Sweeney that the horsemen would “get badly whipped for we have a thousand men in Forsyth.”

He sent a messenger with a revised plan for the cavalry to only keep the enemy in check until the infantry arrived. Taking careful note of this, they avoided being seen by the Rebels thought to be positioned on the bluffs overlooking the town, by swinging wide around Forsyth. They picked up speed down the valley, hoping to surprise the Rebels, catching them unprepared. At a gallop, they moved through high cornfields and woods and finally, ready for battle, they gallantly charged into town, which was nearly abandoned.

Nearly, however, was not completely. A few Rebel soldiers fired into the cavalry, taking down a few horses and men, but soon retreated out of town. Half of the Union cavalry followed them while the other half, to the dismay of their commander, looted the town.

The Rebels reformed in the woods opposite the town, but a few heavy volleys from the cavalry sent them farther out. When the infantry and artillery arrived, a few shells were sent into the town (possibly due to a misunderstood order). The infantry advanced upon the Rebels now hiding out in the bluffs above Forsyth. A few artillery shells into the bluffs, however, sent the Rebels scrambling away. There were clearly only 150 or so in their party.

Sweeney ordered his men to take only what they needed from the town and to leave everything else alone. The order was disobeyed and the town was completely stripped.6

  1. Stonewall Jackson by Robertson. []
  2. The Army of the Potomac; Birth of Command by Beatie. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p749. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p752-753. []
  5. The Army of the Potomac; Birth of Command by Beatie. []
  6. Bloody Hill by Brooksher. []
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Day After the Battle: The Sun Rises, but Shines Not by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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3 thoughts on “Day After the Battle: The Sun Rises, but Shines Not

  1. the photo of dead soldiers on mathews hill is a ataged photo-see william frassanito 1978 book antietam-the photographic legacy of americas bloodiest day-or garry adelmans-manasas battlefields,then and now[2011]

  2. It sure is. There was quite a bit of that going on. I’m a big fan of both Gary and Frassanito. When I lived back in Pennsylvania, I’d catch Tim & Gary’s tours over the Gettysburg anniversaries. They rarely talked about the battle itself, usually hitting on stuff like staged photos, abandoned road alignments and myths of the battlefield. Great fun.

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