Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

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“That the rebel army should be advancing into the Northern states is something no one dreamed possible…” –Diary of Josiah Marshall Favill.

September 4, 2012

Diary of a Young Officer–Josiah Marshall Favill (57th New York Infantry)

UPON our return to the defenses of Washington we heard for the first time that General McClellan had been relieved from the command of the army of the Potomac, which was a great surprise to us, and caused much anxiety. There is no doubt the army feels very kindly toward the General, although our expectations have not been realized. Still, he created this army, and for that alone is entitled to every consideration. It seems the President has formed another army called the army of Virginia, which was in position along the line of the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers, extending from Frederickburg on the left, to Rapidan Station on the Orange, and Alexandria railroad on the right, and an officer unknown to us, General Pope, is in command. When the Army of the Potomac was ordered to withdraw from the Peninsula, Pope was directed to make a demonstration on Gordonsville to attract Lee’s attention. Consequently on the 9th of August, the day McClellan sent out his first reconnoissance toward Malvern Hill and Richmond, Banks, with his corps crossed the Rapidan and advanced towards the objective point, soon meeting the enemy, who proved to be in greater force than expected, and so after a stubborn engagement, was obliged to retire with considerable loss behind Cedar Run. From prisoners taken it was learnt that Jackson’s division was part of the opposing force. The rebel General Stuart’s adjutant was captured, and from papers in his possession it was discovered that both Jackson and Longstreet were in full force, and about to attack Pope’s army in hopes of a great success, before the army of the Potomac could be brought around to its assistance.

It is almost certain that Lee received information of our intended movement as soon as it was decided upon, certainly before it commenced, and was thus at liberty to move securely and swiftly, by an inner circle, with every prospect of successfully engaging Pope’s army. Pope, after learning of Jackson’s presence, contracted his lines by withdrawing from the Rapidan to the Rappahannock, and, watching the fords, intending to defend that river until the army of the Potomac, joined him, which was being sent forward with all possible speed.

On the 25th of August, the enemy made extensive preparations for crossing. It proved however, only a ruse to throw Pope off the track of his real movements. Jackson, with twenty-five thousand men marching in broad daylight, by way of Olean, Salem, and Thoroughfare Gap, placed himself on the morning of the 26th, in position at Bristoe Station, squarely in rear of the army of Virginia, and across its lines of communication, without opposition. At the same time, he sent a column to Manassas Junction, in rear of Bristoe Station, which captured the garrison and immense quantities of stores, setting fire to what he could not carry away.

On the evening of the 26th General Pope was informed that rail communication with the rear was interrupted, and immediately ordered Hooker’s division, just arrived from the army of the Potomac, to clear away the supposed cavalry raiders. When the division arrived it found the station held in force by infantry, and in the course of a sharp fight, in which the enemy was driven back, the true state of affairs was discovered and immediately telegraphed to General Pope, who promptly ordered up Porter’s corps and Kearney’s division, fresh from the army of the Potomac, to Hooker’s assistance, and directed the concentration of all the other troops at Gainsville during the night. Jackson, finding himself opposed by a large body of infantry, retired during the night to the north side of the Warington pike, and took up a strong position behind an old railway embankment, running from Sudley Springs to Gainsville.

Some delay was caused by lack of knowledge of Jackson’s exact whereabouts, but on the 28th his position, being defined was attacked with great vigor, without result however, and on the 29th the contest was renewed, but after great slaughter, Pope was obliged to retire, unable to drive Jackson out of his formidable position. On the 30th Longstreet, through the treacherous inactivity of Fitz John Porter, succeeded in joining his forces to those of Jackson, and falling upon Pope with his combined force, compelled the latter to retire across Bull Run to Centerville, where he was in position when Franklin and our corps (Sumner’s) arrived on the field.

The extraordinary conduct of Fitz John Porter in permitting Longstreet to pass in front of him to join in the action furiously going on on his right, everybody says, is the cause of the misfortune to our arms. Porter was in position in the rear of a small stream, Dawkins Run, for the express purpose of preventing the union of the rebel forces, and had been ordered to prevent Longstreet joining at all hazards. Instead of attacking Longstreet s right flank, which was entirely exposed, as he was directed to do, Porter remained absolutely inactive, not firing a shot, although fully acquainted with the desperate nature of the battle being fought so near to him. Porter is McClellan’s bosom friend, and it is said he failed to accomplish anything on account of his antipathy to Pope, and chagrin at McClellan’s dismissal. Such a state of things seems incredible, and it must be that there is some other cause for his lamentable failure. Lee’s army did not cross the Bull Run to continue the fighting, but moved in the direction of the upper Potomac, reports say, to cross the river and “carry the war into Africa,” in other words, to invade the States of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Our withdrawal to Washington, together with the entire Union army, of course, followed, and we are now to move on an inner circle through Maryland, in order to head off the rebel forces, which means another battle greater than any we have yet fought. As a choice of evils McClellan has been placed in command again, and is directing the present operations; the excitement North is tremendous. That the rebel army should be advancing into the Northern states is something no one dreamed possible and the people are quick to recognize the fact that war at home is quite a different affair to war at the other fellow’s home.

The militia are under arms hurrying to the defenses of Washington, and Baltimore, and everybody is on the tip toe of expectation for:

“Grim visaged war is at their very doors.”

Early on Wednesday morning, September 4th, our corps crossed the chain bridge, and marched direct to Tennallytown, a pretty village about six miles from Washington. We experienced for the first time the pleasure of marching through a country where the populace was friendly, which made us feel proud to belong to the gallant army that was hurrying to place itself across the path of the invader. Camp was pitched in a commanding position overlooking a lovely and picturesque country. Nearby were two forts garrisoned by new regiments, who took a lively interest in our veteran soldiers. As soon as the troops were in position, several of the officers rode into the village for a taste of civilization. We found almost the whole population in the street viewing with intense interest the sunburnt soldiers, on whom so much depends.

When our party rode up crowds of women and youngsters surrounded us, offering fruit, flowers and water, and gazed with admiration at our dress and accoutrements. We took kindly to the glory of finding ourselves the heroes of the hour, and reciprocated the crowd’s interest, parting with many of our buttons to the prettiest girls. Colonel Brooke is in command of the brigade. Zook being absent, I am sorry to say sick, and Parisen the lieutenant-colonel is in command of the regiment.

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