Railroad Parking Lot
Retrace your route 50 yards west to the intersection of Route 29 and CR 622. Turn right (north) on CR 622. Proceed .6 mile to a small parking area on your left. Pause and look to the west across the swath cut through the woods by the Park Service. Your view is across a small valley to a rise on which may be seen a brown sandstone monument. This was one of two erected in the battle area in the winter of 1865 by General William Gamble's U.S. Cavalry Brigade. Its inscription reads: "In memory of the patriots who fell at Groveton August 28, 29, 30, 1862." Its mate may be found on Henry Hill near the visitors' center. The white marker visible on the valley floor was originally erected by a Private Albee, a soldier from Wisconsin Company G, 1st Regiment, Berdan's Sharpshooters. Both markers will be visited walking from the next stop.
Continue northward .5 mile to a parking lot on the right side of the road. This part of the tour will entail a walk of about .75 mile in a loop along part of the old railroad bed. The railroad was begun in the 1850s in an effort to link Alexandria directly with the Manassas Gap Railroad at Gainesville, thence to western markets. The project was a failure and although the well-made cuts and fills were completed, no track was ever laid on it and it has never been used for its intended purpose.
Again, on 28 August between 1200 and 2400, this area was occupied by Col. Bradley T. Johnson's Brigade of Lawton's Division after its midday skirmish with Reynolds' Division. The position also marks the approximate center of Jackson's Corps line.
Five separate Federal attacks occurred on this spot or within 800 yards to the north or south:
0500-1200—Schurz (Krzyzanowski) north of you.
1000-1200—Milroy's attack, in this vicinity.
1530—Hooker (Grover), north of you.
1600—Reno (Nagle) in this vicinity.
1700—Keamy (Robinson/Bimey) north of you.
Walk from the parking lot south across the road to the sign describing the railroad.
On 29 August between 0530 and 1200, Krzyzanowski's Brigade of Schurz's Division reached the railroad about 800 yards north of here. He had lost touch with Milroy to his south and Schimmelfennig to his north. When he thinned his lines to regain contact, a Confederate counterattack from Gregg's Brigade thrust him back. He rallied his troops and regained a line on the railroad. The position as seen from the Confederate side is described by one of Gregg's men:
Our position upon this hill or rocky knoll was slightly in advance of Jackson's general line; here the ground rising to some extent, the grade of the railroad bed, in our immediate front, rendered the depth of the cut about six feet, but sloping away to our right and left, reduced it to one or two feet on our flanks, while further on our right in front of Thomas' Brigade, it rose to an embankment. The ground upon our side of the road-bed was almost entirely bare, while on the other side it was covered by a thick growth of brush. On our right, too, this growth extended to [within] about fifty yards of our flank, while on our left, at the same distance, was a field enclosed by a worm fence. The portion of this field nearest our position was cleared
and open, but on one side of the field, furthest from us, there was a stand of corn closely covering it. This position was important, not only because it was our extreme left, but because of the Sudley Road, which it commanded. (Edward McCrady "Gregg's Bde in the 2d Manassas")
Krzyzanowski's Brigade remained in line until it was relieved at 1400 by Kearny's Division. Earlier, about noon, Schimmelfennig's Brigade had come west of the Sudley-Manassas Road and seized part of the railroad north of Krzyzanowski.
Walk about 150 yards south along the railroad embankment until you encounter a trail forking to your left. Take this left fork about 20 yards to the Park Service marker showing a terrain photograph.
On the twenty-ninth between 1000 and 1200, when Milroy heard the fighting to his north (Krzyzanowski and Gregg), he eventually moved toward it and attacked Trimble's Brigade, Lawton's Division, just south of where the Groveton-Sudley Road crosses the unfinished railroad. Milroy reported,
the two regiments sent to Schurz were soon hotly engaged, the enemy being behind a railroad embankment, which afforded them an excellent breast work. The railroad had to be approached from the cleared ground on our side through a strip of thick timber from 100 to 500 yards in width. . . . I observed that my two regiments engaged were being driven back out of the woods by the terrible fire of the rebels.
I then saw the brave Colonels Cantwell and Zeigler struggling to rally their broken regiments on the rear of the forest out of which they had been driven, and sent two of my aides to assist them and assure them of immediate support. They soon rallied their men and charged again and again up to the railroad, but were driven back each time with great loss. I then sent the Second Virginia to their support, directing it to approach the railroad at the point on the left of my other regiments, where the woods ended, but they were met by such a destructive fire from a large rebel force that they were soon thrown into confusion and fell back in disorder. The enemy now came on in overwhelming numbers. General Carl Schurz had been obliged to retire with his two brigades an hour before, and then the whole rebel force was turned against my brigade, and my brave ]ads were dashed back before the storm of bullets like chaff before the tempest. I then ordered my reserve battery into position a short distance in the rear, and when five guns had got into position one of the wheel horses was shot dead, but I ordered it to unlimber where they were, and the six guns mowed the rebels with grape and canister with fine effect. My reserve regiment, the Third Virginia, now opened with telling effect. Colonel Cantwell, of the Eighty-second Ohio, was shot through the brain and instantly killed while trying to rally his regiment during the thickest of the fight.
While the storm was raging the fiercest General Stahel came to me and reported that he had been sent by General Schenck to support me, and inquired where he should place his brigade. I told him on my left, and help support my battery. He then returned to his brigade, and soon after being attacked from another quarter I did not again see him during the day. I was then left wholly unsupported, except by a portion of a Pennsylvania regiment, which I found on the field, and stood by me bravely during the next hour or two. I then rallied my reserve regiment and broken fragments in the woods near my battery and sent out a strong party of skirmishers to keep the enemy at bay while another party went forward without arms to get off as many of our dead and wounded as possible. I maintained my ground, skirmishing, and occasionally firing by battalion, during the greater part of the afternoon.
Grover's Brigade of Kearny's Division came on the field and supported Milroy about 1100.
At 1200 a gap between Milroy and Krzyzanowski was filled by Carr's New Jersey Brigade of Hooker's Division.
. . . was ordered into the wood . . . I sent in the 6th and 7th N.J. Vols. Afterwards received orders to take the balance of the brigade into the woods, which I did at about 2 P.M. Here I at once engaged the enemy ... holding my position until our ammunition was all expended. About 4 o'clock we were relieved by Gen Reno, but did not reach the skirt of the woods before a retreat was made and the woods occupied by the enemy.
(Carr occupied the area from trail fork to north of the parking lot.)
Walk a farther 100 yards down this trail to a point where it forks to the right. Step down the right fork and pause.
At 1600 Nagle of Reno's Division relieved Carr and was immediately attacked by Douglas' Brigade of Lawton's Division.
I gave the order to advance. The line had advanced but a few steps when the left was struck with such violence by a regiment (which continued the line to the left) which had broken that the [71st New York], which was on the left of the brigade line, was almost carried away with it. I hastily rode to this part of the line ... and endeavored to stay this disgraceful retreat, but it was in vain; the tide could not be stemmed. On they rushed over and through my line perfectly panic stricken, breaking and carrying away with them the left of my line. The enemy seeing this charged after them. I then endeavored to throw back my line to give the enemy a flank fire. This I found . . . impracticable, the wood being too dense to execute the movement. By this time the enemy had availed themselves of the large interval opened on my left and poured through in large numbers, and had got 50 or 60 paces in my rear, giving my line an enfilading and reverse fire. They, however, soon ceased firing, as they were so mixed up as to endanger their own men; they then commenced taking prisoners. Finding my line completely flanked and turned, and in danger of being entirely cut off, I gave the order to fall back, which was done in as good order as could be, situated as we were. After extricating the brigade from its entanglement, I reformed the line and immediately sent forward skirmishers upon the line we had occupied, and followed them myself.
Also at 1600 Nagle counterattacked and Milroy tried to support. The 26th New Hampshire moved south of the parking lot, the 48th Pennsylvania across it with the 2d Maryland to its north just inside the present woods. The experience of the 48th Pennsylvania was typical.
The regiment advanced firing for about a quarter of a mile, when Lt. Col. Sigfried halted it, commanded "cease firing," ordered an advance with bayonets, which were fixed ... the enemy being driven out of 2 ditches, one of them being an old railroad cut. ... Receiving a volley of musketry from the rear, and supposing that some union troops were firing by mistake ... the more frequently the colors were raised and spread out to the supposed friends in the rear, the more rapid the musket firing therefrom. (O.C. Bosbyshell, The 48th in the War)
The attacking Confederates were troops from Johnson's and Stafford's brigades of Starke's Division. They attacked through Milroy into Nagle's rear. Hampton's Battery F, Pennsylvania Light Artillery tried to delay the attack. Sergeant J. G. Beatty, commanding the left gun of the left section, recounted,
our section was ordered to [Milroy's] support, and one section, the left (Lieut. Irish's), passed through a strip of woods and up to Gen. Milroy's line, and as we were moving by the left, my piece was in the lead, Gen. Milroy pointed out the spot where I should place my gun. I obeyed the order and commenced firing canister at three lines of rebels just beyond the Railroad Cut, and after each shot, in looking under the rising smoke, I observed that the rebels were running toward us and disappearing, and I so reported to Lieut. Irish, who, with Gen. Milroy, was close on my left. We had fired six shots, and were loading the seventh when General Milroy and Lieut. Irish, having rode far enough in advance to see into the Railroad Cut, and at this moment the rebel yell was raised and Law's [Johnson's and Stafford's] rebel brigade charged our ... section (the only two pieces that crossed the strip of woods). Just then Gen. Milroy passed close in front of my gun and gave the order to fall back, while at the same time, I had taken the precaution to reverse my limber, and the gun in recoiling passed the trail under the limber, and the handspike striking a small stump could not, for the moment, be disengaged, and the rebels being upon us I gave the order "Drive on," and all started to fall back to the other section of our battery on the other side of the wood.
At this moment Corp'l Hess, of my piece, jumped on the limber-chest with his face to the rear, and in going to my horse I passed close to him, looked in his face, and in the next instant he was shot in the forehead. ... Before the limber moved the dead body of Henry Hess dropped off the chest. The rebels then came forward and took my gun, at the trail of which lay the body of Corp'l Hess. (J. G. Beatty, "Second Bull Run")
In the official records Bradley T. Johnson said of this attack:
In the afternoon the enemy carried the embankment to my left, and while I was trying to rally some men not of my command [the enemy] came close on me and between my command and the railroad cut. The men were lying down at the time in ranks, concealed, and unexpected. I ordered a charge, and with a yell the Second Brigade went through them, shattering, breaking, and routing them. The struggle was brief, but not a man faltered, and with closed ranks their rush was irresistable. They drove the enemy into the railroad cut and out of it.
Johnson and Stafford rampaged through Milroy's troops, forcing him and Nagle to retire.
Continue another 100 yards down the trail until you reach a small stream, sometimes bridged by the Park Service; pause.
On 30 August at 1600 Porter attacked, Butterfield's Division on the left, Hatch's on the right, Sykes' in support. Heintzelman's and Reno's Corps conformed farther north. Patrick's Brigade of Hatch's Division was in this area. Patrick described the attack:
The 21st and 35th N.Y moved steadily forward ... until the whole had reached the further edge of the wood, the left (35th) having on its front a strong body of the enemy in a cornfield and behind a railroad bank, after temporary confusion ... the 21st crossed the fence ... where it sustained a most galling crossfire, which was returned, and the regiment moved forward to the ditch about midway between the fence and the RR embankment. (Marsena Patrick, Journal)
The 15th Alabama of Trimble's Brigade, Lawton's Division, defended this area. William A. McClendon described the attack from his view.
"Look out boys, they are coming, lots of 'em." They just simply jammed up against the embankment. ... They were so thick that it was impossible to miss them. Cicero Kirkland of my company.... mounted on top of our breastwork and poured buck and ball into them as fast as some of the Boys could load and hand him a musket.
Walk a farther 100 yards until the trail emerges into the open at the base of the incline midway in the swath leading to the monument viewed earlier from the road. Private Albee's simple marker is about 40 yards to your left front (south). Pause.
Robert's Brigade of Butterfield's Division attacked up what is now the open swath. Week's Brigade was just on its western edge. Major William Grower of the 17th New York reported,
we crossed the road, the men scrambling over the fence on the other side, and moved forward steadily in quick time. No sooner had we appeared in plain view of the enemy than he opened a tremendous fire of artillery and musketry on our advancing line ... steadily closing the huge gaps made in the ranks. . . . I now gave the word "double quick, charge" and with a mad yell the gallant fellows rushed up the hill to what was almost certain death.
We now reached a sort of plateau, a battery on the summit of the hill playing upon us, while another in the right opened with ... canister, completely enfilading our lines....
Anthony Graves, a member of the 44th New York, recalled,
their fire ... made sad havoc in our ranks; the rain of shot and shell ... was something terrible. About midway across this open field was a dry brook into which many of our men fell for shelter.
Walk the approximate 200 yards up the incline to the south side of the monument. Look back over the open space traversed by the Federals. You are .8 mile from Battery Heights and would have been in full view of S. D. Lee's gunners on Douglas Heights in 1862.
Bradley T. Johnson's Brigade defended in this area. He reported,
about 4 p.m. the movements of the enemy were suddenly developed in brigade manner. They stormed my position, deploying in the woods in brigade, up the hill on the thicket held by the Forty-eighth and the railroad cut occupied by the Forty-second; but as they uncovered from the wood in which they had been massing during the whole day I ordered the Twenty-first and Irish Battalion to charge, which they did with empty guns. I halted them under the shelter of the cut, where, with the Forty-second, they held back the enormous force pressing up the hill on them. Lieutenant Dabney had unfortunately been wounded early in the day, and Captain Goldborough, whom I had ordered to take command, had fallen by my side in the charge, leaving the Forty-eighth without a superior officer with them, and they consequently were soon driven out by the tremendous odds against them; but for a short time the three regiments above named, viz, the Forty-second, Twenty-first, and Irish Battalion, by themselves breasted the storm, driving back certainly twenty times their numbers. As soon as their position was known the rest of the division came to their support, except the Third Brigade, which under Colonel Taliaferro, was employed in whipping a division by itself. Before the railroad cut the fight was most obstinate. I saw a Federal flag hold its position for half an hour within 10 yards of a flag of one of the regiments in the cut and go down six or eight times, and after the fight 100 dead were lying 20 yards from the cut, some of them within 2 feet of it. The men fought until their ammunition was exhausted and then threw stones. Lieut. Lewis Randolph, of the battalion, killed one with a stone, and I saw him after the fight with his skull fractured. Dr. Richard R Johnson, on my volunteer staff, having no arms of any kind, was obliged to have recourse to this means of offense from the beginning. As line after line surged up the hill time after time, led up by their officers, they were dashed back on one another until the whole field was covered with a confused mass of struggling, running, routed Yankees. They failed to take the cut. The battle of the left wing of the army was over, and the whole of Jackson's corps advanced about a mile, its right on the Warrenton road toward the stone bridge, facing Bull Run. I was not further engaged that day.
After examining the monument and the railroad cut, proceed north back along the railroad embankment until you reach the Park Service painting showing the Confederate defense. Pause.
Stafford's Brigade on Johnson's north also began to run low on ammunition. He reported,
the men procured some from the dead bodies of their comrades, but the supply was not sufficient, and in the absence of ammunition the men fought with rocks.
They were relieved by Brockenbrough's Brigade before the situation became critical. Porter's assault was repulsed all along the line by about 1600 and Longstreet then began his devastating counterattack.
Continue along the embankment across the Deep Cut marked by the Park Service back to CR 622. Pause.
At 1530 on the twenty-ninth Hooker committed Grover's Brigade about 800 yards north of the parking lot as part of what was supposed to have been a coordinated attack with Kearny's Division. Milroy recalled,
toward evening General Grover came up with his New England brigade. I saw him forming a line to attack the rebel stronghold in the same place I had been all day, and advised him to form line more to the left, and charge bayonets on arriving at the railroad track, which his brigade executed with such telling effect as to drive the rebels in clouds before their bayonets.
The attack began with a staff officer approaching Grover,
"What does the general want me to do now?" General Grover asked.
"Go into the woods and charge," was the answer.
"Where is my support?" the commander inquired.
"It is coming."
After waiting fifteen minutes for this body to appear, the officer returned and said that General Hooker was much displeased because the charge had not been made.
"Colonel, do you know what we are going to charge on?"
A private inquired of the colonel.
"Yes: a good dinner." (Henry N. Blake)
A soldier from the 2d New Hampshire described the attack,
Colonel [Gilman] Marston came forward and gave the order to "fix bayonets!" Grover rode the length of the line, telling the men they were to fire one volley, then rely upon the bayonet. . . . Slowly and steadily the line went forward. No sound was heard but the crashing of the brush, with an occasional muttered order, such as "Give way to the right," or "Give way to the left." The left of the line approached an open field, and a halt was ordered while Grover went forward to reconnoiter the front.... Many of Milroy's dead and wounded were scattered about; it was also evident that a few of his effectives were lying low, watching the enemy, near the edge of the open in front of the 2d. Some of these arose and passed to the rear as Grover's line came up.
At any rate, after spying out the land to the front, Grover moved the brigade a considerable distance by the right flank before closing with the enemy. ... Hardly had the advance been resumed when there was a crash of Rebel musketry, an answering roar of Yankee cheers, and almost instantly the 2d was pouring over the railroad embankment. The dash was evidently a suprise to the Rebels, as most of them, having delivered their fire, were closely hugging the ground under cover of the bank. They were expecting a return volley, apparently, but had not anticipated looking into the muzzles of the guns that delivered it. Those that made a fight were instantly shot or bayoneted, and in less time than it has taken to write it the first Rebel line was disposed of. Some threw up their hands and cried for mercy; some, doubtless, "played possum," lying as if dead and making no sign; while others, as soon as they could realize what had happened, made a break for the rear, closely followed by the men of the 2d, now wild with rage of battle. There was a desperate dash for a stand of Rebel colors, but they were saved by the fleetness of their bearer and the devoted bravery of the color guard.
The fragments of the first line were driven in upon a second, a few rods beyond the railroad, and here occured the most desperate fighting of the day-a hand-to-hand melee with bayonets and clubbed muskets. The second Rebel line was routed and scattered to the rear.
The Confederate reaction was equally violent. Pender's Brigade was rushed to support Thomas' crumbling line.
My men moved forward very gallantly, driving the enemy back across the railroad cut, through the woods on the opposite side. ... My line was halted on the edge of the field in front of the enemy where I remained some little while. . . . My men advanced well receiving grape from their batteries; but support waited for in vain.... I withdrew, and marched back to the railroad cut.
Cross CR 622 and walk about 100 yards north of the parking lot along the railroad bed. Pause.
Meanwhile, at 1700, Kearny's Division had taken over the line to the north from Schurz's Division (c. 1400). At 1700, finally after four hours' preparation, he sent Robinson's and Birney's Brigades into the attack. The assault pushed the Confederates over the railroad and west of the Sudley-Groveton Road. Colonel Nelson A. Gesner of the 101st N.Y. described the action.
We were then ordered to march forward and attack the enemy. We moved forward by the flank into the woods, and upon arriving near the enemy formed line of battle-the Fortieth New York and One hundred and first being together, the Fortieth being on our right. We then advanced and soon the enemy opened a heavy fire of musketry on us. The line then halted and commenced firing. After a few minutes the order was given, "Forward," and the regiment went on in splendid order, through a heavy fire, at a double-quick. The enemy could not stand the charge, but broke and fled (a few now and then turning to fire). After falling back some distance they came to a deep cut. Here they attempted to rally, and partially succeeded. We arrived too soon, however, and they again broke and fled. We continued to drive them before us, stopping now and then to fire a volley into them, until we had driven them clean out of the woods into the clear space beyond. Here we received a heavy cross-fire from the left at a distance of about 200 paces. I here turned, and found that my regiment in the charge had got somewhat scattered, and ordered a halt in order to reform. After remaining here half an hour, and continuing to fire upon and receive the fire of the enemy, I found that their fire was increasing and working more to our rear. Not seeing any support on our left, and finding that combined strength of the Fortieth and One hundred and first would not amount to over 250 men, I deemed it prudent to retire, and accordingly the command was given, and we fell back in good order at quick-time. We halted in the center of the woods and took shelter behind a sort of rifle pit, built of fence rails, until we were ordered by General Birney to fall back and camp.
A. P. Hill's hard-pressed brigades were reinforced by Early's and Forno's Brigades from Lawton's Division, which counterattacked from the southwest, flanking Kearny's units. Early stated,
my brigade ... advanced upon the enemy through a field and drove him from the woods and out of the railroad cut, crossing the latter and following in pursuit several hundred yards beyond ... it was not desirable that I go beyond the railroad and as soon as I could arrest the advance of my brigade I moved it back to the railroad and occupied it. This was the last attempt made by the enemy on the afternoon of . . . the 29th.
Return to your vehicle and go on to the next point of interest.