The Eyewitness Account of W. W. Blackford

W. W. Blackford, a lieutenant colonel in the Southern army, in his bookWar Years With Jeb Stuart gave a stirring account of what happened at Manassas in the battle of July 21, 1861:

It was now about four o'clock and the battle raged with unabated fury. The lines of blue were unbroken and their fire vigorous as ever while they surged against the solid walls of gray, standing immovable in their front. It was on that ridge earlier in the day that Jackson won the name of Stonewall.

But now the most extraordinary spectacle I have ever witnessed took place. I had been gazing at the numerous well-formed lines as they moved forward to the attack, some fifteen or twenty thousand strong in full view, and for some reason had turned my head in another direction for a moment, when someone exclaimed, pointing to the battlefield, "Look! Look!"

I looked, and what a change had taken place in an instant. Where those well-dressed, well-defined lines, with clear spaces between, had been steadily pressing forward, the whole field was a confused swarm of men, like bees, running away as fast as their legs could carry them, with all order and organization abandoned. In a moment more the whole valley was filled with them as far as the eye could reach.

They plunged through Bull Run wherever they came to it, regardless of fords or bridges, and there many were drowned. Muskets, cartridge boxes, belts, knapsacks, haversacks, and blankets were thrown away in their mad race, that nothing might impede their flight. In the reckless haste, the artillery drove over everyone who did not get out of their way. Ambulance and wagon drivers cut the traces and dashed off on the mules. In [their] crossing Cub Run, a shell exploded in a team and blocked the way and twenty-eight pieces of artillery fell into our hands (pp. 34, 35 [see also DF 956]).

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