Second Manassas – Scott C. Patchan


Subtitled “Longstreet’s Attack and the Struggle for Chinn Ridge” this book gives a wonderful blow-by-blow recounting of Longstreet’s Corps assault on John Pope’s Army of Virginia at Second Manassas.

The map shows the situation about two-thirds of the way through. First Hood launched himself too quickly from the Groveton area towards Chinn Ridge, which lies in the lower center of the map, from the Chinn house northeastward to the Stone House crossroad. Only two small brigades were posted south of the road then – Warren’s, which was crushed by Hood at about the place Stephens brigade is on the map, and McLean’s, which repulsed Hood on Chinn Ridge and held it long enough for reinforcements to arrive.  The mostly unfordable Bull Run is off-map to the right, and the Warrenton Turnpike has a bridge across it.  If that intersection north of Chinn Ridge was held, or even contested with artillery, the retreat from the battle would have been virtually impossible for Pope’s Army.

But McLean, followed by Tower’s brigade held long enough for more help to arrive at Chinn and for a second line to be placed on Henry Hill ridge behind it, and for the forces north of the road to fall back unmolested.

This is an interesting action for be because my great-great-Grandfather was a member of Dilger’s battery, which is seen on this map on Dogan Ridge, where Law’s brigade has a big red arrow pointing at it.  The guns helped defend Chinn Ridge by attacking the forces in flank. and held Dogan Ridge to allow the north wing to retire.

The book gives a lot of very interesting detail on this confusing action, and also helps to deflect some, but not all of the criticism of Jackson’s lethargy in attacking north of the road.  That big red arrow is misleading – they mostly followed the retiring Federals meekly.  Patchan does explain that Jackson was ordered to protect the far wing of Longstreet’s troops – Wilcox’s men. But Hood jumped off so fast that Wilcox lost track of him and more or less stayed in place, possibly fooling Jackson.  Regardless, some more energy in Jackson’s admittedly tired troops could have held forces in place to be cut off by Longstreet, or at least to not oppose him.

As the map shows, as evening fell the troops on Chinn were overwhelmed, and then Longstreet’s men forced the Henry Hill line to retire as darkness fell.  Even with its faults, this was one of the most spectacular and successful mass assaults in the entire war.  And it gave Lee his most clear battlefield victory of the war.

For a full recounting of the campaign, John Hennessy’s Return to Bull Run is still the standard treatment, until you get to this point in the battle.  You don’t have to take my word on that – Hennessy says it himself in the foreword.

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One thought on “Second Manassas – Scott C. Patchan

  1. just started reading this, epic!!! my 2nd cousin Col. Fletcher Webster was killed here leading his 12th Mass. Infantry.. ironically another 2nd cousin, 18 year old Silas E. Chandler was also killed in the 26th NY, the regiment that immediately proceeded the 12th Mass. that tragic day.

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