order, by Colonel Porter's force of regulars. Once on the road, and the different corps coming together in small parties, many without officers, they became intermingled, and all organization was lost.
Orders had been sent back to Miles' division for a brigade to move forward and protect this retreat, and Colonel Blenker's brigade was detached for this purpose, and was ordered to go as far forward as the point where the road to the right left the main road.
By referring to the general order to will be seen that while the operations were to go on in front, an attack was to be made at Blackburn's Ford by the brigade (Richardson's) stationed there. A reference to his report, and to that of Major Hunt, commanding the artillery, will show that this part of the plan was well and effectively carried out.* It succeeded in deceiving the enemy for a considerable time and in keeping in check a part of his force. The fire of the artillery at this point is represented as particularly destructive.
At the time of our retreat, seeing great activity in this direction, much firing, and columns of dust, I became anxious for this place, fearing if it were turned or force the whole stream of our retreating mass would be captured or destroyed.
After providing for the protection of the retreat by Porter's and Blenker's brigades, I repaired to Richardson's, and found the whole force ordered to be stationed for the holding of the road from Manassas, by Blackburn's Ford, to Centreville. I immediately halted it, and ordered it to take up the best line of defense across the ridge that their then position admitted of; and subsequently, taking in person the command of this part of the Army, I cause such disposition of the forces, which had been added to by the First and Second New Jersey and the De Kalb Regiment,s ordered up from Runyon's reserve before going forward, as would best serve to check the enemy.
The ridge being held in this way, the retreating current passed slowly through Centreville to the rear. The enemy followed us from the ford as far as Cub Run, and, owing to the road becoming blocked up at the crossing, caused us much damage there, for the artillery could not pass, and several ;pieces and caissons had to be abandoned. Int he panic the horses hauling the caissons and ammunition were cut from their places by persons to escape with, and in this way much confusion was caused, the panic aggravated, and the road encumbered. not only were pieces of artillery lost, but also many of the ambulances carrying the wounded.
By sundown most of our men had gotten behind Centreville ridge, and it became a question whether we should or not endeavor to make a stand there. The condition of our artillery and its ammunition, and the want of food for the men, who had generally abandoned or thrown away all that had been issued the day before, ad the utter disorganization and consequent demoralization of the mass of the Army, seemed to all who were near enough to be consulted-division and brigade commanders and staff-to admit of no alternative but to fall back; the more so as the position at Blackburn's Ford was then in the possession of the enemy, and he was already turning our left.
On sending the officers of the staff to the different camps, they found, as they reported to me, that our decision had been anticipated by the troops, most of those who had come in from the front being already ont he road to the rear, the panic with which they came in still continuing and hurrying them along.
*See McDowell's report of August 12, 1861, p. 328.
21 R R-VOL II