Blackburn's Ford Skirmish

July 18th 1:30 -2:00


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The 12th New York advanced into the smoke and confusion of their first battle. Small pine trees and other clumps of bushes and trees broke their alignment at times. The officers and sargeants of the 12th could be heard telling the men to "straighten that line!" Ayres's exposed howitzers were still firing but now were running low on ammunition. Many of the limber team horses were down, exposed as they were to heavy and accurate enemy gunfire or stray rounds. Tyler was beginning to second guess his earlier decision to probe but not engage the enemy. The continuous roar of rifle fire in the woods below convinced him that the Rebels were there in force. He sent word to .Ayres's to have his 2 guns withdraw and was about to recall the 12th New York when Richardson informed him that they had already begun their advance.Tyler had no other option than to order the remaining regiments to prepare to move up in support.

The 12th New York climbed over the fence and advanced into the field of grain just north of the trees. Seeing gray clad soldiers to their front through the drifting smoke some of the men levelled their rifles to fire. Their officers told the to hold their fire, these were their comrades of the 1st Massachussetts. Longstreet observing this third Federal advance ordered up the remaining companies of the 1st Va. that had been held in reserve. Word had also been sent to Gen. Early's Brigade at McClean's Ford to come up in support.The guns of the Washington artillery, held in reserve at the McClean house about a mile distant from the ford, were also ordered forward by Beaureguard.

Correspondents, representing prominent newspapers in New York and Boston and Philadelphia were present to see "history in the making." Edward H. House of the Tribune was one of them. It was Mr. House that accompanied Colonel Elmer Ellsworth to the Marshall House to cut down the Rebel banner that was waving defiantly from the pole attached to the roof.

*For more detailed information of Blackburn's Ford consult David Detzer's book excellent book DONNEYBROOK and Bradley Gottfried's comprehensive study The Maps of First Bull Run (Manassas)

I am most grateful for their research in the completion of these illustrations.

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