Blackburn's Ford Skirmish

July 18th 12:30 -1:30


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The Gray-clothed men of the 3 companies of the 1st Massachusetts entered the wood s and exchanged rounds with Longstreets men in a tactical stalemate for about an hour.Some of the men even reached the far side of the tree line and fired down upon the rebels below. Others bumped around amongst the trees enshrouded in the clouds of smoke billowing from the discharge of muskets. Col. Richardson asked Gen. Tylers if he wanted the rest of the brigade brought up. Captain James B. Fry of McDowell's personal staff cautioned Tyler about "becoming too aggressive," but did agree that a "demonstration" seemed appropriate. Gen. Tyler ignored the reminder and turning to Richardson, told him to bring his men forward. The 2 guns of Ayres's battery sent forward now began to shell the unseen enemy with canister rounds. 500 yards was a perfect distance for these brass smoothbore howitzers to drop a can of lead balls into the treeline. Each time these guns fired it was like a giant shotgun going off. The shower of lead un-nerved some of the inexperienced troops who hunkered down behind tree trunks or flattened themselves upon the ground. Some larger trees had a number of men behind them, swaying back and forth, to avoid the hail of rounds. Col.Richardson rode to the left of his line and ordered the 12th New York to prepare to advance in support of the engaged 1st Massachussetts. He rode with the New Yorkers telling them to " sweep the woods".Richardson then galloped back to the remainder of his brigade waiting across the road from the Butler farm. He wanted to make sure that they were ready to provide ready support when called upon. These units consisted of: the un-engaged companies of the 1st Massachusetts, the 1st Michigan and the 2nd Michigan.


*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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