Ben Lomond Manor House

The Civil War Years

General History beginning in 1860

In 1860, most of the nations 31 million people lived peacefully on farms and in small towns. The question of slavery was rearing its ugly head with every headline. The question was whether new states entering the Union would be allowed to practice the buying and selling of slaves. With discontent over the election of Abraham Lincoln, South Carolina led the way out of the Union on December 20, 1860. By the time Lincoln took the oath of office in March of 1861, six more states, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, inspired by South Carolina's example, had seceded. Jefferson Davis won election as the President of the newly formed Confederate government. After the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and Lincoln's call for troops to put down the rebellion, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina joined the new Confederacy bringing the number of seceded states to eleven.

Four days after Fort Sumter fell, General Robert E. Lee was offered field command of the entire Union army. He deferred his decision, waiting to see what Virginia would do. The next day, Virginia voted to secede. Lee resigned his commission in the U.S. Army feeling he could not raise his hand against his birthplace, his home or his children. On April 23rd, he accepted command of the Virginia State forces. When Virginia left the Union, Richmond became the new capitol of the Confederacy.

The War Between the States was unquestionably the most important event in the life of the nation. It brought the end of slavery and the downfall of a southern planter aristocracy. It was the watershed of a new political and economic order, and the beginning of big industry, big business, and big government. It was the first modern war in many respects and, for Americans, the costliest, yielding the most casualties and the greatest domestic suffering, spiritually and physically, of any American war. More than three million Americans fought in the Civil War, and over 650,000 men, two percent of the population, died in it.

In Virginia, huge foraging armies swept across farms and towns and left paths of destruction. Americans slaughtered one another in cornfields, orchards and along familiar roads. Homes became hospitals and headquarters. Churches, schoolhouses and barns also sheltered the wounded and dying. It was the most horrible, mean-spirited and yet heroic conflict the nation has known. By the middle of 1861, the rival capitals, Washington, D.C., a city entirely surrounded by slave states and Richmond, Virginia, capitol for the new Confederacy, continued to glare at one another across a hundred miles of rolling Virginia countryside. Civilians on both sides grew impatient. The headlines and text of the New York Tribune screamed, "The Nation's War Cry: Forward to Richmond! The rebel congress must not be allowed to meet there on the 20th of July, by that date the place must be held by the national army."

The winds of war were blowing through western Prince William County. The newspapers reported that Federal troops were going to march on Richmond and take the Confederate capitol. They first had to secure the railroad junction at Manassas which would enable them to forward supplies, munitions and additional troops southward. Confederate forces wee equally determined to hold Manassas Junction and oppose this move.

On July 16, a Union army of 35,000 volunteers, led by General Irvin McDowell, marched into Virginia. The inexperienced volunteers were not accustomed to long journey's on foot. It took them two and a half days to march 25 miles. A seasoned army could march that distance in less than half the time. By the time McDowell's army reached Centreville, Virginia, on July 18th, Confederate forces under General P.G.T. Beauregard had taken up strong defensive positions behind a meandering stream call Bull Run. Beauregard's eight-mile line effectively blocked the way to Manassas Junction. To circumvent this line, General McDowell moved early on Sunday, July 21, 1861, sending his men across the Bull Run beyond Beauregard's left flank.

The Federal army dominated the early part of the battle, pushing the Confederates back with heavy casualties. By mid-day, General Thomas Jackson arrived and formed a new line on Henry Hill with his Virginia brigade, part of General Joseph E. Johnston's army that had been sent from the Shenandoah Valley to reinforce Beauregard. While trying to rally his disorganized troops, General Barnard Bee of South Carolina, pointed to Jackson and shourted, "Look, there is Jackson with his Virginians, standing like a stone wall!". The rebel lines held and Jackson had a new nickname. With additional reinforcements arriving from Johnston's Army of the Shenandoah, the Confederates began to gain the upper hand. The Union troop, most of whom had now been marching and fighting in brutal heat without food or water for fourteen hours, were demoralized to see fresh rebels plowing onto the battlefield. As they heard the mighty "Rebel Yell" , Union soldiers fled in panic back across the Bull Run Some 4,000 men were killed, wounded or captured in the fighting.

The public was devastated by the news of such losses. The whole Carter and Sudley community was more directly impacted by the battle. Every structure that had a roof was used as a field hospital, including "Hazel Plain", "Portici", "Ben Lomond" and the Sudley Church. Portici served as the command headquarters for Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston during the battle as well as a field hospital for wounded and captured Federal soldiers. "Ben Lomond" became a field hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers of Jackson's Brigade with Dr. Edward A. Craighill as the attending surgeon. The battle was fought all around "Hazel Plain", also known as the Chinn House.

After the rout, Lincoln signed bills calling for the enlistment of 100,000 additional troops to serve for three years instead of the usual three months. Lincoln put General George McClellan in charge of the Union forces at Washington. After many months of instilling discipline, structure, and obedience, those 100,000 volunteers became the Army of the Potomac.

Faulty reports of a massive Confederate army within striking distance of Washington intimidated McClellan. He was additionally unsettled when, on October 21, 1861, a small Union force was trapped on the bank of the Potomac River at Ball's Bluff and shot to pieces. McClellan took his army into winter quarters and through a winter of inactivity.

Trying to force McClellan to move his army, Lincoln issued General War Order #1 on January 27th, calling for a general movement by all land and naval forces by February 22nd. Four days later, McClellan was ordered to move against General Joseph Johnston's army at Manassas Junction, then proceed overland to take Richmond. McClellan offered an alternative plan. Rather than make a frontal attack on the large Confederate forces he believed to be waiting for him at Manassas Junction, he proposed to circumvent the confederates by water, landing at Urbanna, near the mouth of the Rappahannock River, and then marching overland to Richmond. Lincoln did not like this plan but supported his general.

McClellan's plans were negated when, on March 9, 1862, General Johnston vacated Manassas Junction and shifted his army to a stronger position behind the Rappahannock River. McClellan revised his plan and selected a new landing site, Union held, Fort Monroe at the end of the "neck" between the York and James rivers, just 70 miles east of Richmond.

The Confederate evacuation of Manassas, meanwhile, opened the door for the subsequent Union occupation of the railroad junction and the surrounding countryside. The first Union troops to arrive at Manassas found formidable earthwork fortifications guarded only by deceptive "Quaker guns" harmless logs made to resemble cannons. The Confederates left considerable devastation in their wake with many structures and equipment burned. Union soldiers passing through the area took advantage of the winter huts left behind by the Confederats and many afforded themselves the opportunity to visit the Bull Run battlefield. It is clear that a number of northern units bivouacked in the vicinity of Ben Lomond. The names of these soldiers can still be seen on the interior walls of the manor house.

McClellan was finally setting out for Fort Monroe on March 17th. With 400 vessels, it took three weeks to ferry 121,500 men, 14,592 horses and mules, 1,150 wagons, 44 batteries of artillery, 74 ambulances, pontoon bridges, tons of provisions, tents, and telegraph wire. Once ashore things continued to go wrong but on April 5th, the Union advance guard finally reached Yorktown. The Southern army only had 11,000 troops dug in at Yorktown. Their commander, John Magruder, presented a charade of more troops than were actually dug in. The Union army again hesitated to attack giving General Johnston time to move south onto the Peninsula. The siege of Yorktown continued for a month in the most inclement weather. Besieged by wood ticks, hundreds fell ill. Finally McClellan had over a hundred massive guns in place, some so large it took a hundred horses to pull them into place. May 5th was the planned day of attack by the Federal army but the evening of the 3rd, the Confederates intensified their fire all through the night. The next morning all was quiet. General Johnston had voluntarily and silently withdrawn to Williamsburg and General McClellan declared a victory.

Both armies were now on the move toward Richmond. By May 20th, they were just nine miles from the Confederate capitol. Again McClellan stalled believing that Johnston's forces still outnumbered his and demanded reinforcements before he would continue into Richmond. General McClellan had been given the nickname, "Virginia Creeper". As Jackson's men were keeping the Federal troops on the defensive in the Shenandoah Valley, there were no reinforcements to send to McClellan.

The end of May brought torrential rains. While an advanced portion of McClellan's army was cut off by the flooding of the Chickahominy River, General Johnston attacked at Fair Oaks (Seven Pines). Johnston, however, was severely wounded during the battle on May 31st. Richmond remained in danger and a new commander, Robert E. Lee, took over its defense. For several months Lee had been in Richmond advising President Jefferson Davis and now he was given field command of a major army. In June, Lee dispatched his cavalry chief, Jeb Stuart, to scout behind McClellan's lines. He also ordered Jackson's forces eastward to join in the planned offensive to save Richmond. Lee then attacked at Mechanicsville. Heavy fighting continued for a week while McClellan skillfully withdrew his army to a new base on the lower James River. Lee, although tremendously outnumbered, had unnerved McClellan. By July Richmond was safe.

Lincoln, being extremely disappointed in McClellan's performance, placed Henry Halleck in command over McClellan. Halleck had demonstrated competence and had achieved victories in the western theater of the war. John Pope, another Union general with a successful record in the west, was given command of a newly formed "Army of Virginia" assigned to protect Washington and cooperate with McClellan's forces. Pope was openly critical of McClellan and waged a completely different manner of warfare. He encouraged his men to take food and supplies from Virginia farms and threatened to hang, without trial, anyone suspected of aiding the Confederacy.

With no prospect of receiving reinforcements and no inclination to take the offensive again, McClellan was ordered to vacate his base on the Peninsula and return to Northern Virginia where his forces would be consolidated with those under General Pope. McClellan was in no hurry to go to the aid of his chief rival and highly vocal critic, General Pope. The Army of the Potomac began a slow and methodical evacuation from their base on the James River.

When it became clear that McClellan was no longer a threat to Richmond, Lee turned his attention to John Pope whom he felt must be "suppressed". Lee divided his army, sending "Stonewall" Jackson northward to attack Pope's forces at Cedar Mountain near Culpeper on August 9th. Jeb Stuart raided Pope's headquarters at Catlett Station on the night of August 22nd, getting away with $35,000 in cash, Pope's dress coat and a notebook outlining the disposition of the Union forces. Using this information, Lee then dispatched Jackson with his 25,000 men on a two day, 56 mile march around Pope's right flank to cut the rail line to Washington and loot his supply depot at Manassas Junction. Again, the elusive Jackson seemed to disappear. It took two days for Pope to find him, dug in on Stony Ridge, overlooking the same Bull Run battlefield where the Union army had been defeated just thirteen months before.

Pope attacked Jackson on August 29th but the Confederate troops held. Pope, convinced that the battered rebels were trying to retreat, promised a relentless pursuit the next day. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Pope, the other wing of Lee's army had arrived, and at four o'clock in the afternoon on August 30th, Major General James Longstreet sent five divisions storming into the Union left flank along a two-mile front.

Twenty five thousand men were killed, wounded or missing at Second Bull Run, five times the figure that had so horrified the country the first time the North and South fought there. Clara Baron was among those who cared for the maimed survivors. The wounded men covered acres and she helped open bales of hay upon which to lay the wounded. By midnight three thousand men lay in the hay. Those that tended the wounded after dark were in great fear of someone's candle falling into the hay and consuming them all.

Pope was relieved of command and soon sent west to Minnesota where he would deal with the uprising among the Sioux. With Lee advancing north, and with no one else to turn to, Lincoln reluctantly put McClellan back in command of the Army of the Potomac.

Fighting in Virginia continued until Sunday, April 9, 1865 when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. Oddly the surrender took place at the home of Wilmer McLean at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. McLean had moved to this quiet little village to escape the war, having suffered damage to his Manassas home, "Yorkshire", in 1861. General Beauregard had appropriated his house as a headquarters and his barn had been used as a field hospital during the First Bull Run campaign.

On April 14, 1865, Good Friday, and the fourth anniversary of the surrender of Fort Sumter, President Lincoln and General Grant were both expected to attend the theater that night to see the British comedy, Our American Cousin. That evening General and Mrs. Grant begged off the theater party and left for New Jersey to visit their children. President and Mrs. Lincoln arrived and took their seat s in the presidential box. The play stopped while the audience applauded and the orchestra played "Hail to the Chief". The President seemed to be enjoying the play, holding his wife's hand. John Wilkes Booth slipped silently into the presidential box and shot the president. President Lincoln died at 7:22am the next morning.

Jefferson Davis, exhausted but still defiant, fled westward hoping somehow to rally the Confederacy from a new base in Texas. On May 10th, a Union patrol caught up with the former Confederate President and imprisoned him in Fort Monroe, Virginia. Scattered fighting went on in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi where on May 13, 1865, Private John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana, became the last man to be killed in the Civil War in a battle at Palmito Ranch, Texas. This final skirmish was a Confederate victory.

On the morning of May 23, 1865, the American flag flew at full staff above the White House for the first time since Lincoln's death. Ulysses Grant and the new President, Andrew Johnson, stood side by side to watch the Grand Armies of the Republic pass in review down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. The procession of 150,000 men took two full days to pass. This first day of the unified Republic belonged to the Army of the Potomac led by General George G. Meade. It marched one last time with the discipline mastered from a hundred marches from Bull Run to Appomattox.