Tempest at Ox Hill: The Battle of Chantilly, Part 7

by Brett Schulte on November 8, 2005 · 0 comments

Tempest at Ox Hill: The Battle of Chantilly
by David A. Welker

I’m slowly but surely digesting what Welker wanted to get across in his book on Chantilly, and I’m organizing my thoughts for an upcoming comparison-contrast piece for this book and Paul Taylor’s He Hath Loosed The Fateful Lightning. I also hope to have a review of this one up later this week.

Chapter 9 – The Aftermath – Monday, September 1, 1862; Nightfall to Midnight
1. After the fighting and maneuvering between A.P. Hill’s and Birney, the corn field was mostly trampled or shot down. Kearny’s two missing brigades under Poe and Robinson had finally come up. Birney had not seen Kearny for quite some time and assumed something bad had happened. He took control of the Division and moved Poe and Robinson forward to take the place of his brigade on the front line. Welker notes that even the skirmishers had trouble early that night keeping their sense of direction due to the blackness caused by nightfall and the storm. About an hour after the battle had ended, the storm cleared and the moon came out. Men could see the dead and wounded sprawled all over the field of battle. Men looked for their wounded friends, or tried to get something to eat. The Yankees had at least hardtack to munch on. The Confederates were forced to scrounge for food off of the blue-clad dead. Jackson had been stopped from reaching Jermantown, but his Corps had repelled all attacks thrown against it. Jackson knew that Pope had thousands of fresh men in the vicinity, and he strongly believed that Pope would renew the attacks in the morning. For this reason, Jackson left two brigades to picket his line from the battle, and pulled everyone back into a more consolidated position closer to the Little River Turnpike. Longstreet moved up and formed on Jackson’s right. The Confederate Army had been reunited. The men of the III Corps and IX Corps built huge fires to make the Confederates think they were staying, and then they retreated. The rest of the army had preceded them during the fighting. By 3 A.M., the field was left to the Rebels, along with the non-walking wounded and the dead.

2. The brutal conditions in the hospitals and on the field are described at length in this chapter. Aside from the usual shortage of alcohol and morphine, there was a shortage of qualified surgeons. Many of the regimental surgeons and medical supplies were still on the battlefield at Second Manassas, and the men suffered for it. Some men who had the mobility to leave, chose to stay with friends. Most of the remaining regimental surgeons and chaplains stayed. Welker notes that this would have consequences only a few weeks away. Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American history, was fought just over two weeks after Chantilly.

3. Pope proved to be a beaten man who had lost hope, according to Welker. He says this because Pope surely would have heard the fighting as he rode from Centreville to Fairfax Courthouse. The fact that he chose to take no direct role means he must have been a beaten man. His own men were angry. Though they had been beaten at Second Manassas, they had wanted to deliver a successful blow on Lee from the entrenchments at Centreville. The fact that they were retreating again without a fight irked them and caused them to lose what little faith in Pope that remained. In fact, a telling indictment of Pope lies in the comparisons of this march by veterans to Burnside’s January 1863 “Mud March”. I was personally surprised to see this period compared to the Mud March, and it shows just how fed up the men serving under Pope had gotten.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8

Chapter 10 – The Honor of Two Lives
1. Chapter Ten covers the aftermath of Stevens’s and Kearny’s deaths. Stevens’s body was recovered by his own men, while Kearny’s was lost to the Confederates. In both cases, however, these men were treated with the utmost respect. Both men had been reckless on many fields of battle, and it had caught up to them both within a few hundred yards and within a little over an hour of each other.

2. Stephens: Isaac Stevens’ corpse was carried in a Union ambulance against Reno’s direct order to bury him on the field. Lt. Col. Morrison, one of Stevens’ brigadiers, had disobeyed Reno’s order. The body was embalmed in Washington, D.C. and sent by rail to Newport, Rhode Island. He was laid to rest in Island Cemetery in Newport, and his funeral was attended by the Governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Stevens was posthumously promoted to Major General to date July 4, 1862. He had finally gained the rank his “political failings” had prevented in life. On Sept. 22, 1864, he was paid the ultimate compliment. The 79th New York presented the flag Stevens had held at Chantilly to his widow after they mustered out. His men had not forgotten him even after two more years of hard fighting.

3. Kearny: Kearny’s body was not recognized at first, and the Rebels took most of his belongings. A prisoner who was a member of the 21st Massachusetts identified Kearny some time after this, and his belongings were soon returned. Kearny was brought to Jackson’s headquarters. Jackson took one look at the body and allegedly said “My God, boys, you know who you have killed? You have shot the most gallant officer in the United States Army. This is Phil Kearny, who lost his arm in the Mexican War!” A. P. Hill commented, “Poor Kearny, he deserved a better death than that!” Jackson then posted a guard to protect the body. Robert E. Lee sent Kearny’s remains back to the Union under a flag of truce. Many southerners greatly respected Kearny and seemed genuinely sad to learn of his death. Northern “public outpouring of grief and affection for the fallen general was widespread”. Kearny’s body was sent to Washington, D.C. under a guard composed of members of the 57th Pennsylvania, and was autopsied four days later The ball that killed him was given to his family. His body was returned to New Jersey and was interred in the Watts family vault in the yard of Trinity Church in New York City. In 1912, the remains were reburied in Arlington National Cemetery. Kearny left a sizable legacy, says Welker. Kearny’s patch led to the Union Corps patch system, and the “Kearny Cross” was given to members of his Division displaying bravery on the field of battle. The first statue to a volunteer officer in the country was erected of Kearny in December 1880 in New Jersey’s Military Park. Kearny was also selected to be New Jersey’s representative in statue form in the U.S. Capitol building.

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