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5th Texas 1862 - Second Manassas

5th Texas 1862 - Second Manassas
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Price: $250.00
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Model: 5TX12

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The 5th Texas 1862 - 2nd Manassas 

As the summer of 1862 waned, the Army of Northern Virginia roared north across the Virginian countryside, wresting initiative in the war from the Northern invaders.  Under the steady, brilliant leadership of the army's new commander, General R. E. Lee, the Confederate troops completely reversed the tide of operations that had threatened to crush out their young country.  During the three months beginning on June 1, Lee's army erupted out of the works surrounding their capital, lifted the threat against Richmond, and relocated the military frontier all the way to the vicinity of the opposing capital in Washington.

 One of Lee's most useful tactical implements in his skilful operations that summer was a sturdy brigade made up primarily of hardy frontiersmen from the far southwestern extremity of the Confederacy—a unit that would earn lasting fame as Hood's Texas Brigade.  At Eltham's Landing in May, Hood's men had fought their initial minor action, then on June 27 they broke the Federal line at Gaines's Mill with a desperate charge that won for Lee his first great victory as the army's commander.

On the afternoon of August 30, 1862, as the final Confederate attack rolled forward on the plains of Manassas, Hood's men again found themselves at center stage.  In advancing eastward toward Chinn Ridge, on a line just south of the Warrenton Turnpike, the 5th Texas of Hood's Brigade crashed into a Federal force that included the 10th New York Infantry, and the gaudily uniformed Zouaves of the 5th New York.

When the determined Confederate advance swept inexorably toward them, the 10th's men "had barely time to discharge their pieces once," a New Yorker recalled.  As the 10th New York recoiled, the 5th Texas surged toward the Zouaves of the 5th New York, riding a high tide of momentum and overlapping the Federal regiment's flank.  "As the Fifth Texas approached them," a Confederate from a neighboring regiment wrote, "I saw the blaze of their rifles reached nearly from one to the other."  "The bullets ripping through the foliage," one surviving Yankee recalled, "sounded like an immense flock of Partridges."  Southern volleys "virtually wiped [the Zouaves] off the face of the earth."  The attacking Confederates "rushed after the fugitives, and, clubbing their muskets, continued the work of destruction."

 Lieutenant Colonel John Cunningham Upton led the 5th Texas in its headlong dash, waving a flag to encourage his troops.  The 39-year-old veteran of the California gold rush, who had only been a field-grade officer for two months, did not survive the attack.  During its opening stages, "a cannister shot struck him in the forehead and he died instantly."  A young color bearer took the flag from "Upton's nerveless hand, crying:  'Come on, boys!'"—but he too was hit.

Relatively few others among the attacking Confederates went down.  Turning the left of the Zouave regiment, they unhinged the Unionists' line and forced their enemy to flee in confusion.  After a pause to realign the ranks, and to drink hurriedly from a small branch at the foot of the slope, Hood's men "swept on like a cyclone" toward Chinn Ridge, one of them boasted, intent on completing the victorious advance they had made possible by routing the New York regiments.

The bright Zouave outfits of the fallen New Yorkers made a remarkable scene on the ground where the 5th Texas had triumphed.  Confederates who looked back described the "strange and ghastly spectacle":  "The hill was red with uniforms of the Zouaves"; "It is no exaggeration to say that the hillside was strewn thick with the flower of those two regiments"; "The dead, dying, and wounded of the Fifth New York Zouaves, the variegated colors of whose peculiar uniform gave the scene the appearance of a Texas hillside in spring, painted with wild flowers of every hue and color."

 The performance of Hood's Brigade at Second Manassas foreshadowed even more famous feats to follow—eighteen days later in the cornfield at Sharpsburg, on the slopes of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, in the Widow Tapp's field in the Wilderness.  "I need  them much," R. E. Lee wrote of the Texas regiments just three weeks after Second Manassas, "we must have more of them."

                                                                                                 Robert K. Krick

                                                                                                Fredericksburg, Virginia

 

                                                                                                April 2006

 

Robert K. Krick was Chief Historian of Fredericksburg National Park for thirty years. He is the author of 14 books and scores of articles.  LUS Press published Krick’s latest book, The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed The Confederacy, and has released a new edition of his Conquering The Valley, both in 2002.

 

500 Signed/Numbered

Image: 29" x 20 1/2" Overall: 35" x 24"

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5th Texas 1862 - Second Manassas
Click to enlarge