seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The Battle of Chantilly

The Irish 6th Louisiana fights at the Battle of Chantilly (or Ox Hill, the Confederate name), which takes place on September 1, 1862, in Fairfax County, Virginia, as the concluding battle of the northern Virginia campaign of the American Civil War. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson‘s corps of the Army of Northern Virginia attempts to cut off the line of retreat of the Union Army of Virginia following the Second Battle of Bull Run but is attacked by two Union divisions. During the ensuing battle, Union division commanders Isaac Stevens and Philip Kearny are both killed, but the Union attack halts Jackson’s advance.

On the morning of September 1, 1862 Union Maj. Gen. John Pope orders Maj. Gen. Edwin Vose Sumner of the II Corps, Army of the Potomac, to send a brigade north to reconnoiter. The army’s cavalry is too exhausted for the mission. But at the same time, he continues his movement in the direction of Washington, D.C., sending Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell‘s III Corps to Germantown (on the western border of modern-day Fairfax, Virginia), where it can protect the important intersection of Warrenton Pike and Little River Turnpike that the army needs for the retreat. He also sends two brigades from Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno‘s IX Corps, under the command of Brig. Gen. Isaac Stevens, to block Jackson. Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny’s division from the III Corps follows later that afternoon.

Jackson resumes his march to the south, but his troops are tired and hungry and make poor progress as the rain continues. They march only three miles and occupy Ox Hill, southeast of Chantilly Plantation, and halt, while Jackson himself takes a nap. All during the morning, Confederate cavalry skirmish with Union infantry and cavalry. At about 3:00 PM, Stevens’s division arrives at Ox Hill. Despite being outnumbered, Stevens chooses to attack across a grassy field against Brig. Gen. Alexander Lawton‘s division in the Confederate center. The Union attack is initially successful, routing the brigade of Colonel Henry Strong and driving in the flank of Captain William Brown, with Brown killed during the fighting. The Union division is driven back following a counterattack by Brig. Gen. Jubal Early‘s brigade. Stevens is killed during this attack at about 5:00 PM by a shot through his temple.

A severe thunderstorm erupts about this time, resulting in limited visibility and an increased dependence on the bayonet, as the rain soaks the ammunition of the infantry and makes it useless. Kearny arrives about this time with his division to find Stevens’s units disorganized. Perceiving a gap in the line he deploys Brig. Gen. David B. Birney‘s brigade on Stevens’s left, ordering it to attack across the field. Birney manages to maneuver close to the Confederate line but his attack stalls in hand-to-hand combat with Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill‘s division. Kearny mistakenly rides into the Confederate lines during the battle and is killed. As Kearny’s other two brigades arrive on the field, Birney uses the reinforcements as a rear guard as he withdraws the remainder of the Union force to the southern side of the farm fields, ending the battle.

That night, Maj. Gen. James Longstreet arrives to relieve Jackson’s troops and to renew the battle the following morning. The lines are so close that some soldiers accidentally stumble into the camps of the opposing army. The Union army withdraws to Germantown and Fairfax Court House that night, followed over the next few days by retreating to the defenses of Washington D.C. The Confederate cavalry attempts a pursuit but fails to cause significant damage to the Union army.

The fighting is tactically inconclusive. Although Jackson’s turning movement is foiled and he is unable to block the Union retreat or destroy Pope’s army, National Park Service historians count Chantilly as a strategic Confederate victory because it neutralizes any threat from Pope’s army and clears the way for Lee to begin his Maryland campaign. The Confederates claim a tactical victory as well because they hold the field after the battle. Two Union generals are killed, while one Confederate brigade commander is killed. Pope, recognizing the attack as an indication of continued danger to his army, continues his retreat to the fortifications around Washington, D.C. Lee begins the Maryland Campaign, which culminates in the Battle of Antietam, after Pope retreats from Virginia. The Army of the Potomac, under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, absorbs the forces of Pope’s Army of Virginia, which is disbanded as a separate army.

The site of the battle, once rural farmland, is now surrounded by suburban development in Fairfax County. A 4.8 acre (19,000 m²) memorial park, the Ox Hill Battlefield Park, is located off of State Route 608 (West Ox Road) and lies adjacent to the Fairfax Towne Center shopping area, and includes most of the Gen. Isaac Stevens portion of the battle, about 1.5% of the total ground. The park is under the jurisdiction of the Fairfax County Park Authority. In January 2005, the Authority approves a General Management Plan and Conceptual Development Plan that sets forth a detailed history and future management framework for the site.

A small yard located within the nearby Fairfax Towne Center has been preserved to mark the area crossed by Confederate troops to get to the Ox Hill battlefield.

(Pictured: Color lithograph “General Kearney’s gallant charge,” published by John Smith, 804 Market St., Philadelphia. From the Library of Congress.)


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The Battle of Löwenburg

napoleons-irish-legionNapoleon‘s Irish Legion fights at the battle of Löwenburg on August 21, 1813. This is the first occasion on which Napoleon is frustrated by the Trachenberg Plan, in which the Allies had agreed not to risk a battle against the Emperor in person (War of Liberation).

On August 14, Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher prematurely crosses the armistice line in Silesia and begins to advance west. After briefly considering a move south to attack the Austrians in Bohemia, Napoleon decides to join his forces on the Bóbr and try and defeat Blücher.

By the evening of August 20 Blücher’s army is on the east bank of the Bóbr, facing Löwenberg (now Lwówek Śląski). On the opposite side of the river Michael Ney (III Corps), Jacques Lauriston (V Corps) and Jacques Macdonald (XI Corps) are spread out between Löwenberg and Bunzlau (modern Bolesławiec), a few miles to the north. Auguste de Marmont (VI Corps) and the Guard are approaching from the west, and Napoleon is at Lauban, where he puts in place attacks for a full scale attack on the following day.

On the following day Napoleon is disappointed. The French capture Löwenberg without any problems and at noon V Corps crosses the Bóbr over the bridges in the town, followed by XI Corps. As they advance toward the heights on the east bank of the river, Blücher retreats. Yorck’s corps is pushed back along the road to Goldberg (Złotoryja, ten miles to the south west of Legnica).

Further to the north III Corps and VI Corps cross the Bóbr at Bolesławiec pushed by General Fabian Gottlieb von der Osten-Sacken‘s Imperial Russian Army.

Napoleon misinterprets this move as demonstrating a lack of confidence amongst the Allied commanders, and that they had assumed the French would retreat without risking a battle so far east. Instead it is part of a deliberate Allied plan – no individual Allied army is to risk a battle with the Emperor in person.

On August 22 the French continue to push east, fighting a skirmish between Lauterseifen and Pilgramsdorf. Blücher retreats behind the Kaczawa. However the French pursuit is halted by news from Dresden, where Claude Carra Saint-Cyr finds himself facing a considerable Austrian and Russian attack. As a result, Napoleon decides to return west to deal with the threat to Dresden, leaving Marshal Macdonald in command of a new Army of the Bóbr (III Corps, XI Corps and V Corps).

Over the next few days Napoleon wins the Battle of Dresden (August 26-27, 1813), his most impressive victory of the entire 1813 campaign, but at the same time Macdonald suffers a defeat on the Kaczawa on August 26, 1813, largely negating the results of that victory.

(From: Rickard, J (3 May 2017), Combat of the Bobr or Lowenberg, 21 August 1813 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_bobr.html | Pictured: Foreign regiments in the French Army 1810, painting of 1830 by Alfred de Marbot (1812-1865). In the center, wearing green uniforms, officer and grenadier of the Irish Legion.)