On July 18 at 11 a.m., a Union reconnaissance force near Mitchell’s Ford and Blackburn’s Ford under Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler encountered the brigade of Confederate Brig. Gen. James Longstreet while attempting to locate the left flank of the Confederate army. Longstreet was soon reinforced by the brigade under Col. Jubal Early. The combined forces of Longstreet and Early forced a federal retreat depriving Union commander Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell of the intelligence he sought in planning his attack against the Southern army.
Daniel and Pressley Boyd were a part of this action. Their 7th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, as part of the brigade of Brig. Gen. Milledge Luke Bonham first came in sight of the enemy near Fairfax Court House and the men fully expected to do battle there. Only the officers knew that Brig. General P. G. T. Beauregard had no intention of engaging the enemy on that ground, so when the federals approached, Bonham gave the order to retire.
They believed that Union General Irvin McDowell was trying to cut them off from Manassas, so they withdrew toward Centreville. There they formed a line of battle and waited on the enemy. They slept with their arms until midnight at which point they continued their withdrawal. Major Emmet Seibels of the Seventh had this to say: “Who in that retreat can forget the dark & chilly night at Centreville, where we remained wearied & unrefreshed by even a draught of water, in battle array until One o’clock at night?”
It took four hours to cover the final four miles on the road along Bull Run Creek arriving at their destination at daylight. The men were unhappy about the retreat, but Gen. Beauregard accomplished his goal of instilling a false confidence in his enemy, setting the stage for what would take place three days latter at First Manassas.
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