August 29, 1862 – Federals under Major General John Pope continued the fight with Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson from the previous day, unaware that General Robert E. Lee had united Jackson with Major General James Longstreet’s Confederates near the old Bull Run battlefield.
After yesterday’s fight at Groveton, Jackson reformed his line so that it extended along the unfinished Manassas Gap Railroad line from behind Groveton on the left (east) to the Bull Run battlefield from last year on the right (west). Pope planned to envelop Jackson between his Federals and Major General Irvin McDowell’s corps, but McDowell got lost on the way to the battlefield. Enraged by this blunder, Pope reassigned each of McDowell’s divisions to different commanders, leaving McDowell without his corps.
Federal artillery opened on Jackson’s right around 10 a.m. Longstreet’s 30,000 Confederates advanced toward the sound of the guns and began arriving on Jackson’s right a half hour later. Pope thought he had Jackson cornered, and after vowing to “bag the whole crowd,” he ordered an attack.
Pope had about 62,000 troops against less than 23,000 Confederates (Longstreet was not yet ready to join the fight), but many of the Federals were exhausted from constant marching in the summer heat. Also, Pope deployed them in sporadic, disjointed attacks that proved ineffective against Jackson’s strong defenses.
The Confederates repeatedly knocked back assaults from Major General Franz Sigel’s divisions under Generals Adolph von Steinwehr, Carl Schurz, and Robert H. Milroy. They then repelled Federal attacks by Generals Joseph Hooker, Philip Kearny, and John Reynolds.
The Federals in Longstreet’s front withdrew before Longstreet could attack, so he spent the day forming a strong supporting line. He declined Lee’s request to attack because there was an unknown number of enemy troops in the woods to his front. Meanwhile, Pope ignored indications that Longstreet had arrived and directed his Federals to focus their efforts on the Confederate left.
In the afternoon, parts of the Federal III and IX corps attacked Jackson’s men behind the railroad embankment at Sudley Springs. The Federals finally broke General A.P. Hill’s line along Stony Ridge, but Confederate reserves under General Jubal A. Early quickly moved up to fill the gap. The battle raged back and forth until the Federals retired around 9 p.m. Jackson expressed confidence that he had “the blessing and protection of Providence.”
Elsewhere, Pope ordered General Fitz John Porter’s V Corps to attack Jackson’s right. Porter informed Pope that Longstreet was assembling a force three times his size in that sector. Pope did not believe him, and at 4:30 p.m., he again ordered Porter to “press forward into action at once on the enemy’s flank, and, if possible, on his rear.” Porter again refused, remaining on the Warrenton Turnpike. Porter’s refusal may have averted a Federal disaster.
Pope fell back at nightfall, ignoring reports of Longstreet’s arrival. The Confederates also fell back to compact their lines in preparation for a renewed attack the next morning. Interpreting this as a retreat, Pope informed Washington he had won a great victory and promised to relentlessly pursue the enemy tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck ordered Major General George B. McClellan to hurry his Army of the Potomac to Alexandria and reinforce Pope, but McClellan continued his slow troop transfer off the Virginia Peninsula.
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