Category Archives: Virginia

The Army of Northern Virginia Regroups

October 2, 1862 – General Robert E. Lee reorganized his battered Confederate army, in which many men lacked the necessary food, clothing, or shelter.

Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Two weeks after the Battle of Antietam, Lee issued General Orders No. 116 to the Army of Northern Virginia:

“In reviewing the achievements of the army during the present campaign, the commanding general cannot withhold the expression of his admiration of the indomitable courage it has displayed in battle, and its cheerful endurance of privation and hardship on the march…

“History records few examples of greater fortitude and endurance than this army has exhibited; and I am commissioned by the President to thank you, in the name of the Confederate States, for the undying fame you have won for their arms. Much as you have done, much more remains to be accomplished. The enemy again threatens us with invasion, and to your tried valor and patriotism the country looks with confidence for deliverance and safety. Your past exploits give assurance that this confidence is not misplaced.

“R.E. Lee, General Commanding.”

Later that month, the Confederate Congress approved a measure authorizing the new rank of lieutenant general to serve under army commanders. When President Jefferson Davis asked for recommendations on who should receive this new rank, Lee quickly proposed James Longstreet and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Lee wrote of Jackson, “My opinion of the merits of General Jackson has been greatly enhanced during his expedition. He is true, honest and brave; has a single eye to the good of the service, and spares no exertion to accomplish his object.”

Confederate Lieut Gens James Longstreet and Thomas J. Jackson | Image Credit: BlogSpot.com and Wikispaces.com

These promotions were approved, as was Lee’s request to officially create a corps structure within the army. Since taking command in June, Lee had unofficially assigned certain commanders to lead multiple divisions, or “wings” of the army. Under the new structure, the Army of Northern Virginia’s nine divisions were assigned to two corps commanded by Longstreet and Jackson.

On the 16th, Lee was informed that forces from the Federal Army of the Potomac had crossed the Potomac River and were moving southwest toward his army. The Federals probed from both Sharpsburg and Harpers Ferry. Fearing that Major General George B. McClellan would try outflanking him and prevent access to the Virginia Central Railroad, Lee stalled until he could reorganize his army.

While most of the army rested and regrouped around Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley, Lee directed Jackson to destroy sections of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which helped supply the Federal army. Colonel James Lane led a brigade from Major General A.P. Hill’s division in tearing up track in a 40-mile radius around Martinsburg. The Confederates roasted the iron rails until they could bend and wrapped them around trees. The men then destroyed anything of military significance in Martinsburg itself, including all railroad manufactories, workshops, engine houses, and telegraph offices.

A revival spirit spread among the ranks, leading to a substantial increase in the number of prayer meetings and church services this month. Lee approved of this movement as he continued struggling to feed and equip his men. He had just over half the number of troops as the Army of the Potomac, but Lee counted on McClellan’s lack of aggression to offset his numerical superiority.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 333; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 780; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 221, 223; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4925, 4949; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 24; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 444-45; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 277; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 489-90

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Confederates Descend on Harpers Ferry

September 14, 1862 – Three Confederate forces converged on the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.

Maj Gen “Stonewall” Jackson | Image Credit: SonoftheSouth.net

Harpers Ferry had been the site of one of the Federals’ largest arsenals, but Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had sent most of the weapons-making machinery south when he took the place in 1861. Now Jackson was coming to take the town again as he led one of the three forces approaching on the 11th.

Colonel Dixon Miles, commanding the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry, was largely unaware that the Confederates were descending upon him. Scouting parties had reported seeing a Confederate force in the area, but, as Miles reported to his superiors, “I cannot learn he has any disposition to advance this way.”

That night, General Lafayette McLaws’s 8,000 Confederates arrived at Brownsville Gap, six miles northeast of Harpers Ferry in Pleasant Valley. Their target was Maryland Heights, the high ground east of the town. Brigadier General John G. Walker’s Confederate division advanced toward Loudoun Heights, the eminence south of Harpers Ferry (east of the Shenandoah River where it merged with the Potomac).

Jackson’s Confederates, slated to advance on the town from the north, took a detour around Martinsburg and were crossing the Potomac at Williamsport. Brigadier General Julius White, commanding 2,500 Federals at Martinsburg, learned from scouts that the town could not be held if Jackson decided to attack. He therefore loaded all the supplies he could onto trains and wagons and made for Harpers Ferry. Jackson dispatched General A.P. Hill’s division to probe Martinsburg.

By next morning, Miles estimated that about 10,000 Confederates were approaching him, which he felt confident to drive off since his force numbered about 12,000. He wrote, “I expect this will be the last you hear of me until this affair is over. All are cheerful and hopeful. Good-bye.” But Miles only expected McLaws’s division to threaten him; he was still unaware of Walker’s division and Jackson’s main force coming his way.

As McLaws’s Confederates approached, his men sealed off all eastern escape routes to Washington. By nightfall, McLaws’s advance units had ascended Maryland Heights. Walker was poised to take Loudoun Heights the next day, and Jackson accomplished his mission according to Special Orders No. 191, which was to “take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, capture such of them as may be at Martinsburg.” Jackson sent A.P. Hill’s division ahead to gain a foothold north of Harpers Ferry before the rest of Jackson’s Confederates arrived.

By the 13th, about 23,000 Confederates had Harpers Ferry surrounded. McLaws drove the Federals off Maryland Heights and down into the town below after a six-hour fight. Meanwhile, Walker secured Loudoun Heights to the south, and Jackson’s main force soon came up to take School House Ridge north of town. White’s Federals retreating from Martinsburg arrived at Harpers Ferry to join the garrison, but there was little they could do at that point.

The arsenal sat on low ground surrounded by bluffs, making it extremely vulnerable to attack. Jackson once said he would rather “take the place 40 times than undertake to defend it once.” White outranked Miles, but he left Miles in command because of the latter’s knowledge of the positions. Miles refused to surrender, even though he had made little effort to secure the high ground outside the town. This virtually assured his defeat.

That night, Miles dispatched a small cavalry force to break through the Confederate lines and deliver a message to McClellan stating that the garrison could not hold out longer than 48 hours. Captain Charles Russell and nine men of the 9th Maryland Cavalry accomplished this mission, evading the Confederates and reaching the Federal lines by morning.

Jackson spent the next day positioning artillery to fire down into Harpers Ferry. McLaws had to dispatch some of his men to fend off the Federals at South Mountain, but the Confederate grip on the town remained tight nonetheless. Miles did nothing to try regaining Maryland Heights, even though McLaws’s force there had been severely depleted.

Still, the pressure was on the Confederates because Lee had ordered them to either capture Harpers Ferry by the 12th or return to the main army. They were two days behind schedule, with the rest of the army fighting a desperate holding action at South Mountain to the east.

A.P. Hill’s Confederates took positions on Bolivar Heights that night, in preparation for an assault the next day. Jackson’s guns opened fire on the garrison, but despite the noise, the cannon did little damage. Federal Colonel Benjamin F. “Grimes” Davis discovered an unguarded road out of town and led about 1,300 cavalrymen of the 8th New York and 12th Illinois out. Not only did they escape, but they captured 97 Confederate supply wagons.

Even with these heroics, the Confederate hold on Harpers Ferry would not slacken, and it was only a matter of time before the Federals would be compelled to surrender.

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 23-24, 39, 43-45, 56-59; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17300, 17309, 17318, 17344; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 211; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 206-08; Krick, Robert K., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 340-41; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 477

The Battle of Chantilly

September 1, 1862 – A vicious fight in driving rain ended the Second Bull Run campaign with Major General John Pope’s Federal Army of Virginia still intact but thoroughly defeated by General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

On the early morning of September 1, Pope telegraphed General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, indicating a loss of confidence following his recent defeats:

“My men are resting; they need it much… I shall attack again tomorrow if I can; the next day certainly. I think it my duty to call to your attention to the unsoldierly and dangerous conduct of many brigade and some division commanders of the forces sent here from the Peninsula. Every word and act and intention is discouraging, and calculated to break down the spirits of the men and produce disaster. My advice to you–I give it with freedom, as I know you will not misunderstand it–is that, in view of any satisfactory results, you draw back this army to the intrenchments in front of Washington, and set to work in that secure place to reorganize and rearrange it. You may avoid great disaster by doing so.”

That day, Confederate Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson resumed his attempt to move north around Pope’s right flank. As Pope continued withdrawing from Centreville to Fairfax Court House, Federal cavalry detected Jackson’s movement. Pope deployed a force to stop Jackson and cover the Federal retreat. The force consisted of Major General Philip Kearny’s division of III Corps and a division of IX Corps led by Brigadier General Isaac I. Stevens.

Jackson advanced on the muddy Little River Turnpike and stopped at a plantation called Chantilly to wait for Major General James Longstreet’s Confederates to catch up. Two hours later, Jackson’s 15,000 men began climbing Ox Hill and approaching Stevens’s 6,000 Federals. Jackson deployed his three divisions south of the turnpike, and as a violent thunderstorm erupted, the Confederates charged.

Fighting raged back and forth along Ox Hill near Germantown, with the hard rain adding to the general confusion. The Federals repelled the attacks, but Stevens was shot dead while rallying his 79th New York Highlanders. Kearny’s division arrived as reinforcements, with Kearny taking command after Stevens’s death. While personally inspected the enemy lines, he unknowingly rode into a group of enemy skirmishers. They shot him dead after he refused to surrender.

“Kearny’s Charge, Battle of Chantilly” by Augustus Tholey, published by John Smith. From the Library of Congress. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

The Federals held their ground against the ferocious Confederate attacks until nightfall. In the dark, the Federals withdrew to rejoin Pope’s main force. They left Kearny’s body on the field, which the Confederates later returned under a flag of truce. Federals mourned the loss of Kearny, who had been one of the army’s most respected commanders. Stevens had also been well-respected; he was posthumously promoted to major general of volunteers.

Pope received orders from Halleck: “You will bring your forces as best you can within or near the line of fortification.” The Federals escaped from Centreville and retreated to Fairfax Court House, some 20 miles from Washington.

Lee received word that Pope had been reinforced and decided not to pursue any further. The storm may have saved Jackson from defeat because it prevented Pope from deploying reinforcements. The Federals lost some 1,300 men in this fight, and the Confederates lost about 800.

The Confederates advanced to Centreville on the 2nd, only to find it abandoned as Pope continued withdrawing from Fairfax Court House on the road to Alexandria and Washington. The Federals positioned themselves the defenses constructed by Major General George B. McClellan almost a year ago. This ensured that Washington would stay safe, even though the Confederates were now closer to the capital than they had ever been before.

This ended the Second Bull Run campaign much like the first–in embarrassing Federal defeat. From August 27 to September 2, the Federals sustained 16,054 casualties (1,724 killed, 8,372 wounded, and 5,958 missing) from about 75,000 effectives. The Confederates lost 9,197 (1,481 killed, 7,627 wounded, and 89 missing) out of some 48,500.

This campaign was one of the Confederacy’s greatest military victories. Three months ago, the Federals were within striking distance of Richmond, but now momentum had completely shifted and the Confederates were within striking distance of Washington. This secured the status of Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson as national heroes, and it enabled the Confederates to shift the eastern focus of the war from Richmond to Washington.

For the Federals, the defeat prompted charges and countercharges of dereliction of duty. Some blamed Pope for mishandling the battle. Some blamed McClellan for failing to hurry reinforcements from his army to Pope. Some blamed Halleck for failing to coordinate the two men’s armies. Some went straight to the top and blamed President Abraham Lincoln. There was enough blame to go around.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 84; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 49-55; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17251-69; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 208; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 643-45; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 202; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4565; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 64; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 257-60; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 717-18; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 531-32; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 469-70; Sabine, David B., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 408-09; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 787-88; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 167; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 94-95, 129-30

The Battle of Second Bull Run: Pope’s Retreat

August 31, 1862 – The Second Bull Run campaign ended with a two-day fight in which the Confederates proved unable to destroy Major General John Pope’s retreating Army of Virginia.

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Pope gathered the remnants of his army on the heights at Centreville on the 31st. Confederate General Robert E. Lee opted not to pursue immediately because his men needed rest after two weeks of hard marching and three days of heavy fighting. Although Pope now had a day’s jump on Lee and 20,000 reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac, he informed General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck that morning:

“Our troops are… much used-up and worn-out (after fighting) as desperate a fight as I can force our men to stand up to… I should like to know whether you feel secure about Washington should this army be destroyed. I shall fight it as long as a man will stand up to the work. You must judge what is to be done, having in view the safety of the capital.”

Pope then called a council of war, something he had long resisted. After discussing their options, the corps commanders recommended falling back further into the Washington defenses. Capital residents began panicking as rumors spread that the Confederate army was about to put Washington under siege. This was a dramatic turn of events from three months ago, when the Federals were within six miles of the Confederate capital of Richmond.

Meanwhile, Lee looked to repeat his latest success by sending Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates on another march around Pope’s right. Major General James Longstreet’s men would once again demonstrate against Pope’s front while Jackson crossed Bull Run and moved around Centreville to cut Pope’s line of retreat to Washington. Pope anticipated this and notified Halleck, “The plan of the enemy will undoubtedly be to turn my flank. If he does so, he will have his hands full.”

Lee suffered an injury while studying a map. As Lee stood beside his horse Traveller, a gust of wind blew the map into the horse’s face, prompting him to rear. Lee fell when he tried grabbing the bridle, breaking one hand and spraining the other. Doctors put splints on both of Lee’s hands, rendering him unable to mount his horse.

Jackson’s Confederates headed out, led by Major General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry. Jackson hoped to seize the important village of Germantown, where Pope’s only two routes to Washington–the Warrenton and Little River turnpikes–converged. However, the Confederate advance proved ineffective because of fatigue. The men slowly crossed Bull Run at Sudley Ford and then moved down the Little River Turnpike, but rain fell that night and turned the road to mud, slowing the advance even further.

The Confederate wing under Longstreet followed Jackson, but his men had not yet crossed Bull Run by nightfall. Stuart’s cavalry harassed Pope’s flank but caused no real damage. Also during this time, Federal forces abandoned their positions on the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, leaving behind enormous amounts of supplies.

Skirmishing occurred at various points, but the Confederates had been unable to cut Pope off as Lee had hoped. Pope received word that Jackson’s Confederates were heading east toward Fairfax Court House, and he informed Halleck:

“This movement turns Centreville and interposes between us and Washington, and will force me to attack his advance, which I shall do as soon as his movement is sufficiently developed. I hope you will make all preparations to make a vigorous defense of the intrenchments around Washington.”

Pope dispatched a portion of IX Corps under Brigadier General Isaac I. Stevens to form a rear guard to stop Jackson and cover the Federal retreat out of Centreville. That night, Jackson’s Confederates stopped along the Little River Turnpike in Pleasant Valley. Having marched ahead of their supply train, the men bivouacked without food.

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 13; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 49-55; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 208; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 643; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 201; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4553-65; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 258-59; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 167; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 94-95, 129-30

The Battle of Second Bull Run: Longstreet

August 30, 1862 – The right wing of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia ripped into Major General John Pope’s Federals and nearly destroyed his Army of Virginia.

Pope ordered Major General Fitz John Porter’s V Corps to move north and join an all-out attack on Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederate lines. Porter’s Federals began moving around 3 a.m., leaving only a single division to face about 30,000 Confederates under Major General James Longstreet on the Confederate right. Pope wired General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck:

“We fought a terrific battle here yesterday… which lasted with continuous fury from daybreak until dark, by which time the enemy was driven from the field, which we now occupy. Our troops are too much exhausted yet to push matters, but I shall do so in the course of the morning… The enemy is still in our front, but badly used up. We have lost not less than 8,000 men killed and wounded, but from the appearance on the field the enemy lost at least two to one. He stood strictly on the defensive, and every assault was made by ourselves. Our troops behaved splendidly. The battle was fought on the identical battlefield of Bull Run, which greatly increased the enthusiasm of our men. The news just reaches me from the front that the enemy is retreating toward the mountains. I go forward at once to see.”

But the Confederates had only fallen back temporarily to reform their lines, not to retreat. The morning edition of the Washington Star stated that according to a recent dispatch, firing had stopped and “we trust the fact means a surrender of the rebels, and do not see how it can mean aught else.” Later that afternoon, Pope wired Washington declaring complete victory. The War Department waived censorship regulations and released the message to the public.

Lee learned that Federals were massing in Jackson’s front around 12 p.m. Pope’s “pursuit” began two hours later, with Federals advancing in three waves along a two mile-front. Combat opened at 3 p.m. and soon became a desperate struggle as Jackson’s line wavered along the embankment of the unfinished rail line. Some Confederates threw rocks at the third wave when their ammunition ran out. Jackson’s men ultimately held.

Confederate Major General James Longstreet | Image Credit: BlogSpot.com

As Pope concentrated on Jackson, he hardly acknowledged Longstreet on his undermanned left. Longstreet waited for Pope to commit his reserves against Jackson, then opened artillery fire on the unsuspecting Federal flank. After halting the Federals in Jackson’s front, Longstreet ordered five divisions of 25,000 men forward in the largest mass assault of the war.

Longstreet’s overwhelming attack crushed the Federal left and suddenly shifted Pope’s stance from offense to defense. Pushing ahead on the old Bull Run battlefield, the Confederates captured Bald Hill and routed Federal brigades on Chinn Ridge. Many Federals fled in retreat, but some stayed and resisted Longstreet’s advance. A New York Zouave regiment suffered the highest percentage of killed in action of any Federal regiment in any battle–124 out of 490, or over 25 percent.

As some Federals (led by Brigadier General John Gibbon’s Iron Brigade) formed a defensive line on Henry House Hill, Jackson’s Confederates counterattacked north of the turnpike, pushing east toward Bull Run and driving back the Federal right. The joint assaults by Longstreet and Jackson bent the Federal line into a U-shape. Only the Federals putting up a brave resistance at Henry House Hill and heavy rain prevented a complete rout.

The makeshift Federal defense enabled the rest of Pope’s army to escape destruction by retreating on the Stone Bridge to Centreville. Federal Major General Philip Kearny, furious about the turn of events, yelled to Gibbon, “I am not stampeded. You are not stampeded. That is about all, sir, my God, that’s about all!” The Federals were in full retreat by nightfall.

Lee telegraphed President Jefferson Davis from Groveton at 10 p.m.:

“This Army today achieved on the plains of Manassas a signal victory over combined forces of Genls. McClellan and Pope. On the 28th and 29th each wing under Genls. Longstreet and Jackson repulsed with valour attacks made on them separately. We mourn the loss of our gallant dead in every conflict yet our gratitude to Almighty God for His mercies rises higher and higher each day, to Him and to the valour of our troops a nation’s gratitude is due.”

Lee failed to achieve his ultimate goal of destroying Pope’s army. But the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia achieved every other goal and won a tremendous victory, as Lee had masterfully defied military logic by dividing his force against a numerically superior enemy. Two months ago, the Federals had been on the verge of capturing the Confederate capital at Richmond. Now they were almost entirely cleared out of Virginia and retreating toward Washington. Lee directed Jackson to head to Chantilly to cut Pope’s line of retreat.

Pope wrote Halleck from Centreville:

“We have had a terrific battle again today… I thought it best to draw back to this place at dark. The movement has been made in perfect order and without loss. The troops are in good heart, and marched off the field without the least hurry or confusion… Do not be uneasy. We will hold our own here… P.S. We have lost nothing; neither guns nor wagons.”

Despite Pope’s spin, there was no way to interpret this battle as anything but a complete Federal defeat. Having guaranteed total victory since taking command of the Army of Virginia, Pope was especially humiliated by this loss. It also severely damaged morale among the troops, many of whom had already thought little of Pope’s leadership.

Charges of insubordination and dereliction of duty immediately began circulating throughout Pope’s army and extending into Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Halleck had repeatedly ordered McClellan to rush his troops to the battlefield, but McClellan failed to do so. Halleck finally pleaded, “I beg of you to assist me in this crisis with your ability and experience. I am utterly tired out.” Some accused McClellan of treason for failing to help while sitting nearby in Alexandria. Others blamed Halleck for not doing enough to coordinate the two armies.

In Washington, the mood quickly shifted from elation to panic as defeated troops began filtering into the capital. President Abraham Lincoln had been told by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton “that nothing but foul play could lose us this battle.” But when Lincoln received news of Pope’s retreat at 8 p.m. he told his secretary, John Hay, “Well, John, we are whipped again, I am afraid.” Nevertheless, Lincoln still looked for his commanders to resume the offensive in Virginia: “We must hurt this enemy before it gets away… we must whip these people now.”

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 220, 222-23; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 208; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7826-37; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 635-37, 640-42, 648; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 200-01; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4542; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 53-54; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 257-58; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 531; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 466-67, 469; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 172-74, 787-88; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 151-52, 160, 165; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 147; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 92-93

The Battle of Second Bull Run: Jackson

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.

Battle of Second Bull Run-Aug 29 | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

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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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 83-84; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 218; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17204, 17214; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 207; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 635; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 198-200; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 53-54; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 257; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 528-31; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 454-57; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 172-73, 787-88; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 144-45, 147; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 147; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 92-93

The Battle of Second Bull Run: Groveton

August 28, 1862 – Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates attacked a portion of Major General John Pope’s Federal Army of Virginia northwest of Manassas, sparking a major battle.

By the 28th, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s plan had been successful. One wing of his Army of Northern Virginia under Jackson had destroyed the Federal supply depot at Manassas Junction and positioned itself between Pope’s Federals and their capital at Washington. The other wing under Major General James Longstreet was hurrying through the Bull Run Mountains to join Jackson and give battle.

Confederate Generals James Longstreet and Thomas J. Jackson | Image Credit: BlogSpot.com and Wikispaces.com

Pope’s Federals descended on Manassas Junction around 12 p.m. on the 28th, only to find that Jackson’s men had withdrawn from there during the night. This began a frustrating chase as Pope spent most of the day sending his troops in search of the elusive Confederates.

As Jackson moved west and Pope moved east and north, the two forces briefly clashed before the Confederates pulled back and disappeared into the woods. Federal Major General Irvin McDowell reported the enemy force as “some rear guard or cavalry party, with artillery.” The maneuvering on both sides resumed.

Meanwhile, Longstreet’s wing advanced to within 22 miles of Jackson’s position en route to linking with his force. Accompanying Longstreet, Lee received a message that morning stating that Jackson’s men had taken positions at Groveton, seven miles northwest of Manassas Junction, where they rested unnoticed by Federals.

As Jackson’s Confederates evaded Federal pursuers and assembled at Groveton, Pope received information that they had entered Centreville. One of Jackson’s divisions under General A.P. Hill had mistakenly marched there but the men retraced their steps to join Jackson’s main force at Groveton. Pope ordered his army to concentrate at Centreville, only to find the Confederates were gone. Pope’s exhausted troops marched and countermarched all day in the summer heat, often under confusing and contradictory orders.

To the west, Lee planned to rest his men so they could cross the mountains and join Jackson the next morning. But Confederates advancing to Thoroughfare Gap between the mountains found their path blocked by General John Buford’s Federal cavalry. They drove the cavalry off, but then General James B. Ricketts’s Federal division arrived and opened artillery fire. A severe fight ensued as the Confederates tried turning the enemy right. The Federals finally withdrew after dark, allowing the Confederates to pass through the gap in one of the more remarkable operations in northern Virginia.

By mid-afternoon, Jackson had positioned his men in the woods along Stony Ridge and an incomplete railroad embankment north of the Warrenton Turnpike to Centreville. Confederates under Lee and Longstreet could easily reach Jackson after moving through Thoroughfare Gap. Jackson received a message from Lee around 3 p.m. stating that Longstreet would arrive sometime the next day.

Jackson’s men rested for about five hours before General Rufus King’s division of McDowell’s corps unknowingly crossed their hidden front along the Warrenton Turnpike to join the main army. Jackson, hoping to coax Pope into moving in his direction, ordered his men to attack.

When it seemed the Confederates would gain an easy victory, they met unexpected resistance from Brigadier General John Gibbon’s Black Hat Brigade of westerners near Brawner’s Farm. Fierce combat ensued; General William Taliaferro, one of Jackson’s division commanders, later recalled that “there was very little maneuvering and very little tactics… it was a question of endurance–and both endured.”

Both sides sustained heavy casualties before the fighting ended at nightfall. The Federals lost about 1,110 of the 2,800 men engaged, with the Black Hat Brigade taking 751 of those losses. Their ferocity earned them the nickname the “Iron Brigade.” A soldier later wrote that the brigade was always ready for combat, but after this battle at Groveton, “we were never again eager.”

Jackson lost about 1,300; Brigadier General Isaac R. Trimble and two of his three division commanders, Taliaferro and Richard Ewell, were wounded. Ewell, who had been invaluable to Jackson since his Shenandoah Valley campaign, lost a leg and was out of action for nearly a year. The famed Stonewall Brigade lost a third of its men.

The fight at Groveton revealed Jackson’s position to Pope, who received two messages that evening. One stated that Longstreet had been stopped west of the Bull Run Mountains, and the other stated that Jackson had been driven away from the Warrenton Turnpike. Both were incorrect, but Pope wired General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck that “a severe fight took place, which was terminated by darkness. The enemy was driven back at all points, and thus the affair rests.”

Pope then issued peremptory orders for his five corps commanders to unite on the old Bull Run battlefield. He directed: “Assault him (Jackson) vigorously at daylight in the morning. I see no possibility of his escape.” General Philip Kearny’s Federals would lead the attack, but Kearny was among many officers who were unimpressed with Pope’s leadership. When he received the orders, Kearny said, “Tell General Pope to go to hell. We won’t march before morning.”

Meanwhile, Pope paid scant attention to Longstreet, who, contrary to the news that Pope had received, passed Thoroughfare Gap on the night of the 28th and secured the road leading to Jackson’s men.

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 217-18; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17195-214; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 207; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 622-23; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 198; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4412-34; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 256-57; McMurry, Richard M., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 385; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 528; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 453; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 135-38, 142; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 92-95, 328-29