Category Archives: Virginia

Northern Virginia: Stuart Raids Pope’s Headquarters

August 22, 1862 – Confederate Major General Jeb Stuart sought revenge for the recent Federal ambush and exacted even more than he intended.

On the morning of the 20th, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia crossed the undefended fords of the Rapidan River. The army consisted of about 54,000 men in seven divisions, two unattached infantry brigades, a cavalry division, and artillery. At the same time, Major General John Pope’s Federal Army of Virginia crossed the Rappahannock River to the north, as Pope sought to link with Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac transferring from the Virginia Peninsula.

General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate army, hoped to destroy bridges over the Rappahannock to prevent the Federal withdrawal, but skirmishing at Raccoon Ford, Stevensburg, Brandy Station, and Kelly’s Ford prevented that. Confederate cavalry pursuing Pope drove off Brigadier General George Bayard’s Federal troopers, but Bayard stalled long enough for Pope to finish crossing the Rappahannock and guard the fords. This compelled the Confederates to move up the Rappahannock by Pope’s left flank.

Although he had thwarted Lee’s plan to trap him between the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, Pope was not satisfied with his positions north of the Rappahannock. He reported to General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “The line of the Rappahannock offers no advantage of defense, but you may rely upon our making a very hard fight in case the enemy advances on us.”

Halleck informed Pope that General Fitz John Porter’s V Corps from McClellan’s army had just arrived at Aquia Creek, and “will be pushed up the Rappahannock as rapidly as possible” to give Pope around 60,000 men. Pope turned most of his attention to his left, where he feared that Confederates might try cutting him off from McClellan’s arriving Federals.

Lee continued probing the Federal defenses but could find no weaknesses. Confederate cavalry clashed with Federals at Kelly’s, Beverly, and Freeman’s fords on the Rappahannock and sustained heavy casualties; the Confederates lost 700 killed or wounded and had nearly 2,000 taken prisoner. Pope believed this was just an enemy reconnaissance; he was unaware that Lee was moving his entire army north to confront him.

Confederate General Jeb Stuart | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Meanwhile, Lee approved Stuart’s request to lead the cavalry on a raid of Pope’s supply line. Stuart’s 1,500 troopers and two guns moved farther up the Rappahannock than either army, crossing at the unguarded Waterloo Bridge. He planned to cut the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, the main Federal supply line, by destroying the Cub Run bridge near Catlett’s Station, 10 miles behind Federal lines.

The Confederates arrived outside the station around 7:30 p.m., where they captured the Federal pickets. They learned from the prisoners that this was Pope’s headquarters, and a contraband guided them to his tent. Pope was on an inspection, but Stuart raided the tent and made off with Pope’s dress coat, dispatch book, and $350,000 in greenbacks from the army’s payroll chest.

Stuart saw this raid partly as revenge for the Federal ambush a few days before, but he was pleasantly surprised by such a large bounty. He left a note for Pope: “You have my hat and plume. I have your best coat. I have the honor to propose a cartel for the fair exchange of the prisoners…”

Covered by a thunderstorm, the Confederates rode into the heavily stocked supply depot, hollering the “Rebel yell,” capturing many Federals in their camps, and sending others fleeing. Stuart’s men cut the telegraph line, but they could not burn the bridge due to the rain.

The Confederates captured over 200 Federals (many of them Pope’s staff officers) and thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies before riding back to their lines. More importantly, Pope’s dispatch book contained copies of all the messages he sent or received from the past week. Stuart’s raid indicated that Pope’s efforts to protect his left made his right vulnerable. It also indicated that once McClellan’s Federals arrived to reinforce him, Pope’s army could double Lee’s.

Pope learned of Stuart’s raid late that night, along with news that part of Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s force had crossed the Rappahannock at Sulphur Springs. He consulted with Halleck and resolved to turn Lee’s right flank, just as Lee planned to turn Pope’s right. Meanwhile, Porter’s corps arrived at Falmouth, 20 miles from Pope’s left at Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock.

Stuart’s troopers returned to their lines the next day, where Stuart shared the information he had learned with Lee. Pope’s captured coat was sent to Richmond, where it was put on public display. Lee quickly began devising a plan to destroy Pope’s army before it could join with McClellan’s.

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 216; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17150-69; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 205-06; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 609-10, 614; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 194-95; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4342, 4353; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 254; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 125; 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. 120-21; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign

Northern Virginia: Lee Tries Trapping Pope

August 15, 1862 – General Robert E. Lee hoped to attack the Federals while they were between two rivers, but Major General John Pope learned of Lee’s plan.

John Pope and Robert E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lee arrived at Gordonsville on the morning of the 15th, joining his two top commanders, Major Generals Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and James Longstreet, on the Rapidan River. Pope’s Federal Army of Virginia was situated in a “V” formed by the Rappahannock River to the north and the Rapidan to the south, with the troops posted along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. The Federal and Confederate armies each numbered about 55,000 men.

When Lee learned that Pope had just one functioning bridge over the Rappahannock, he studied the maps and decided to attack in hopes of trapping the Federals between the rivers and destroying their army. Lee planned to begin the offensive by sending his cavalry north to destroy the Rappahannock bridge and any other crossings the Federals could use to escape.

Jackson wanted to attack immediately, but Lee was informed that the cavalry horses needed rest. Also, most of the army’s supplies had not yet arrived from Richmond. Thus, Lee informed Jackson and Longstreet that they would cross the Rapidan on the 17th and attack Pope the next day. Disappointed, Jackson began the movement by leading his three divisions northeast of Orange Court House.

That same day, a large portion of Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac boarded steamers and left the Virginia Peninsula. McClellan warned General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “I don’t like Jackson’s movements. He will suddenly appear where least expected.”

Meanwhile, Pope continued waiting for the Confederates to make a move. He was unaware that doing nothing was damaging his troops’ morale, which was already down due to their low opinion of Pope as a leader. Many men took advantage of Pope’s orders to live off the land by looting nearby homes and farms, leaving the residents destitute.

General Marsena Patrick of Major General Irvin McDowell’s corps wrote that he was “so utterly disgusted that I feel like resigning and letting the whole thing go. There has never been such a state of things before, in any command.” Pope issued orders prohibiting attacks on civilians, singling out General Adolph von Steinwehr for his men’s poor conduct. But the damage had already been done.

By the 16th, Pope believed Jackson was at Gordonsville and Lee was about to join him with the rest of his army. However, Jackson was near the Rapidan River, and Lee was at Gordonsville already. Pope found no good ground north of the Rapidan to attack from, and he knew he needed to protect his left or else the Confederates could cut him off from McClellan’s reinforcements landing at Aquia Creek.

Pope asked Halleck to keep McClellan’s men in the Aquia Creek vicinity to protect his left flank. Halleck warned Pope against advancing any further: “I think it would be very unsafe for your army to cross the Rapidan. It would be far better if you were in the rear of the Rappahannock.”

At Gordonsville, Lee received word that 108 transports had arrived at Harrison’s Landing on the Peninsula, indicating that McClellan’s entire army was being shipped north. This allowed Lee to bolster his own army by pulling more troops from the Richmond defenses. However, Lee needed to strike quickly, before Pope received McClellan’s men. After giving the horses a day of rest, Lee directed the cavalry under General Jeb Stuart to head north and burn the Rappahannock bridge. Jackson and Longstreet would then advance and assault Pope’s left.

Lee assembled his army in Pope’s front on the 17th, but he was still not yet ready to cross the Rapidan, so he delayed the attack. That afternoon, Stuart’s horsemen rode into Orange Court House, where Stuart reported Pope’s positions to Lee. The next day, the troopers were ambushed by Federal cavalry near Verdiersville and sent fleeing. The Federals collected the items the Confederates left behind, including Stuart’s plumed hat and cloak, and dispatches from Lee stating the attack would be delayed. When Pope received this information, he ordered a withdrawal across the Rappahannock.

Lee received confirmation that night that Pope was indeed pulling back. This thwarted Lee’s plan to catch Pope between the rivers. Disappointed, Lee continued preparing for an attack nonetheless. During the Federal retreat, the corps of Major Generals Franz Sigel and Irvin McDowell became dangerously tangled at Culpeper Court House. Although this made them vulnerable to a Confederate attack, Lee did not take advantage of it.

Lee and Longstreet watched Pope’s army withdraw from atop a mountain crest on the 19th. Lee said, “General, we little thought that the enemy would turn his back upon us thus early in the campaign.” Knowing his men needed rest before potential combat, Lee gave them the rest of the day off and issued orders to begin crossing the Rapidan in pursuit at 4 a.m. on the 20th.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17150; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 203; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 606-07, 613; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 192-94; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4283-342; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 251-52; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 449; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 124-25; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign

The Peninsula Campaign Ends

August 13, 1862 – Major General George B. McClellan tried one last time to persuade the Federal high command to cancel the order to pull the Army of the Potomac off the Virginia Peninsula.

Maj Gen G.B. McClellan | Image Credit: Wikispaces

In a letter to his wife, McClellan wrote that although General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck had ordered him to leave the Peninsula a week ago, he intended to stay and coax General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates into attacking his defenses at Harrison’s Landing. Apparently unaware that Lee would never try such a foolish thing, McClellan wrote, “If I succeed in my coup, everything will be changed in this country so far as we are concerned & my enemies will be at my feet.”

McClellan denounced Halleck and Major General John Pope as “enemies of the country & of the human race,” and the more he learned “of their wickedness, the more am I surprised that such a wretched set are permitted to live much less to occupy the positions they do.” He predicted, “I have a strong idea that Pope will be thrashed during the coming week, & very badly whipped he will be & ought to be–such a villain as he is ought to bring defeat upon any cause that employs him.”

Boasting that he would march on Richmond (even though he was just 25 miles away and made no effort to do so for over a month), McClellan wrote, “I will try to catch or thrash (Major General James) Longstreet (of Lee’s army), & then if the chance offers follow in to Richmond while they (the rest of Lee’s army) are lamming away at Pope.” If this desperate move failed, “why well & good. I will fall back.” But if successful, “I shall have saved my country & will then gratefully retire to private life.”

After divulging his true sentiments to his wife, McClellan sent one more frantic plea to stay on the Peninsula. He cited the overwhelming logistical problems that went with moving such a large army to Aquia Creek, as well as the lack of adequate living space for his men once they got there. McClellan argued, “If Washington is in danger now this Army can scarcely arrive in time to save it. It is in much better position to do so from here than from Aquia.”

On the 13th, McClellan traveled to Cherry Stone Inlet, over 70 miles away, to have a direct conversation with Halleck from the telegraph office there. He received a final message from Halleck in the early hours of the 14th:

“I have read your dispatch. There is no change of plans. You will send your troops as rapidly as possible. There is no difficulty in landing them. According to your own accounts there is now no difficulty in withdrawing your forces. Do so with all possible rapidity.”

Informed that Halleck had left the Washington telegraph office for the night, McClellan replied, “Your orders will be obeyed. I return at once. I had hoped to have had a longer and fuller conversation with you, after traveling so far for the purpose.”

McClellan finally began withdrawing on the 14th, 11 days after Halleck had ordered him to move immediately. Troops of III and IV corps began boarding transports, covered by the gunboats U.S.S. Galena, Port Royal, and Satellite. The transfer to Aquia Creek was completed two days later, ending McClellan’s failed five-month campaign to capture Richmond. His Federals had been as close as five miles to the Confederate capital, only to be driven off and neutralized on the Peninsula.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 203; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 595-96, 605; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 192-93; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4272-83; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 473-74; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 251; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 124; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign

Northern Virginia: Lee Turns to Confront Pope

August 10, 1862 – Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates fell back after the Battle of Cedar Mountain as General Robert E. Lee prepared to move the rest of his Confederate army up to meet Jackson.

Jackson and Major General John Pope remained within striking distance of each other on the 10th, but neither tried resuming the offensive. Pope had about 34,000 men, with Major General Irvin McDowell’s corps on its way to join him from the east. Pope notified Halleck, “From everything I can learn, I am satisfied that one-third of the enemy’s whole force is here.” This was true, except Pope believed “the enemy’s whole force” was over 80,000 men, which would give Jackson nearly 30,000. In reality, Jackson had just 21,000 troops.

A ceasefire was called to collect the dead and wounded, and men from both sides mingled and visited with one another. During the armistice, Jackson learned that Pope’s entire army was concentrating near Culpeper Court House. So that night, he led his Confederates across the Rapidan River back to Gordonsville.

Jackson informed General Robert E. Lee that he had done this “in order to avoid being attacked by the vastly superior force in front of me, and with the hope that by thus falling back General Pope would be induced to follow me until I should be reinforced.”

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

This alarmed Lee because Jackson had not only failed to destroy Pope’s army, but he exposed the Virginia Central to potential Federal capture as well. Nevertheless, Lee wrote Jackson, “I congratulate you most heartily on the victory which God has granted you over our enemies at Cedar Run. I hope your victory is but the precursor of others over our foe in that quarter, which will entirely break up and scatter his army.”

Unaware that Jackson’s men had left, Pope wrote Halleck at 11 p.m. on the 11th: “The enemy has been receiving re-enforcements all day. (Major General James) Longstreet’s division (of Lee’s army) now on the march from Orange Court-House. I think it almost certain that we shall be attacked in the morning, and we shall make the best fight we can.” Pope asked Halleck to send him the Federal troops guarding Harpers Ferry and Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox’s small force patrolling western Virginia.

Halleck agreed to allow Cox to send half his command (about 5,000 men) to Pope, but Cox had to stay behind with the rest. Cox wrote, “It is the natural wish of every soldier to serve with the largest army in the most important campaign. The order to remain with a diminished command in West Virginia was a great disappointment to me, against which I made haste to protest.” Cox wrote to Pope, “I trust it will be possible for the General commanding to reconsider the determination to leave me here, as by long service in these mountains, I feel I have some claim to serve with a larger column.”

Pope discovered that Jackson was gone the next morning. He informed Washington that he would pursue the Confederates, prompting Halleck to respond, “Beware of a snare. Feigned retreats are secesh attacks.” Halleck directed Major General Ambrose E. Burnside to send Pope as many men as he could and secure the bridge at Aquia Creek to facilitate the arrival and transfer of Major General George B. McClellan’s Federals to Pope. Burnside responded by sending Pope 6,000 men under General Jesse Reno.

Jackson’s Confederates returned to Gordonsville, 20 miles south of Cedar Mountain, on the 12th. Once there they resumed guarding the Virginia Central Railroad linking Richmond to the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson dispatched his valuable topographer, Jedediah Hotchkiss, to survey the ground between Gordonsville and the Potomac River for a potential counter-thrust north.

The next day, Lee directed Longstreet to lead 30,000 men north to Hanover Junction to guard against a possible Federal advance from the Rappahannock River. An Englishman claiming to be a Federal deserter informed Lee that McClellan was moving his men down the Peninsula to Fort Monroe for a potential transfer to northern Virginia. The Lincoln administration ignored pleas from McClellan to attack Richmond; he had his chance and now he was done.

Pope wanted to attack as well, but Halleck warned him, “Do not advance your force across the Rapidan. Guard well against a flank movement by the enemy.” Reno’s Federals arrived to reinforce Pope, and Cox’s Federals were en route from western Virginia. Pope approved Cox’s request to come along as well: “You can come yourself with the troops. Select the best troops to come with you, and come speedily.”

Cox’s Federals moved from the Kanawha River to the Ohio River. They then boarded trains at Parkersburg, bound for Washington and then Pope’s army. This marked the first time the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was used to conduct a major troop transfer. It involved complex logistics, but it was faster than marching overland.

On the 14th, Confederate Major General D.H. Hill confirmed the word of the English deserter after reconnoitering Harrison’s Landing. This prompted Lee to turn his full attention to Pope. Lee notified President Jefferson Davis:

“Unless I hear from you to the contrary I shall leave for G(ordonsville) at 4 a.m. tomorrow. The troops are accumulating there and I must see that arrangements are made for the field. When you do not hear from me, you may feel sure that I do not think it necessary to trouble you. I shall feel obliged to you for any directions you may think proper to give.”

Lee left two infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade to guard Richmond under General Gustavus W. Smith, who finally overcame the illness that had forced him to leave the army in June. Lee told Smith, “I deem no instructions necessary beyond the necessity of holding Richmond to the very last extremity.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17132-42, 17150; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 202; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 37; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 604-05; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 191-92; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4272-83; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 473-74; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 250; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 124; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign

The Battle of Cedar Mountain

August 9, 1862 – Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates advanced toward Culpeper Court House and confronted a Federal force deployed to stop them at Cedar Mountain.

On the morning of the 9th, Pope was hurrying to concentrate his new Army of Virginia. Major General Irvin McDowell’s corps was west of Culpeper toward Fredericksburg, Major General Franz Sigel’s corps was east of Culpeper near Sperryville, and Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s corps, along with cavalry and Brigadier General Samuel W. Crawford’s brigade, was just south of Culpeper. With Jackson approaching, Pope issued verbal orders to Banks that produced three different interpretations:

  • Pope claimed that he ordered Banks at 9:45 a.m. to set up defensive positions and await Jackson’s attack while Pope sent Banks reinforcements.
  • Banks claimed that Pope ordered him to deploy skirmishers and attack as soon as Jackson’s men appeared, even though he was outnumbered two-to-one.
  • Colonel Louis H. Marshall, Pope’s aide who delivered the verbal order, claimed that Banks and Crawford were to attack only if Jackson appeared to be mounting an attack first.

Banks’s Federals marched south toward Cedar Mountain, about eight miles from Culpeper Court House, as Jackson’s Confederates (led by Major General Richard Ewell’s division) moved north. Jackson observed dust clouds to the north, indicating the Federals’ approach. He deployed General Jubal Early’s brigade of Ewell’s division to the left and sent the rest of Ewell’s men to the right, almost on the other side of Cedar Mountain.

Although his entire force had not yet arrived, Jackson unveiled his battle plan: Ewell would turn the Federals’ left flank, while Early, supported by Brigadier General Charles S. Winder’s Confederates, would take the Federal right as artillery continued pounding the Federal center. Confederate artillerists opened fire around 3 p.m., touching off a massive two-hour cannon duel.

Cedar Mountain | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Cedar Mountain | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Observing the Federal positions with opera glasses, Winder directed the Confederate fire while his men got into attack positions. As the artillery battle began fading around 5 p.m., a shell fragment ripped into Winder’s left arm and side, killing him. Division command passed to Brigadier General William Taliaferro, who did not know Jackson’s plan.

While Taliaferro scrambled to strengthen his vulnerable left flank, Banks adhered to what he believed to be Pope’s orders and attacked before reinforcements arrived. Crawford’s brigade, on the Federal right, tore into Taliaferro’s men, broke three brigades, and nearly sent Early reeling. With the Confederates on the verge of a rout, Jackson brandished his sword (which had rusted into its scabbard due to lack of use) and a battle flag, shouting, “Rally brave men, and press forward! Your general will lead you. Jackson will lead you. Follow me!”

The Stonewall Brigade counterattacked, pushing the Federals back. But the Confederates overextended their line and the Federals counterattacked in turn. By this time, Major General A.P. Hill’s division finally began arriving on the scene, and Jackson hurried Hill’s men into the fight. They provided the difference in the contest by breaking the Federal right. As Crawford retreated, Ewell collapsed the Federal left as well.

The Federals left nearly a third of their force on the field as they withdrew. Pope deployed a fresh division to try stopping the retreat around 7 p.m., but Confederates repelled it with heavy loss, and Banks ordered a general withdrawal. Jackson ordered a pursuit but then stopped it when he learned from Federal prisoners that Franz Sigel’s men were coming to reinforce Banks. Sigel did not arrive in time to save the Federals’ fortunes. Exhausted, Jackson lay on the ground and told his staff, “I want rest… nothing but rest.”

General fighting ended around 10 p.m., with Confederate artillerists keeping up their fire until Pope, believing those were his guns, sent a messenger to order the firing stopped. The Confederates, believing the messenger to be part of Jackson’s staff, obeyed. In the fight, Banks had thwarted Jackson’s plans by attacking first, but he did not hold any men in reserve, nor did he request reinforcements from Pope. This allowed Jackson to turn the tide and claim victory.

The Federals suffered a terrible 30 percent casualty rate, losing 2,381 (314 killed, 1,445 wounded, and 622 missing) out of about 8,000 engaged. The Confederates lost just 1,314 (223 killed, 1060 wounded, and 31 missing) out of roughly 16,800, or less than 8 percent. Both Jackson and General Robert E. Lee mourned the loss of Winder, a valuable commander.

The Battle of Cedar Mountain temporarily stopped Pope’s efforts to move south and indicated to the Confederate high command that this was Pope’s intention. This news, coupled with news that Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac was abandoning the Peninsula, prompted Lee to move his entire Army of Northern Virginia north to meet Pope’s advance.

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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. 210, 215; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 201; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 591-92, 596, 598, 604; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4260, 4272; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 249-50; 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. 525-26; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 447-49; 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. 98-100; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 146; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 122, 835-36; Wikipedia: Battle of Cedar Mountain

Shifting Focus in Virginia

August 8, 1862 – Major General George B. McClellan strongly protested General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck’s order to leave the Peninsula, and Confederates moved north to take on the new Federal Army of Virginia.

Halleck’s order outraged McClellan, partly because he believed it was meant to move Major General John Pope, commanding the Army of Virginia, above him in rank. McClellan wrote a lengthy plea to reconsider on August 4:

“Your telegram of last evening is received. I must confess that it has caused me the greatest pain I ever experienced, for I am convinced that the order to withdraw this army to Aquia Creek will prove disastrous to our cause. We are 25 miles from Richmond. and are not likely to meet the enemy in force sufficient to fight a battle until we have marched 15 to 18 miles, which brings us practically within 10 miles of Richmond… Add to this the certain demoralization of this army which would ensue (from pulling out), and these appear to me sufficient reasons to make it my imperative duty to urge in the strongest terms afforded by our language that this order may be rescinded.

“Here, directly in front of this army, is the heart of the rebellion. It is here that all our resources should be collected to strike the blow which will determine the fate of the nation… It matters not what partial reverses we may meet with elsewhere. Here is the true defense of Washington. It is here, on the banks of the James, that the fate of the Union should be decided.”

Maj Gen G.B. McClellan | Image Credit: Wikispaces

Hoping this plea changed Halleck’s mind, McClellan directed a new reconnaissance under Brigadier General Joseph Hooker to proceed. Hooker’s Federals approached Malvern Hill, defended by General Wade Hampton’s Confederate cavalry, on the night of the 4th. As the Federals advanced in line of battle the next day, Hampton yielded to superior numbers and Hooker took the hill by noon. However, in light of Halleck’s order to leave the Peninsula, McClellan did not reinforce Hooker, and when General Robert E. Lee sent 20,000 Confederates to try flanking the Federals off the hill, Hooker had already fallen back to Harrison’s Landing.

On the 6th, Halleck informed McClellan that his order was peremptory: “You cannot regret the order of withdrawal more than I did the necessity of giving it. It will not be rescinded and you will be expected to execute it with all possible promptness.”

McClellan finally sent his sick and wounded, along with five artillery batteries, to Aquia Creek. But he informed Halleck that he would not transfer anymore troops at this time due to the maneuvers around Malvern Hill. McClellan said he would only obey Halleck’s orders “as soon as circumstances permit.”

After another day passed, Halleck sent another message to McClellan: “I must beg of you, General, to hurry along this movement (of withdrawing from the Peninsula). Your reputation as well as mine may be involved in its rapid execution.”

On the Confederate side, Lee was surprised to learn that the Federals had abandoned Malvern Hill. He met with Captain John S. Mosby, a Confederate partisan who had been held as a prisoner of war at Fort Monroe until recently exchanged. Mosby reported seeing many naval transports at Hampton Roads, which were moving Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Federals from the Peninsula to Aquia Creek. This indicated that the next major Federal offensive would take place in northern Virginia, not the Peninsula.

Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson | Image Credit: Bing public domain

Based on this intelligence, Lee contacted Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, whose Confederates were at Gordonsville, north of Richmond. Lee urged Jackson to seize the initiative from Pope by attacking first, writing, “I would rather you should have easy fighting and heavy victories.” Two days later, Lee reiterated his request, but since he could send no reinforcements to Jackson, Lee told him, “I must now leave the matter to your reflection and good judgment.”

Jackson led his three divisions from Gordonsville to Orange Court House, which the Federals had abandoned. Knowing that Pope’s army was spread out, Jackson planned to cross the Rapidan River and attack the Federals at Culpeper Court House before Pope could concentrate there.

On the morning of the 8th, Jackson ordered General Richard Ewell’s division to head north 20 miles to Culpeper. General A.P. Hill’s division would follow, and General Charles S. Winder’s division would bring up the rear. But then Jackson inexplicably redirected Ewell on a roundabout route west and then northeast without informing Hill or Winder.

Hill fell in behind the Confederates at Orange Court House, believing they were Ewell’s men. When informed they were actually Winder’s men, Hill continued following them anyway. Jackson and Hill had a heated exchange about this mix-up, and considering they had disliked each other ever since they were West Point cadets, this caused a permanent rift between them.

After waiting for the wagon train to pass, Hill’s men finally moved out and only covered two miles on the 8th. Confederates under Ewell and Winder marched through oppressive heat and halted at Burnett’s Ford, a mile into Culpeper County, that afternoon. Confederate cavalry drove off nearby Federal troopers and informed Jackson that the Federals had alerted Pope of their presence.

However, Pope did not know what Jackson intended to do. He also received orders from Halleck: “Do not advance, so as to expose yourself to any disaster, unless you can better your line of defense, until we can get more troops upon the Rappahannock… You must be very cautious.”

Pope responded by forming a defensive front between Culpeper and Madison Court House. He directed two divisions from Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s corps to move south on the Culpeper road toward Cedar Mountain, a 600-foot-high eminence between Culpeper and Orange. Pope also ordered Banks’s remaining corps and Major General Franz Sigel’s corps to link at Culpeper.

Sigel, apparently unaware there was only one road between his men at Sperryville and Culpeper, sent a message that night asking which road to take. A Federal officer said that Sigel refused to move and instead “remained like an ass between two bundles of hay in a state of perfect rest.” This enraged Pope, who already had a low opinion of Sigel. He ordered Sigel to take the lone road and march through the night to make up the lost time.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17096; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 199-200; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 591-92, 595-96, 598, 605; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 187-90; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4260, 4272-83; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 473-74; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 247; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 447; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 95, 98-99; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 124; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 121-22; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign

Northern Virginia and the Peninsula

August 1, 1862 – Federal Major General John Pope began probing southward from northern Virginia while the Lincoln administration prepared to end the Peninsula campaign.

Gen H.W. Halleck | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

As August began, new Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck was planning to remove Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac from the Virginia Peninsula. Halleck intended to transfer the army to Aquia Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River in northern Virginia, about 12 miles from Fredericksburg. From there, the troops would protect Washington and reinforce Pope’s Army of Virginia.

In July, the administration had granted McClellan’s request for reinforcements by sending troops from Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Department of North Carolina and Major General David Hunter’s Department of the South. But on August 1, Halleck redirected Burnside’s force from the Peninsula to Aquia Creek, beginning the general removal. McClellan remained unaware that Halleck intended for him to abandon the Peninsula.

Outside Richmond, Confederate General Robert E. Lee faced two major threats: McClellan to the east, and Pope (and now Burnside) to the north. Keeping most of his Army of Northern Virginia facing McClellan, Lee had dispatched 24,000 Confederates under Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson to Gordonsville to defend against any southward advances by Pope.

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Pope’s army was spread across 60 miles, from the Blue Ridge west to Fredericksburg east. Burnside’s arrival at Aquia Creek enabled Pope to compact his line by bringing his men west from Fredericksburg. Pope had recently secured Culpeper Court House and intended to make it his base of operations. From there, he would protect Washington from any threat by Jackson. He would also try disrupting the lines between Jackson and Lee, which would facilitate McClellan’s removal from the Peninsula.

Pope sent Brigadier General John Buford’s cavalry and Brigadier General Samuel Crawford’s infantry to probe Orange Court House, where they skirmished with pickets on Jackson’s left flank. This marked Pope’s farthest southward penetration thus far, and it put his troops within 10 miles of Jackson’s main force at Gordonsville. Within a few days, the Federals pulled back to Culpeper Court House as Pope continued trying to concentrate his army so he could make an even stronger southward thrust.

When Pope learned of the skirmish at Orange Court House, he telegraphed Halleck, “The enemy is in considerable force at and south of Gordonsville, though not so strong, I think, as was supposed.” Pope estimated Jackson’s strength at 28,000 with the addition of A.P. Hill’s men, which was close to the actual number of 24,000. Pope wrote, “Unless the enemy is heavily re-enforced from Richmond, I shall be in possession of Gordonsville and Charlottesville within ten days.”

Meanwhile, McClellan’s Federals remained at Harrison’s Landing, where they had been since their retreating victories in the Seven Days Battles. In late July, Halleck had directed McClellan to reconnoiter the Confederate positions on the Peninsula to determine if Lee was staying around Richmond or moving north to take on Pope. McClellan thought this was preparatory to another drive on Richmond, not a withdrawal from the Peninsula.

McClellan directed a Federal division under Brigadier General Joseph Hooker to conduct “an expedition of importance in the direction of the enemy’s lines near Malvern.” On the night of August 2, Hooker, accompanied by General Alfred Pleasonton’s cavalry, began advancing the six miles from Harrison’s Landing to Malvern Hill, site of the decisive Federal victory on July 1. A small Confederate unit led by General Wade Hampton guarded the hill.

This reconnaissance failed, as Hooker reported the next day, “In consequence of the incompetency of guides furnished me, I regret to be obliged to inform you that I have deemed it expedient to return to camp. The German guide furnished me was lost before I left camp,” and only building a new road would “be likely to secure important results to the movement on Malvern Hill.”

As the Federals worked on organizing a new reconnaissance, McClellan received the official message from Halleck on the morning of the 4th: “It is determined to withdraw your army from the Peninsula to Aquia Creek. You will take immediate measures to effect this, covering the movement as best you can.” The movement “should be concealed even from your own officers. The entire execution of the movement is left to your discretion and judgment.”

To obey the order, McClellan would have to move his army down the Peninsula to Fort Monroe, load the troops on transports, and move them up Chesapeake Bay to the Potomac River to get to Aquia Creek. This would be a massive undertaking, especially considering that McClellan had not yet even moved his sick and wounded troops as Halleck had ordered him to do in late July.

The Lincoln administration wanted McClellan to withdraw so he could reinforce Pope’s army, which was the new hope to defeat the Confederates and capture Richmond after McClellan had failed. Politics also played a role in the administration’s shifting emphasis from McClellan to Pope: the latter was a fellow Republican unlike the former, who was a Democrat and considered by many to be hostile toward his Republican superiors.

Once McClellan’s troops reached Aquia Landing, they were to continue to Alexandria. They would then defend Washington and reinforce Pope’s army. McClellan deeply resented Halleck’s order, perceiving it as an effort to place Pope above him in rank. He resisted the directive as best he could, protesting vehemently while staying put at Harrison’s Landing. Meanwhile, Lee gradually began realizing that the next major Federal offensive would come from the north.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17096; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 199-200; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 591-92, 595-96, 598, 605; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 187-90; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4260, 4272-83; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 473-74; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 247; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 447; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 95, 98-99; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 124; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 121-22; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign