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

Confederates Target Kentucky

August 6, 1862 – General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Mississippi arrived at Chattanooga, and the Federal high command expressed disappointment with Major General Don Carlos Buell’s perceived lack of action.

By moving into Chattanooga, Bragg entered Major General Edmund Kirby Smith’s Confederate Department of East Tennessee. Smith had about 10,000 men at Knoxville, and after meeting with Bragg, he reported that:

  • Smith would “move at once against General (George) Morgan in front of Cumberland Gap.”
  • Bragg would advance from Chattanooga into Middle Tennessee after collecting supplies.
  • If Smith defeated Morgan, he would join forces with Bragg.

The generals were confident of success based on the recent cavalry raids by General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Colonel John Hunt Morgan:

“The feeling in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky is represented by Forrest and Morgan to have become intensely hostile to the enemy, and nothing is wanted but arms and support to bring the people into our ranks, for they have found that neutrality has afforded them no protection.”

For the Federals:

  • Brigadier General George W. Morgan, Smith’s West Point classmate and close friend, had about 8,000 men at Cumberland Gap.
  • In northern Alabama, Buell’s Army of the Ohio continued crawling toward Chattanooga from near Huntsville.

Gen Don Carlos Buell | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Buell’s methodical pace drew a reprimand from General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck: “There is great dissatisfaction here (in Washington) at the slow movement of your army toward Chattanooga. It is feared that the enemy will have time to concentrate his entire army against you.”

Buell responded, “It is difficult to satisfy impatience, and when it proceeds from anxiety, as I know it does in this case, I am not disposed to complain of it. My advance has not been rapid, but it could not be more rapid under the circumstances. I know I have not been idle nor indifferent.”

Buell reported that there were about 60,000 Confederates in eastern Tennessee, “yet I am prepared to find the reports much more exaggerated than I have supposed, and shall march upon Chattanooga at the earliest possible day, unless I ascertain certainly that the enemy’s strength renders it imprudent. If, on the other hand, he should cross the (Tennessee) river I shall attack him, and I do not doubt that we shall defeat him.”

Meanwhile, as Bragg and Smith continued planning, Smith proposed an alternative to attacking George Morgan’s Federals:

“I understand General Morgan has at Cumberland Gap nearly a month’s supply of provisions. If this be true then the reduction of the place would be a matter of more time than I presume you are willing I should take. As my move direct to Lexington, Kentucky, would effectually invest Morgan and would be attended with other most brilliant results in my judgment, I suggest I be allowed to take that course.”

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Bragg, who had originally envisioned Smith defeating Morgan and then joining him to defeat Buell, seemed intrigued by Smith’s idea of marching on Lexington and began considering whether he should advance into Kentucky as well. But to do so, Bragg would need help from his two forces in Mississippi under Major Generals Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price. Bragg agreed with Smith’s revised plan but urged caution:

“It would be unadvisable, I think, for you to move far into Kentucky, leaving Morgan in your rear, until I am able to fully engage Buell and his forces on your left. But I do not credit the amount of Morgan’s supplies and have confidence in his timidity. When once well on the way to his rear you might safely leave but 5,000 to his front, and by a flank movement draw the rest to your assistance. He will never advance to escape. Van Dorn and Price will advance simultaneously with us from Mississippi on West Tennessee, and I trust we may all unite in Ohio.”

With Colonel John S. Scott’s cavalry riding ahead, Smith headed out of Knoxville with four divisions on August 13. The three divisions under Generals Thomas J. Churchill, Patrick Cleburne, and Henry Heth moved north with Smith. The fourth division under General Carter L. Stevenson would hold Morgan’s Federals at Cumberland Gap.

Confederate General E.K. Smith | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Smith notified Richmond, “My advance is made in the hope of permanently occupying Kentucky. It is a bold move, offering brilliant results, but will be accomplished only with hard fighting, and must be sustained by constant reinforcements.” He renamed his force the Confederate Army of Kentucky.

The three divisions bypassed Cumberland Gap and marched through the Cumberland Mountains before entering Kentucky on the 16th. Buell learned of Smith’s advance and guessed it was being coordinated with John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry raid in Kentucky. He dispatched Major General William “Bull” Nelson to lead a group of experienced officers “to organize such troops as could be got together there to reestablish our communications and operate against Morgan’s incursions.”

The Confederates occupied Barbourville, Kentucky, on the 18th. This was in George Morgan’s rear, threatening his supply line to Lexington. Smith wrote his wife, “Our men have marched night and day, and have carried their own subsistence in their haversacks for five days. Ragged, barefoot, they have climbed mountains, suffered starvation and thirst without a murmur.” Supply shortages and local Unionist sentiment prompted Smith to start moving toward Lexington.

Within Kentucky, civil unrest between Unionists and secessionists continued, as Governor Beriah Magoffin resigned under threats of assassination due to his refusal to pledge loyalty to either the Union or the Confederacy. The Unionist legislature had refused to endorse Magoffin’s proposal to allow the people to vote on whether Kentucky should stay in the Union.

Unrest within the Federal high command continued as well, as Halleck wired Buell, “So great is the dissatisfaction here at the apparent want of energy and activity in your district, that I was this morning notified to have you removed. I got the matter delayed till we could hear further of your movements.” Buell quickly responded:

“I beg that you will not interpose on my behalf. On the contrary, if the dissatisfaction cannot cease on grounds which I think might be supposed if not apparent, I respectfully request that I may be relieved. My position is far too important to be occupied by any officer on sufferance. I have no desire to stand in the way of what may be deemed necessary for the public good.”

As Buell remained relatively stationary, Smith continued his advance and Bragg prepared to mobilize as well.

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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; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 467-68; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 564-65, 576-77, 583; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 193; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 234; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 251; 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. 516-17; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 517-18; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 44, 49; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

The Battle of Baton Rouge

August 5, 1862 – Confederate forces tried to retake the Louisiana capital while waiting for help from the ironclad C.S.S. Arkansas.

By this month, Major General John C. Breckinridge’s 4,000-man Confederate force had dwindled to 3,400 due to illness and fatigue in the extreme summer heat. Although he opposed Major General Earl Van Dorn’s quest to regain Baton Rouge, Breckinridge complied with orders and led his men from Camp Moore toward the Louisiana capital.

On the way, Breckinridge learned that 5,000 Federals and three gunboats were at Baton Rouge awaiting him. He therefore requested the services of the Confederate ironclad, the C.S.S. Arkansas, to offset the Federals’ advantage. The Arkansas’s damage from combat the previous month had been repaired, but she still had chronic engine trouble.

Captain Isaac N. Brown, commanding the Arkansas, had gone to Grenada, Mississippi, on sick leave. Before leaving, Brown gave strict orders to his replacement, Lieutenant Henry K. Stevens, to keep the ship at Vicksburg. However, Van Dorn overrode Brown and directed Stevens to take the ship to Baton Rouge in support of Breckinridge.When Stevens informed Brown of this change, Brown left his sickbed and appealed to Flag Officer William F. Lynch at Jackson, Mississippi, to have his order reinstated. Brown argued that the ship could not make the 300-mile trip because her engines had never been fully functional. But Lynch sided with Van Dorn and allowed the Arkansas to try going to Baton Rouge.

The Arkansas headed out on the 4th but stopped soon after due to the engine issues. When Breckinridge received assurances that the ironclad would be ready to support him before dawn, he planned to attack the next morning. Meanwhile, Brigadier General Thomas Williams, commanding the Federal garrison at Baton Rouge, learned of the Confederate approach and prepared his defenses. Both sides had about the same number of men, but Breckinridge’s Confederates were more tired after marching 60 miles from Camp Moore.

The Confederates charged through heavy fog at dawn on the 5th. They pushed east toward the Mississippi and hoped to see the Arkansas coming up in the Federal rear. The Confederates on the left, led by General Charles Clark, quickly pushed the enemy back and captured two cannon, but Federal reinforcements came up and the Confederate momentum stalled. Federals captured Clark, who was also severely wounded.

Fighting soon intensified. When all the officers of an Indiana regiment were killed or wounded, Williams announced to the troops, “Boys, your field officers are all gone; I will lead you.” But then Williams was mortally wounded; he died on the field.

The Federals pulled back toward the river as their gunboats (U.S.S. Cayuga, Katahdin, Kineo, and Sumter) poured enfilade fire into the Confederate right. The Arkansas was nowhere to be seen. Neither side gave ground in the center, but the Federal right slowly fell back. A counterattack pushed the Confederates back, but Breckinridge ordered a bayonet charge that drove the Federals into town.

Despite driving the Federals from the field, Breckinridge could advance no further because Federal guns commanded all the approaches, and the Federal gunboats covered the troops. Moreover, Confederates were dropping out from exhaustion, casualties were extreme, and the Arkansas never showed. Fighting stopped around 10 a.m.

Breckinridge held his ground until 4 p.m., when he learned that the Arkansas’s starboard engine had given out four miles from Baton Rouge, causing her to run aground. Apparently the Federal broadsides that the Arkansas had sustained last month cracked the engine connecting rods, which broke under full steam.

Colonel Thomas Cahill, succeeding Williams as the Federal commander, ordered the gunboats to stay at Baton Rouge in case Breckinridge renewed the attack. This saved the Arkansas from destruction. Breckinridge left a small force to observe the Federals and withdrew the rest of his men to their camps on the Comite River, 10 miles away. The Federals did not pursue.

Image Credit: Flickr.com

The Federals sustained 383 casualties (84 killed, 266 wounded, and 33 missing or captured), including the loss of their commander. The Confederates lost 456 (84 killed, 315 wounded, and 57 missing or captured), including a brother-in-law of President Abraham Lincoln.

Breckinridge issued a proclamation to his men, commending them for their valor in the fight. He blamed the withdrawal on the absence of the Arkansas and declared, “You have given the enemy a severe and salutary lesson, and now those who so lately were ravaging and plundering this region do not care to extend their pickets beyond the sight of their fleet.”

Meanwhile, the crew of the Arkansas finally lightened her enough to free her from grounding. By that time, the Federal gunboats, commanded by Flag Officer William D. Porter and led by Porter’s ironclad U.S.S. Essex, headed out to confront the Confederate vessel.

Confederates repaired the Arkansas’s starboard engine the next day and continued downriver to take on the Federals. But then her port engine gave out as the Federal gunboats approached. Lieutenant Stevens directed his crew to bring the Arkansas close to shore for defense. The Essex came within range and began firing on her. The Arkansas’s engines started up again, but when her lines were cut, the engines failed again, sending her drifting toward the Federals.

The ship grounded in a patch of cypress trees, making her an easy target. Stevens finally ordered his men to destroy the vessel to prevent capture. The crew set up a skirmish line on shore, and Federals fired on the ship for three hours until she finally exploded. Stevens later reported, “It was beautiful to see her, when abandoned by Commander and crew, and dedicated to sacrifice, fighting the battle on her own hook.”

This ended the Arkansas’s legendary 23-day career, and it was the last time the Confederacy tried putting such an intimidating ironclad on the Mississippi. It was also the last time the Confederates threatened Baton Rouge. They eventually found a new stronghold on the Mississippi that they could fortify: Port Hudson.

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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 15922-31; Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 635; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 200; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 580-81; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 188-89; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 171; Korn, Jerry, War on the Mississippi: Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 35; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 248; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition, 2012), p. 94; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 515; Schultz, Fred L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 829; Still, Jr., William N., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 23

The Growing Clamor for Black Military Recruitment

August 4, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln ordered the drafting of militia into the Federal armies but remained reluctant to allow blacks to serve as combatants.

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lincoln invoked the terms of the newly enacted Militia Act by calling for 300,000 state militiamen to serve nine months. This was on top of the 300,000 three-year volunteers that Lincoln had called for last month. Lincoln decreed that states unable to meet their three-year volunteer quota had to make up for it with more nine-month enlistments, and if any state would not or could not raise their militias, the War Department would take control of the process. This was never effectively carried out.

That same day, two congressmen and a group of “Western gentlemen” presented two Indiana regiments of black men to Lincoln. Congressional Republicans, primarily the Radicals, had long supported freeing slaves and sending them into the military, both to deprive the Confederacy of labor and to increase Federal military strength. Also, the newly passed Confiscation Act authorized the president to arm slaves for combat duty. However, most northerners opposed such a move.

Lincoln upheld popular opinion by declining the offer for the black regiments to serve as armed units. He explained that “to arm the negroes would turn 50,000 bayonets against us that were for us,” meaning that the loyal slave states of Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri could join the Confederacy. Lincoln said he was not ready to allow the men to serve in any capacity other than army laborers, for which they would be paid. Major General Ulysses S. Grant used this policy to make laborers out of fugitive slaves in his military department.

The disappointed men and their sponsors were unaware that Lincoln was in the process of modifying his position on this issue. In a recent cabinet meeting, Lincoln had officially opposed arming blacks for military service, but, according to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, “he was not unwilling that commanders should, at their discretion, arm, for purely defensive purposes, slaves coming into their lines.”

In fact, the 1st South Carolina (African descent) was already armed and trained in Major General David Hunter’s Department of the South. They were even dispatched by Brigadier General Rufus Saxton, military governor of the South Carolina Sea Islands, to St. Simons Island in Georgia to fight local Confederates.

Saxton wrote Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton requesting authority to organize another “5,000 able-bodied men from among the contrabands in this department… to be uniformed, armed, and officered by men detailed from the Army.” They would be paid $8 to $10 per month and given full rations.

Saxton explained that such a move was necessary because the slaves “suffer greatly from fear of attack by their rebel masters, in the event of which they expect no mercy at their hands.” Saxton also predicted that “the rebellion would be very greatly weakened by the escape of thousands of slaves with their families from active rebel masters if they had such additional security against recapture as these men, judiciously posted, would afford them.” He concluded:

“Thus organized, disciplined, and constantly employed, the men would escape demoralization among themselves, and working with and for the soldiers whenever their health or efficiency demanded it, a happy reciprocal influence upon the soldiers and these earnest and ready helpers would almost necessarily be the result.”

Saxton’s letter was delivered to Washington by Robert Smalls, a boat pilot and escaped slave who had delivered the C.S.S. Planter to Federal blockaders. While in transit, Major General Benjamin F. Butler, commanding Federal occupation forces in New Orleans, authorized the recruitment of free blacks as soldiers. Butler argued that such an order did not defy administration policy, which only prohibited the recruitment of slaves.

On August 25, Stanton issued a reply to Saxton that changed the nature of the war:

“In view of the small force under your command and the inability of the Government at the present time to increase it, in order to guard the plantations and settlements occupied by the United States from invasion and protect the inhabitants thereof from captivity and murder by the enemy, you are also authorized to arm, uniform, equip, and receive into the service of the United States such number of volunteers of African descent as you may deem expedient, not exceeding 5,000, and may detail officers to instruct them in military drill, discipline, and duty, and to command them. The persons so received into service and their officers to be entitled to and receive the same pay and rations as are allowed by law to volunteers in the service.”

This was the first official Federal authorization to recruit blacks into the military for combat service, and while it was issued only due to the unique needs within Saxton’s jurisdiction, the order would ultimately be expanded throughout all military departments. This deprived the Confederacy of labor, increased Federal military strength, appeased Radical Republicans, and most importantly, empowered former slaves to fight for their own freedom.

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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. 202; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 188, 191, 195-96; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 247, 250, 254-55; 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. 492, 564

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