Tag Archives: Chantilly

The Battle of Chantilly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

The Battle of Second Bull Run: Pope’s Retreat

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

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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