Tag Archives: Franz Sigel

The Grand Federal Military Reorganization

March 10, 1864 – When Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant received official authority to assume command of all Federal armies, he was already in the field with the Army of the Potomac.

After two uncomfortable days in Washington, Grant headed back to the field. He arrived at Brandy Station, headquarters for the Army of the Potomac, late on the 9th in pouring rain. He was greeted by a Zouave regiment and a band playing “The General’s March.” Nobody knew that Grant was tone-deaf. Grant planned to meet with the army commander, Major General George G. Meade, with whom he had been slightly acquainted during the Mexican War, the next day.

Maj Gen G.G. Meade | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Meade speculated that Grant would remove him as commander. On the 2nd, he wrote his wife that Grant “may want some one else whom he knows better in command of his army.” A week later, Meade wrote that Grant “may desire to have his own man in command, particularly as I understand he is indoctrinated with the notion of the superiority of the Western armies, and that the failure of the Army of the Potomac to accomplish anything is due to their commanders.”

While at Washington, Grant had considered replacing Meade with Major General William T. Sherman, or perhaps Major General William F. “Baldy” Smith. He discussed the possibility of removing Meade with President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. Both Lincoln and Stanton opposed removing him, but they would support Grant as general-in-chief if he chose to do it.

The meeting between Grant and Meade went extremely well. Meade said that he understood if Grant wanted to replace him, and he begged Grant “not to hesitate about making the change.” According to Grant, Meade “urged that the work before us was of such vast importance to the whole nation that the feeling or wishes of no one person should stand in the way of selecting the right men for all positions.”

Grant assured Meade “that I had no thought of substituting any one for him,” and Meade’s willingness to sacrifice gave Grant “even a more favorable opinion of Meade than did his great victory at Gettysburg the July before. It is men who wait to be selected, and not those who seek, from whom we may always expect the most efficient service.”

Before coming east, Grant had planned to maintain his headquarters at Nashville. But now, after talking with Meade and assessing the Army of the Potomac, “It was plain that here was the point for the commanding general to be.” Grant proposed guiding the army while Meade retained direct command of the officers and men. Meade said that he would be happy with such a move. Meade later wrote his wife that he was–

“… very much pleased with General Grant. In the views he expressed to me he showed much more capacity and character than I had expected. I spoke to him very plainly about my position, offered to vacate the command of the Army of the Potomac, in case he had a preference for any other. This he declined in a complimentary speech, but indicated to me his intention, when in this part of the country, of being with the army.”

Meade added, perhaps sarcastically, “So that you may look now for the Army of the Potomac putting laurels on the brows of another rather than your husband.”

With Grant now in charge, a massive reorganization took place throughout the Federal military. At “his own request,” former General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck became the army chief of staff. He would be Grant’s political liaison and handle the administrative affairs of the armies, which included channeling communications from the 19 military departments to Grant. This would allow Grant to focus mainly on military strategy. In Lincoln’s general order announcing the change, he thanked Halleck for his “able and zealous” service since becoming general-in-chief in July 1862.

Federal Maj Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: collaborationnation.wikispaces.com

Major General William T. Sherman replaced Grant as commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi. Sherman would lead the three armies between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi River: Major General John Schofield’s Army of the Ohio, Major General George H. Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland, and Sherman’s former Army of the Tennessee, now under Major General James B. McPherson. He would also head Major General Franklin Steele’s Department of Arkansas across the Mississippi.

In a move that Grant could not control, Major General Franz Sigel was given command of the Department of West Virginia, replacing Brigadier General Benjamin F. Kelley. Sigel had spent much of the past year complaining about being overlooked, and, being a German immigrant, he held great political influence over fellow German-Americans (most of whom were Republicans) who would be voting in the upcoming presidential election. Thus, Lincoln made the move.

Sigel was expected to clear the Confederates out of the Shenandoah Valley. But his military reputation was dubious at best, even among his own staff. One aide cynically wrote of Sigel’s promotion, “The Dutch vote must be secured at all hazards. And the sacrifice of West Virginia is a small matter.”

After meeting with Meade, Grant returned to Washington, having accepted an invitation from First Lady Mary Lincoln to attend a dinner and a presentation of Richard III at Grover’s Theater, starring Edwin Booth. However, Grant changed his mind, opting to leave for Nashville that evening to confer with Sherman instead.

Disappointed, President Lincoln told him, “We can’t excuse you. Mrs. Lincoln’s dinner without you would be Hamlet with Hamlet left out.” Grant replied, “I appreciate the honor Mrs. Lincoln would do me, but time is very important now. And really, Mr. Lincoln, I have had enough of this show business.”

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 165-66; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 384; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 10594; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 125-83, 233-62, 496-516; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 407-08; Jaynes, Gregory, The Killing Ground: Wilderness to Cold Harbor (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 24-25; Lewis, Thomas A., The Shenandoah in Flames: The Valley Campaign of 1864 (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 24; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 473-74; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 817; 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), Q164

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Northern Virginia: Lee Hurries to Attack

August 23, 1862 – Major General John Pope missed an opportunity to claim an easy victory, and General Robert E. Lee hurried to form a plan of attack before the Federal numbers became too overwhelming.

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

Pope had pulled his Federal Army of Virginia north of the Rappahannock River. After learning that Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was nearby, he decided to attack Lee’s right (east) flank, which threatened Pope’s access to reinforcements at Aquia Creek. However, Pope changed his mind when he received word that Confederates were also threatening him on his own right (west) flank.

Major General Franz Sigel, commanding a corps in Pope’s army, reported that Confederates had crossed the Rappahannock in his sector, which was Pope’s right. The Confederates represented a lone brigade from Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s force, which got trapped when heavy rains swelled the river and made it impossible to cross back to the Confederate side.

Pope, thinking this was the vanguard of Lee’s entire army, decided to wait for the rest of the enemy troops to cross and then attack when their backs were to the river. He ordered Sigel to “stand firm and let the enemy develop towards Warrenton.” But when Pope learned that the river was too high to cross, he wrote, “The enemy, therefore, on this side is cut off from those on the other, and there is no fear of this position.” Pope sent reinforcements to Sigel and ordered him to attack, leaving “nothing behind you.”

Had Sigel attacked, he could have annihilated the small, isolated force. Instead, he spent much of the day getting his men into position. Meanwhile, Jackson’s Confederates hurried to build a bridge that enabled the troops to cross back unharmed.

On the eastern flank, both sides engaged in a fierce five-hour artillery battle as Major General James Longstreet’s Confederates tried driving Major General Irvin McDowell’s corps away from Beverly Ford and the railroad bridge across the Rappahannock. McDowell ultimately fell back, not because of Confederate pressure but because he was ordered to withdraw to Warrenton.

Meanwhile, portions of Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac began taking positions in Pope’s line, with General Fitz John Porter’s men taking Kelly’s Ford and General Philip Kearny’s men holding Catlett’s Station. More of McClellan’s Federals, as well as those from western Virginia under General Jacob D. Cox, were at Alexandria awaiting transport to Pope’s army, which was getting stronger every day.

As Pope grew stronger, McClellan became proportionately weaker. Dejected about leaving the Peninsula and turning his men over to Pope, McClellan wrote his wife:

“I take it for granted that my orders will be as disagreeable as it is possible to make them–unless Pope is beaten, in which case they will want me to save Washington again. Nothing but their fears will induce them to give me any command of importance or to treat me otherwise than with discourtesy.”

The next day, McClellan received orders from General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck: “You can either remain at Aquia or come to Alexandria, as you may deem best, so as to direct the landing of your troops.” McClellan, who was now merely expected to funnel troops to Pope, went to Alexandria, where his army’s III and VI corps were landing.

Lee was informed about these reinforcements; he also learned from Pope’s captured quartermaster that Cox’s Federals were coming in from western Virginia. It would not be long before Pope’s army became too strong for the Confederates to confront.

Based on the gathered intelligence and Pope’s own dispatch book stolen by Major General Jeb Stuart, Lee informed President Jefferson Davis that he would cut the Orange & Alexandria Railroad and put his troops between Pope and Washington. He called on the remaining Confederates guarding Richmond to come north and join his army.

Lee then met with Jackson and directed him to lead his 23,000 Confederates up the Rappahannock to destroy all communication and supply lines at Manassas Junction, in Pope’s rear. Jackson could cross the river at an unguarded ford and use the mountains to hide his movement. Lee ordered Stuart’s cavalry to join Jackson’s force.

Lee’s other 32,000 men would demonstrate against Pope’s front, diverting his attention. This violated the military axiom not to divide one’s force in the face of a superior enemy, but Lee hoped that cutting Pope’s lines would compel him to fall back without a fight.

By the 24th, the Federals had massed on their right (western) flank, with Pope reinforcing Sigel. They now controlled the Rappahannock crossings as far upriver as Waterloo. Stuart studied the maps and chose a spot even farther up the river to cross. Jackson told Lee, “I shall move within an hour,” and his Confederates were in motion by 3 a.m. on the 25th.

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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 17169; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 610, 614; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 195-96; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4365-88; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 125-26; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 120-21

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

The Army of Virginia

June 26, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln created a new army intended to do what Major General George B. McClellan could not–destroy the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and capture Richmond.

On the afternoon of June 23, Lincoln boarded a special train bound for New York to informally meet with former General-in-Chief Winfield Scott at his summer residence in West Point. Lincoln, unsuccessful in directing the war effort and dissatisfied with McClellan’s performance, hoped to confidentially get Scott’s advice on strategy.

Lincoln and Scott discussed whether Major General Irvin McDowell’s Federals should remain near Fredericksburg to protect Washington or reinforce McClellan on the Virginia Peninsula. They also debated the merits of keeping Federal troops in the Shenandoah Valley versus sending them to the Peninsula.

After the meeting, Scott drafted a memorandum criticizing Lincoln’s effort to balance forces between the Peninsula and the Shenandoah Valley. Scott urged Lincoln to send McDowell to the Peninsula, writing, “The defeat of the rebels, at Richmond, or their forced retreat, thence… would be a virtual end of the rebellion.”

During his trip, Lincoln toured the West Point Foundry, across the Hudson River from the U.S. Military Academy. The foundry produced the popular Parrott gun, a rifled cannon. The public appearance was meant to conceal the true purpose of Lincoln’s trip. Word quickly spread that Lincoln was in the area, and on his return trip a crowd gathered at the Jersey City stop to try getting him to give a speech. Lincoln claimed that the trip “did not have the importance which has been attached to it,” and it had nothing to do with military strategy.

This may have been true, as Lincoln opted not to take any of Scott’s advice. Doubting the wisdom of military commanders, Lincoln returned to Washington determined to follow his own strategy. He no longer wanted to send reinforcements to McClellan, who lacked the aggressiveness needed to break the Confederate defenses and take Richmond.

Lincoln instead planned to merge all the forces in northern Virginia and the Valley into one major army, dedicated to driving toward Richmond and destroying the Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee. Lincoln also had a man in mind to command this new army: the current Army of the Mississippi commander, Major General John Pope.

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

The administration had already begun courting Pope for this new command even before Lincoln went to New York. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton bypassed Pope’s superior, Major General Henry W. Halleck, and sent Pope a direct message on the 19th: “If your orders will admit, and you can be absent long enough from your command, I would be glad to see you at Washington.”

Pope suspected that he would be transferred to an eastern command, even though he preferred the West and had little respect for eastern commanders. In the East, some considered Pope a liar and a braggart, based on Halleck’s exaggerated report from Pope that he was about to capture 10,000 Confederate stragglers outside Corinth earlier this month.

When Halleck learned of Stanton’s request, he refused to allow Pope to leave: “The Secretary of War can order you to Washington if he deem proper, but I cannot give you leave, as I think your services here of the greatest possible importance.” Stanton then changed his request to an order, overriding Halleck.

Pope arrived at Washington on the 24th. Testifying before a Senate committee while in town, Pope declared that had he commanded the Army of the Potomac, he would have marched directly on Richmond and continued on through the Confederacy to New Orleans. Compared to McClellan, this was exactly the kind of commander the Lincoln administration wanted.

Under General Order No. 103, issued June 26, Pope was officially assigned to command the new Army of Virginia. This army would contain three corps from three previously separate commands north and west of Richmond:

  • Major General John C. Fremont’s Mountain Department became I Corps
  • Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s Department of the Shenandoah became II Corps
  • Major General Irvin McDowell’s Department of the Rappahannock became III Corps

The new army also included the Federal troops garrisoning the Washington defenses and a cavalry brigade. All told, the Army of Virginia totaled about 56,000 men. All three department commanders outranked Pope, but only Fremont complained about it.

Fremont considered serving under Pope an insult and tendered his resignation. Lincoln officially accepted it the next day. This ended the military career of the controversial explorer, soldier, and politician. Fremont’s frequent clashes with the Lincoln administration, his history of allowing corruption to run rampant, and his mediocre war record meant that he would not be missed.

Pope called Fremont’s decision to resign “simply foolish.” Replacing Fremont was Major General Franz Sigel, a former German revolutionary. Pope called Sigel “the God damnedest coward he ever knew,” and threatened to “arrest Sigel the moment he showed any signs of cowardice.” Sigel’s corps consisted mainly of Central European and German immigrants, most of whom were staunch abolitionists. Thus, this was the most politicized corps in the Federal army.

Some objected to Pope getting an eastern army command, arguing that he was too much of a braggart and an outsider to successfully operate in Virginia. Lincoln disagreed. He had been friends with Pope in Illinois (Pope accompanied Lincoln on the train from Springfield to Washington in February 1861), and he believed that Pope had the aggression needed to take the fight to the Confederates. The fact that Pope was a Republican (unlike McClellan) also played a factor in his promotion.

Pope’s main objectives were:

  • Protect Washington from “danger or insult”;
  • Provide “the most effective aid to relieve General McClellan and capture Richmond”;
  • Maintain communication and supply lines to Alexandria and Aquia Creek.

Creating this new army effectively stopped any chance of McDowell reinforcing McClellan on the Peninsula, which reflected Lincoln’s lost faith in McClellan’s ability to win there. Pope immediately began planning to move down the Orange & Alexandria Railroad toward Gordonsville, east of the Blue Ridge, and threaten Richmond from the northwest.

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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 14206-15; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 183, 185; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7526-37, 7537-48, 7614; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 526-28; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 169, 171, 173; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 227-31; Pritchard, Russ A., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 500; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 172-74, 787-88; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 93-97; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 515, 615, 676, 816; 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), Q262; Wikipedia: Army of Virginia, Northern Virginia Campaign

Federals Pursue “Stonewall” Jackson in the Valley

June 2, 1862 – The Federal pursuit of Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Valley army continued, with the Confederates narrowly escaping two Federal armies converging on them from opposite directions.

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

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

By midnight on Sunday the 1st, the Stonewall Brigade of Jackson’s army had arrived within four miles south of Winchester. The men had endured an exhausting, unprecedented 35-mile march to prevent two Federal commands from joining forces against them. The Confederates resumed their march that morning and joined the rest of the army at Strasburg around noon.

This gave Jackson about 16,000 men. Major General John C. Fremont’s army of 12,000 Federals was to Jackson’s west, between Wardensburg and Strasburg, unable to advance further due to rain making the roads impassable. Major General Irvin McDowell’s 30,000 men were 10 miles east of Strasburg at Front Royal. McDowell’s lead division, 9,000 men under Brigadier General James Shields, began moving to confront Jackson.

Jackson pushed his men through the torrential rain toward Fisher’s Hill, two miles south. On the way, Jackson learned that Shields was headed south, up the Luray Valley. Shields paralleled Jackson’s movement on the other side of Massanutten Mountain, trying to get ahead of the Confederates and block their escape at New Market. Shields intended to burn the bridge at Conrad’s Store, thinking Jackson needed it to get across the Blue Ridge and reinforce the Confederates on the Virginia Peninsula.

Sensing that Fremont posed the greater threat, Jackson dispatched Major General Richard Ewell’s division to oppose Fremont’s advance west of Strasburg. Skirmishing occurred near Mount Carmel as pickets and artillerists traded fire. Ewell, outnumbered two-to-one, refused to attack. Fremont, unaware of his advantage, held back in fear that Ewell was trying to lure him into a trap.

The pouring rain continued as night fell, and Fremont called a halt until morning. He reported to President Abraham Lincoln, “Terrible storm of thunder and hail now passing over. Hailstones as large as hens’ eggs.” This enabled Jackson to narrowly escape the Federal pincers, but he was still in serious danger as his Confederates resumed their southward march before dawn on the 2nd.

The Valley turnpike was almost impossible to traverse due to more rain falling through the night. Fremont’s pickets tried resuming the chase, as Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton telegraphed both Fremont and McDowell, “Do not let the enemy escape you.”

Federal cavalry under General George Bayard caught up to the Confederate rear guard, led by General George Steuart’s cavalry, and routed them at Woodstock, 10 miles south of Strasburg. Steuart’s men were so disgusted with their commander that they asked Jackson to place them under command of Brigadier General Turner Ashby. Jackson responded by placing all his cavalry under Ashby.

Ashby’s troopers tried saving what was left of Steuart’s command, but they were on the verge of being routed themselves before being saved by the Stonewall Brigade. The Confederates fell back, and Jackson continued pushing them southward as more storms raged.

Gen James Shields | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Gen James Shields | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Meanwhile, Shields continued paralleling Jackson to the east. His Federals reached the Shenandoah River around 5 p.m. but could not cross because Confederates had burned the White House and Columbia bridges. The river was too deep to ford, and the Federals had nothing with which to build pontoons. So Shields resumed the march 20 miles farther south, hoping to cross at Conrad’s Store. By the end of June 2, Shields’s men had marched 25 miles.

Shields wrote Lincoln and Stanton that Jackson’s force was smaller than originally thought, and there were too many Federals pursuing him. He asked them to send McDowell’s men back east to Fredericksburg, leaving just Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s 11,000 men at Winchester and Fremont’s 12,000 in the Valley.

Farther north on the Potomac River, Major General Franz Sigel arrived to take command of the 8,000 Federals stationed at Harpers Ferry and Williamsport, Maryland. They became a division in Banks’s Army of the Shenandoah. But Sigel reported that “1,200 (of the 8,000 men) are useless, and all the balance are undrilled and undisciplined.” Even so, he prepared to lead them to Winchester to support Banks.

Jackson’s Confederates crossed the North Fork of the Shenandoah River on the 3rd, burned the bridge behind them, and camped near Mount Jackson at their old site on Rude’s Hill. Meanwhile, Shields explained to McDowell that the bridges had been burned, so he would continue to Conrad’s Store:

“The bridge there I expect to find burned also, but by going higher up we may find a ford… we must cross today somehow. My next move will be to push on to Stanardsville, destroy the railroad and depot, and if possible to Staunton or Charlottesville.”

This would be a tremendously long roundabout trek, but Shields vowed to “destroy their means of escape somehow.” McDowell forwarded Shields’s message to Washington, noting that Shields offered no specifics on how he intended to stop Jackson with this long marching. McDowell wrote:

“The ‘somehow’ in which the general is to cross the river to-day, swollen as it is by the heavy rains, is not so clear, and the delay defeats the movement… and as to his preventing the enemy’s escape ‘somehow,’ I fear it will be like his intention of crossing the ‘river somehow…’ His command is not in a condition to go to the places he names.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Clark, Champ, Decoying the Yanks: Jackson’s Valley Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 157; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 13849; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 178; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 438, 453-54; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 162; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 220-21; 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. 459

From David Ash, 37th Illinois Volunteers

Letter from David Ash, Company B, 37th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, three days after the Battle of Pea Ridge.

Sugar Creek, Arkansas

March 11, 1862

Illinois State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

DEAREST ELIZA:

I seat myself down to let you know that I still am alive and enjoying good health. Well, Eliza, I received a letter from you a few days ago that had been on the way a long time. But I was glad to hear from you at any time.

I must try to tell you what we have been doing. Price and McCullough attacked General Sigel on the 6th. He retreated back to our camp, but kept firing into them all the way on the morning of the 7th. Our division was called on to rally and be on hand at any time. We kept moving from one point to another until two o’clock P.M., and we found where they were in the brush around.

Our brigade, the 37th and 39th Illinois regiments, formed a line of battle and marched into the butternuts. We marched up in front of them within about a hundred yards, and firing commenced on both sides. We all dropped down in the brush and fired and loaded. Jim Lee dropped dead at my feet by a shot from one of Company A, which was on our right. I saw the ball strike him on the back part of the head. He never moved a muscle.

The balls flew thick and fast. They cut the brush all around my head, but fortunately none hit me. We all fell back a few rods and loaded and went up on to them again. We fired into them again and they returned the fire. There were four regiments of them engaged at that time and only two of us. They had a good many Indians, one Brag, Louisiana regiment, and I don’t know where the rest are from…

There was a buckshot hit me in the shoulder, just merely going through my clothes, and made a little red spot. The ball had no force at all. It might have hit something before it hit me. I fired eight shots into them the first day, but it was not all over yet.

The morning of the 8th, we were rallied out before sun-up and went about a mile and formed a line of battle along a fence. Three of our company were positioned a few yards to the right along a fence, and our battery began to play upon them. There is two batteries firing at them but they have the best position and we moved back a short distance and formed again. They put balls around us with their battery until we moved, cutting trees off all around us. A ball hit one of our horses on the hind leg and cut it off but out men planted their battery again and began to fire into them, and in a short time they had silenced their battery entirely. They fired over us every time after we moved and did not hurt a man.

Five regiments then formed a line and commenced to advance on to them. We came on to them in about a mile (and) found them in the brush again. We opened on to them again and they ran like whiteheads. But we stopped some of them in the brush for good, they were thick laying dead as they fell. There was a flag taken. It was a beautiful one. Our Lafayette flag waved triumphantly that day. The Illinois 59th had no flag and Colonel White asked Captain Dick for it and he let him have it. It looked grand floating after the enemy, they brought it back honorable.

After we chased them clear out of the brush, we made a halt to rest and wait for orders. As we were very tired, I went all through the brush to see what had been done. I found any amount of dead secesh (secessionists, i.e., Confederate soldiers) and none of our men at all. I guess our division lost two or three men on the 8th and two or three wounded. They wound a great many more in proportion to what they kill than we do, for their guns are not so good–they have a great many shotguns and small rifles. Their surgeons don’t have many of our balls to pick out, for they generally go through.

It is the hardest sight a person could behold to see the dead lying round after they bring (them) in. They lay them in a pile until they get time to bury them. There was twenty-one killed out of our regiment (and) one hundred and nineteen wounded. Albert Hilliard was laying alongside of me when he was shot, says he, “Oh Dave, I am shot.” It was the hardest thing I have done for some time to call the roll the first time after the battle, so many of our boys wounded and one killed. But Eliza, I don’t know whether it is over yet or not, they’ve gone back a piece. It may be they are getting a good ready to come at us again. But I guess we can do the same thing for them every time.

I must close, for my paper has almost run out. If I am spared, I will write to you the first chance I have to send a letter. Dear faithful girl, I bid you goodbye for present. May the richest of heaven’s blessings be yours. Be a good girl and remember me.

D.L. ASH

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Source: Tapert, Annette (ed.), The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: First Vintage Books Edition, 1998), p. 40-42