Tag Archives: Northern Virginia Campaign

The Battle of Chantilly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

The Battle of Second Bull Run: Pope’s Retreat

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

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

The Battle of Second Bull Run: Longstreet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope wrote Halleck from Centreville:

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

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

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

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

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References

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

The Battle of Second Bull Run: Jackson

August 29, 1862 – Federals under Major General John Pope continued the fight with Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson from the previous day, unaware that General Robert E. Lee had united Jackson with Major General James Longstreet’s Confederates near the old Bull Run battlefield.

After yesterday’s fight at Groveton, Jackson reformed his line so that it extended along the unfinished Manassas Gap Railroad line from behind Groveton on the left (east) to the Bull Run battlefield from last year on the right (west). Pope planned to envelop Jackson between his Federals and Major General Irvin McDowell’s corps, but McDowell got lost on the way to the battlefield. Enraged by this blunder, Pope reassigned each of McDowell’s divisions to different commanders, leaving McDowell without his corps.

Federal artillery opened on Jackson’s right around 10 a.m. Longstreet’s 30,000 Confederates advanced toward the sound of the guns and began arriving on Jackson’s right a half hour later. Pope thought he had Jackson cornered, and after vowing to “bag the whole crowd,” he ordered an attack.

Pope had about 62,000 troops against less than 23,000 Confederates (Longstreet was not yet ready to join the fight), but many of the Federals were exhausted from constant marching in the summer heat. Also, Pope deployed them in sporadic, disjointed attacks that proved ineffective against Jackson’s strong defenses.

The Confederates repeatedly knocked back assaults from Major General Franz Sigel’s divisions under Generals Adolph von Steinwehr, Carl Schurz, and Robert H. Milroy. They then repelled Federal attacks by Generals Joseph Hooker, Philip Kearny, and John Reynolds.

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

The Federals in Longstreet’s front withdrew before Longstreet could attack, so he spent the day forming a strong supporting line. He declined Lee’s request to attack because there was an unknown number of enemy troops in the woods to his front. Meanwhile, Pope ignored indications that Longstreet had arrived and directed his Federals to focus their efforts on the Confederate left.

In the afternoon, parts of the Federal III and IX corps attacked Jackson’s men behind the railroad embankment at Sudley Springs. The Federals finally broke General A.P. Hill’s line along Stony Ridge, but Confederate reserves under General Jubal A. Early quickly moved up to fill the gap. The battle raged back and forth until the Federals retired around 9 p.m. Jackson expressed confidence that he had “the blessing and protection of Providence.”

Elsewhere, Pope ordered General Fitz John Porter’s V Corps to attack Jackson’s right. Porter informed Pope that Longstreet was assembling a force three times his size in that sector. Pope did not believe him, and at 4:30 p.m., he again ordered Porter to “press forward into action at once on the enemy’s flank, and, if possible, on his rear.” Porter again refused, remaining on the Warrenton Turnpike. Porter’s refusal may have averted a Federal disaster.

Pope fell back at nightfall, ignoring reports of Longstreet’s arrival. The Confederates also fell back to compact their lines in preparation for a renewed attack the next morning. Interpreting this as a retreat, Pope informed Washington he had won a great victory and promised to relentlessly pursue the enemy tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck ordered Major General George B. McClellan to hurry his Army of the Potomac to Alexandria and reinforce Pope, but McClellan continued his slow troop transfer off the Virginia Peninsula.

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References

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

The Battle of Second Bull Run: Groveton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

The Second Bull Run Campaign: Manassas Junction

August 27, 1862 – Confederate troops under Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson descended on one of the largest Federal supply depots in Virginia, between the rear of Major General John Pope’s Federal Army of Virginia and Washington, D.C.

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

Leaving a force under Major General Richard Ewell at Bristoe Station, the remaining Confederates under Jackson and Major General Jeb Stuart arrived at Manassas Junction after midnight on the 27th. The “Foot Cavalry” had marched an amazing 60 miles in two days, and they found the vital railroad supply depot barely defended.

The Confederates captured over 300 prisoners, 200 fugitive slaves, eight artillery pieces, hundreds of horses and tents, and enormous quantities of commissary and quartermaster’s stores such as bacon, corned beef, salt pork, pickled oysters, flour, oats, and corn.

As the hungry Confederates gorged themselves on cakes, canned goods, meats, and candies, Jackson ordered the wine and liquor kegs destroyed, saying, “I fear that whiskey more than I do Pope’s army.” General George Taylor, leading a Federal brigade in the Army of the Potomac, believed that only Confederate cavalry were raiding Manassas Junction and led his men to take the depot back.

The Confederates positioned their guns in Taylor’s direction and awaited his advance. They overwhelmed the Federals first with cannon fire and then with cavalry attacks on their flanks. Taylor’s men withdrew after sustaining heavy casualties.

Meanwhile, Pope ordered General Joseph Hooker’s division from Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman’s corps (Army of the Potomac) to advance on Bristoe Station from Warrenton Junction. Hooker knocked back Ewell’s skirmishers, and the Confederates took cover in the railroad embankment. The Confederate guns held the Federals in check while Ewell’s troops fell back in accordance with orders to go to Manassas Junction if attacked.

The Confederates cut telegraph wires as they went, disrupting communications between Pope, Major General George B. McClellan at Alexandria, and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck at Washington. When the line was restored, Halleck was bombarded by messages from both generals until he finally replied, “As you must be aware, more than three-quarters of my time is taken up with the raising of new troops and matters in the West. I have no time for details.” Halleck directed McClellan to coordinate the efforts of the two armies “as you deem best.”

Pope ordered more Federals to go to Bristoe Station, but then he changed his mind and decided to concentrate at Manassas Junction. He ordered the two corps under Major Generals Franz Sigel and Irvin McDowell to turn east from the Gainesville area and head that way.

Moving Sigel and McDowell left Thoroughfare Gap undefended. Jackson had used this path to get into Pope’s rear, and now General Robert E. Lee intended to send the rest of his Army of Northern Virginia through there to join forces with Jackson. Lee learned that Jackson was positioned perfectly as he received a message from President Jefferson Davis:

“Confidence in you overcomes the view which would otherwise be taken of the exposed condition of Richmond, and the troops retained for the defense of the capital are surrendered to you on a new request.”

At Manassas Junction, the Confederates burned what they could not take with them, including several thousand pounds of food and other supplies. As Federal forces closed in that evening, Jackson’s men began assembling at Stony Ridge, a wooded hill along the Warrenton Turnpike about seven miles away, on the northern edge of the 1861 Bull Run battlefield. Pope continued concentrating his army, still confused about Jackson’s intentions.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 83-84; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17186-95; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 207; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 629; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 197; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4388-4400; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 474-79; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 53-54; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 255-56; 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. 526; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 450-51; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 129-34; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 94-95, 328-29; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign

Northern Virginia: Lee Divides His Army

August 25, 1862 – Confederates under Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson approached the Federal supply base at Manassas Junction, as Federal Major General John Pope remained unaware of the enemy’s objective.

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

General Robert E. Lee had boldly divided his Confederate Army of Northern Virginia by sending nearly half his men with Jackson in a clockwise motion around the right (western) flank of Pope’s Army of Virginia to destroy the Federal supply base in Pope’s rear. Lee hoped this would force Pope to either retreat or move into the open where he could be destroyed before being reinforced by Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.

By dawn on the 25th, Jackson’s men were on the move, with only Jackson knowing their destination. The force consisted of about 23,000 men in three divisions under Generals Richard Ewell, A.P. Hill, and William Taliaferro. The troops crossed the Rappahannock River four miles upstream from Waterloo, the last guarded ford, and then headed north toward Salem (now Marshall) on the Manassas Gap Railroad. Meanwhile, Lee’s diversionary force under Major General James Longstreet crossed the Rappahannock on Pope’s left (eastern) flank after another ferocious artillery duel.

Federal signalmen on hilltops along the Rappahannock spotted Jackson’s movement and estimated his force to number about 20,000 men after counting the regimental flags. Pope, who already knew that Longstreet had crossed the river, now knew where Jackson was as well.

Pope told General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck that Jackson probably intended to return to the Shenandoah Valley, adding, “I am induced to believe that this (Jackson’s) column is only covering the flank of the main body.” But this did not explain why Longstreet remained on his left flank, bombarding him with artillery in an apparent attempt to provoke a fight in that sector.

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

Pope planned to send a reconnaissance in force the next morning to confirm that Jackson was leading Lee’s army northwest toward the Valley. Jackson’s “Foot Cavalry” camped at Salem that night after covering a remarkable 26 miles.

When Lee learned that the Federals may be falling back, he directed Longstreet to join forces with Jackson as soon as possible. The next day, Longstreet’s men began moving along the route that Jackson had taken, with Lee leaving behind a small force to continue diverting Pope’s attention with artillery.

Meanwhile, Pope dispatched General John Buford’s cavalry as planned, but Buford informed him, “If the enemy advances, I can do very little. My command is almost disorganized.” Disregarding this warning, Pope directed Buford to go to Waterloo Bridge, where Longstreet’s left flank was now anchored, and send troopers west to determine where exactly Jackson’s force was headed.

Jackson’s Confederates resumed their march on the morning of the 26th, moving east from Salem along the Manassas Gap Railroad. They passed through Thoroughfare Gap between the Bull Run Mountains, which Pope failed to guard since he believed Jackson was retreating. The Confederates entered the plains and approached the site of the Battle of Bull Run last year. By mid-morning, Jackson had moved 20 miles behind Pope’s army unopposed.

Pope received word that afternoon that Jackson had not gone back to the Valley but instead turned east and advanced through Thoroughfare Gap. Pope sent a division to take up positions between the gap and White Plains, which was useless because Jackson had already passed that point.

Major General Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry caught up to Jackson’s troops at Gainesville, where Jackson directed Ewell’s division and some cavalry to turn south and attack Bristoe Station. Arriving there in late afternoon, the Confederates derailed two trains, tore up track, cut the telegraph lines, and captured several hundred Federals. The lone train that made it through the station steamed east to warn Pope of the Confederate presence.

Pope did not immediately react to these enemy movements, which made him seem helpless. Brigadier General George G. Meade, a Federal brigade commander and old friend of Pope’s, visited Pope at his Warrenton Junction headquarters and asked, “What are you doing out here? This is no place for this army. It should at once fall back so as to meet the rest of the Army of the Potomac coming up and by superior force overwhelm Lee.”

Pope claimed he had plans to handle the threat, but he did not share them with anybody. When he learned of the Confederate attack on Bristoe Station around 8:30 p.m., he believed it was just a small-scale raid and sent just one regiment to confront it. Those troops saw the mass of Confederates at Bristoe and hurried back to warn Pope. Pope responded by sending the two corps under Major Generals Franz Sigel and Irvin McDowell toward Gainesville, but Jackson had already passed that point.

With Jackson’s Confederates interposing themselves between Pope’s army and Washington, Pope had just two options: fall back east toward Fredericksburg or attack Jackson. Pope chose the latter. Meanwhile, the bulk of Jackson’s force advanced on the supply depot at Manassas Junction.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 83-84; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17178-86, 17204; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 207; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 628; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 197; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4388; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 474-79; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 53-54; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 255; 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. 526; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 450; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 126, 128-29, 133; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 94-95, 328-29; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign