Tag Archives: Northern Virginia Campaign

The Peninsula Campaign Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

Northern Virginia: Lee Turns to Confront Pope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

The Battle of Cedar Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

Cedar Mountain | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Cedar Mountain | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 83-84; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 210, 215; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 201; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 591-92, 596, 598, 604; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4260, 4272; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 249-50; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 525-26; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 447-49; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 172-73, 787-88; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 98-100; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 146; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 122, 835-36; Wikipedia: Battle of Cedar Mountain

Shifting Focus in Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

Northern Virginia and the Peninsula

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

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

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

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

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

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

The Northern Virginia Campaign Begins

July 19, 1862 – Federal cavalry discovered that Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates had reached the important railroad town of Gordonsville ahead of them.

Following the Seven Days Battles, Confederate General Robert E. Lee faced four major threats:

  • Major General John Pope’s new Army of Virginia to the northwest;
  • A Federal force near Fredericksburg to the northeast;
  • Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac to the east;
  • Major General Ambrose Burnside’s Federals in North Carolina, which could easily move to reinforce McClellan.

Meanwhile, the Federals continued fearing the possibility that Jackson’s Confederates could appear anywhere at any time. General Rufus King, commanding the Federals near Fredericksburg, stated on the 10th, “Reports are current in Fredericksburg this morning that the Confederate troops under Stonewall Jackson, are advancing in this direction.”

Jackson remained with Lee’s army near Richmond, but he continued arguing in favor of a push northward. Congressman Alexander R. Boteler, Jackson’s political benefactor, presented Jackson’s point to President Jefferson Davis, but Davis continued siding with Lee’s assessment that the army was too battered to try such a move. However, the army was about to be forced into moving, ready or not.

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

Two days later, Lee learned that one of Pope’s corps under Major General Nathaniel P. Banks had occupied Culpeper Court House on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. This posed a serious problem for the Confederates because it threatened Gordonsville (27 miles southeast), where the railroad intersected with the Virginia Central. From there, Federals could cut the only supply link between Richmond and the fertile Shenandoah Valley.

On Sunday the 13th, Lee ordered Jackson to move northwest by rail to “immediately proceed to Louisa Court-House, and if practicable to Gordonsville (15 miles away), there to oppose the reported advance of the enemy from the direction of Orange Court-House.” Jackson was to lead 14,000 men in the two divisions he had brought from the Valley. This greatly reduced the number of Confederate troops on the Peninsula to defend against a possible attack by McClellan’s army at Harrison’s Landing, but Lee correctly guessed that McClellan would show no aggression.

Lee’s main focus at this time was to keep Richmond secure and the supply line to the Shenandoah Valley open. He now began considering whether he could move his entire army northward to face Pope before turning back and knocking McClellan off the Peninsula. Confederate officials hurriedly organized 18 trains pulling 15 cars each to transport Jackson’s men.

Meanwhile, Pope’s army was spread out over 10 miles, with 3,000 Federal cavalrymen under Brigadier General John P. Hatch holding Culpeper. Pope made clear that he did “not desire a simple cavalry reconnaissance toward Culpeper.” Pope wanted the place “to be occupied in force, and directs that General Hatch take up his headquarters there, throwing out strong cavalry pickets for at least 20 miles in the direction of Gordonsville and Richmond.”

Hatch’s troopers were to wreck the Virginia Central Railroad at Gordonsville before continuing on to Charlottesville and the James River. He would also notify Pope of any Confederate resistance along the way. Hatch brought infantry from Banks’s corps, artillery, and a baggage train with him, which greatly slowed the advance. When Pope found this out, he wrote to Banks:

“I was greatly surprised to learn from General Hatch’s dispatch that he had gone to execute the duty I assigned to him, with infantry, artillery, and a wagon train. I never dreamed of such a thing. It has been a great mistake, and may possibly lead to serious consequences, he would have found no enemy at Gordonsville, and from all accounts none at Charlottesville.”

Hatch learned through spies that Jackson’s advance division under Major General Richard Ewell had taken positions between Gordonsville and Madison Court House, with more Confederates on the way. Hatch proposed falling back to Sperryville, 40 miles north of Ewell. Dissatisfied, Pope replaced Hatch with Brigadier General John Buford. He also directed the cavalry stationed around Fredericksburg under General Judson Kilpatrick to destroy the Virginia Central.

Kilpatrick moved out on the night of the 19th with the 2nd New York Cavalry. They had orders to “break up the railroad communication, destroy the depots, and intercept the telegraph.” They brought a local man named Humphreys to guide them. Pope stated, “This man Humphreys knows the whole ground, and can go as a guide, with the assurance that he will be shot if he makes a mistake.”

The Federal troopers destroyed the railroad depot at Beaver Dam Station; even though it was far from Gordonsville (35 miles), it still effectively cut the flow of Confederate supplies. They also captured promising cavalryman Captain John S. Mosby, who was briefly detained in Washington’s Old Capitol Prison before being paroled. Mosby later said, “I confess, I rather enjoyed my visit to Washington.”

At Gordonsville, Jackson asked Lee to send him reinforcements because he did not have enough men to hold the town if Pope decided to advance with his whole 56,000-man army. Lee, who recently received more men from South Carolina, felt confident enough that McClellan posed no threat to send Major General A.P. Hill’s 13,000-man division to join Jackson.

Hill may not have been Jackson’s first choice because the two had disliked each other ever since they were cadets at West Point. Worse, Hill blamed Jackson for the Confederate failures during the Seven Days Battles. But Hill’s men were known as the “Light Division” because of their marching speed, making them compatible (Lee hoped) with Jackson’s “Foot Cavalry.” Lee wrote Jackson, hoping to prevent him from alienating Hill like he did to Ewell with his secrecy:

“A.P. Hill you will, I think find a good officer with whom you can consult and by advising with your division commanders as to their movements much trouble can be saved you in arranging details, as they can act more intelligently.”

Meanwhile, Lee kept McClellan busy with diversionary probes and artillery bombardments.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 193; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 588-90; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 182; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4237-60; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 239, 241; 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; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 98; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign

John Pope’s Suppression Continues

July 18, 1862 – Major General John Pope, commanding the Federal Army of Virginia, issued orders that sparked fury throughout the South and threatened to change the character of the war.

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Pope had promised to take the war to civilians aiding and abetting the Confederates in northern Virginia, and now he made good on that promise. He officially issued General Order Nos. 5, 6, and 7 on July 18. Order No. 5 authorized Federals to seize property and supplies from civilians, who would be reimbursed only if they could prove their loyalty to the U.S.:

“Hereafter, as far as practicable, the troops of this command will subsist upon the country in which their operations are carried on. In all cases supplies for this purpose will be taken by the officers to whose department they properly belong, under the orders of the commanding officer of the troops for whose use they are intended. Vouchers will be given to the owners, stating on their face that they will be payable at the close of the war upon sufficient testimony being furnished that such owners have been loyal citizens of the United States since the date of the vouchers…”

Order No. 6 reinforced the previous order for the cavalry:

“Hereafter, in any operations of the cavalry forces in this command, no supply or baggage trains of any description will be used, unless so stated especially in the orders for the movement. Two days cooked rations will be carried on the persons of the men, and all villages and neighborhoods through which they pass will be laid under contribution in the manner specified by General Orders, No. 5, current series, from these headquarters, for the subsistence of men and horses…”

Order No. 7 threatened harsh punishment for anyone consorting with Confederate partisans:

“The people of the Valley of the Shenandoah and throughout the region of operations of this army, living along the lines of railroad and telegraph, and along routes of travel in the rear of United States forces, are notified that they will be held responsible for any injury done the track, line, or road, or for any attacks upon the trains or straggling soldiers, by bands of guerrillas in their neighborhood… If a soldier or legitimate follower of the army be fired upon from any house, the house shall be razed to the ground and the inhabitants sent prisoners to the headquarters of this army. If such an outrage occur at any place distant from settlements, the people within five miles around shall be held accountable, and made to pay an indemnity sufficient for the case; and any person detected in such outrages, either during the act or at any time afterward, shall be shot, without waiting civil process…”

In this order, Pope sought to target partisans in civilian dress who “attack and murder straggling soldiers, molest trains of supplies, destroy railroads, telegraph lines, and bridges, and commit outrages disgraceful to civilized people and revolting to humanity.” These people would not be afforded the rights given to prisoners of war. Going further, Order No. 7 applied the same standard to civilians who aided these partisans.

Five days later, Pope issued General Order No. 11, which directly targeted civilians suspected of disloyalty:

“Commanders of army corps, divisions, brigades, and detached commands will proceed immediately to arrest all disloyal male citizens within their lines, or within their reach in the rear of their respective stations. Such as are willing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, and will furnish sufficient security for its observance, shall be permitted to remain at their homes, and pursue in good faith their accustomed avocations. Those who refuse shall be conducted south beyond the extreme pickets of the army, and be notified that, if found again anywhere within our lines or at any point in the rear, they will be considered spies, and subjected to the extreme rigor of the military law…”

This order applied to anyone, even a mother writing to a son in the Confederate army. Pope issued one more directive stripping the region of any Federal protection:

“Hereafter, no guards will be placed over private houses or private property of any description whatever… soldiers were called into the field to do battle against the enemy, and it is not expected that their force and energy shall be wasted in protecting private property of those most hostile to the Government.”

All of Pope’s orders were based on Major General Henry W. Halleck’s directives while heading the Department of Missouri, in which Pope had served earlier in the war. These orders, implicitly approved by President Abraham Lincoln before being issued, incurred the wrath of Confederates.

At this time, both sides were working together to develop a system of prisoner exchange. President Jefferson Davis informed General Robert E. Lee that this system would not apply to Pope or any Federal officers carrying out Pope’s orders:

“On the 22d of this month a cartel for a general exchange of prisoners of war was signed between Major-General D. H. Hill, in behalf of the Confederate States, and Major-General John A. Dix, in behalf of the United States. By the terms of that cartel, it is stipulated that all prisoners of war hereafter taken shall be discharged on parole until exchanged. Scarcely had that cartel been signed, when the military authorities of the United States commenced a practice changing the character of the war, from such as becomes civilized nations, into a campaign of indiscriminate robbery and murder… You are therefore instructed to communicate to the commander-in-chief of the armies of the United States the contents of this letter and a copy of the inclosed general order, to the end that he may be notified of our intention not to consider any officers hereafter captured from General Pope’s army as prisoners of war.”

This meant that the Confederate government would consider Pope and his officers to be outlaws, and if captured, they would be treated as felons. Lee, upon reading Pope’s directives, called him a “miscreant” who “ought to be suppressed.” Lee set out to do this by shifting his Army of Northern Virginia northward to take the fight to Pope’s Federals.

Meanwhile, Pope left Washington on the 29th to join his new army and set up what he called “headquarters in the saddle.” His growing number of critics quipped that Pope’s headquarters were where his hindquarters should have been.

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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 17013-46; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 197; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7625-36; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 589; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 184, 186; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 242-43, 245; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 350, 440-41; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 146; 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: Pope’s Suppression

July 14, 1862 – Major General John Pope issued a pretentious address to his new Federal Army of Virginia before embarking on a new campaign.

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

President Abraham Lincoln put faith in Pope, a western commander and fellow Illinoisan, to succeed in Virginia where Major General George B. McClellan had failed. Upon arriving in the East, Pope began criticizing McClellan, asserting (correctly) that the Confederate army was not half the size that McClellan feared. Pope also denounced McClellan’s retreat to the James River because it allowed the Confederates to move directly between their armies.

Pope’s new army consisted of all the Federals in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Virginia. It did not include McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Pope’s 56,000-man force was to advance on Richmond from the northwest while McClellan pressed the city from the east.

Now that Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates had left the Shenandoah Valley, Pope left a brigade at Winchester and occupied Culpeper Court House on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad on July 12. Two days later, Pope issued a proclamation “To the Officers and Soldiers of the Army of Virginia.” Promising them the “opportunity to win the distinction you are capable of achieving,” Pope announced:

“Let us understand each other. I have come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies; from an army whose business it has been to seek the adversary and to beat him when he was found; whose policy has been attack and not defense… I presume that I have been called here to pursue the same system and to lead you against the enemy. It is my purpose to do so, and that speedily…

“I desire you to dismiss from your minds certain phrases, which I am sorry to find so much in vogue amongst you. I hear constantly of ‘taking strong positions and holding them,’ of ‘lines of retreat,’ and of ‘bases of supplies.’ Let us discard such ideas. The strongest position a soldier should desire to occupy is one from which he can most easily advance against the enemy. Let us study the probable lines of retreat of our opponents, and leave our own to take care of themselves. Let us look before us, and not behind. Success and glory are in the advance, disaster and shame lurk in the rear.”

Pope, who had recently outraged southerners by threatening to wage war on civilians, now outraged his own troops by inferring that they were inferior to westerners. Many of these men had served with distinction in Virginia despite suffering some setbacks, and they respected the army leaders that Pope indirectly insulted.

General Fitz John Porter stated that Pope had “written himself down, what the military world has long known, (as) an Ass.” Other officers referred to Pope as a “blow hard,” and a “weak and silly man.” This address, which became known among the troops as “Pope’s Bull,” immediately deflated army morale and set the tone for Pope’s upcoming campaign.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 78-80; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 529; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 181; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 239-40; 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. 524; Wikipedia: John Pope (military officer)