Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Second Manassas

Dates: 14 July to 30 August, 1862


Union: Major General John Pope, commanding the Army of Virginia.

Confederate: General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia

Prelude: Two weeks previously, Lee, despite losing a couple of battles during the recent Seven Days campaign, had driven the Army of the Potomac, under Major General George McClellan, back to Harrison’s Landing where they were in the process of redeploying back to Washington City. Lee now had the time to rest and refit his army, which he had just taken command of just before the Seven Days.

In Washington, President Lincoln was, at the least, disappointed in the failure of McClellan to take the Confederate capital of Richmond, VA. It was decided to create another army in which to take on Lee. To accomplish this, the armies of Major Generals Irwin McDowell (who lost at First Manassas), Nathaniel Banks, and John Fremont, were combined into one command, to be named the Army of Virginia. It was these three armies that were defeated recently by a small Confederate army under Lieutenant General Thomas Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. This new army would be commanded by Pope, recently transferred from the Western Theatre.

Pope had just won a victory at Island No. 10 on 4 April, 1862, giving the Federals another step on the road to controlling the Mississippi River. He was brought East in the hopes that a Western fighting spirit would change fortunes in the East.

Pope also tended to be bombastic, boasting when he took command that he was from the West “where we are accustomed to seeing the backs of the enemy.” He also did not want to hear about “lines of retreat” or that his troops were “holding.” He also declared that his “headquarters will be in the saddle.” When word of that reached the Confederates, a general was known to have said, “he (Pope) has his headquarters where his hind quarters should be.” More than likely Lee and his commanders were not too impressed with Pope’s fighting abilities.

Pope also had a policy of harshness concerning captured Confederate guerillas and property. He shot the guerillas and seized the property. Lee called him “the miscreant Pope.”

14 July, 1862: Pope and his new army begin movement towards Gordonsville, VA in order to cut off the Shenandoah Valley from the rest of Virginia.

21 July, 1862: Lee orders Jackson to move his corps towards Gordonsville. This is purely a defensive action because McClellan was still a threat. Jackson’s 20,000 should be able to hold off Pope until McClellan’s intentions were known.

Pope was getting additions to his army, including the corps of Major Generals Franz Sigel, Fitz John Porter, Jesse Reno, and Joseph Hooker. These additions gave Pope around 62,000.

Pope ordered Banks’ cavalry detachment to seize Gordonsville, but they were repulsed after two attempts.

31 July, 1862: Confederate artillery units deliver 1000 shells into the Federal camp at Harrison’s Landing, killing only 10 Union troops.

1 August, 1862: Upon hearing of Pope’s orders concerning the harsh treatment of their citizens, the Confederate Government issued General Order 54, which stated that Pope and all of his officers were not to be entitled to prisoner-of-war status and that any Confederates that were hanged on Pope’s orders would be countered by an equal number of Federal prisoners being hanged.

2 August, 1862: Federal troops capture Orange Court House.

3 August, 1862: McClellan receives orders from Major General Henry Halleck to pull his army back to the Potomac, removing a major threat to Lee.

8 August, 1862: Jackson’s corps advances from Orange Court House and Gordonsville across the Rapidan River. He learns of an isolated Federal corps at nearby Cedar Mountain and prepares to meet the threat.

9 August, 1862: Battle of Cedar Mountain: Upon seeing the Confederate approach, Banks launches an attack on what he believes is a Confederate detachment. As the Confederate right flank is being turned, timely reinforcements in the form of a division under Major General A.P. Hill arrived and manages to turn the battle in Jackson’s favor. Pope rushes additional troops to the area, forcing Jackson to pull back across the Rapidan.

Lee decides to go fully after Pope since McClellan was no longer a factor. He orders the corps of Lieutenant General James Longstreet to join Jackson and take the battle to Pope. The Confederates reach the Rappahannock River and conduct skirmishes for the next two weeks.

Pope, seeing Lee in front of him, request reinforcements from McClellan. He also pulls back into Northern Virginia.

16 August, 1862: McClellan receives orders to join Pope. McClellan does not see the need to do so.
20 August, 1862: Federal and Confederate cavalry clash at Brandt Station as Lee begins to push his army across the Rappahannock. Pope receives word that reinforcements will arrive on 23 August.

22 August, 1862: Pope plans a flanking move to strike Lee, not knowing that Lee plans to do the same thing. That night, Confederate cavalry under Major General J.E.B. Stuart raids Pope’s headquarters, capturing several staff officers and, more importantly, Pope’s orders book, with all of his battle plans.

23 August, 1862: Any plans for either army to attack across the Rappahannock are halted by flooding. Lee decides on a very risky plan. Against every maxim of war that was taught at the time, Lee decides to split his army (in the face of a numerically superior force), using one corps (Longstreet’s) as a holding force and sending the other (Jackson’s) on a wide arc around the Federal right and hit Pope from the rear.

25 August, 1862: Jackson puts the first part of Lee’s plan into motion, moving his troops 53 miles in 36 hours, an amazing feat at the time. Pope receives a report from his cavalry concerning Jackson’s movement, but they undercount the full strength of Jackson’s force.

26 August, 1862: Jackson’s force reached Manassas Junction and discovered that Pope was using the place as his supply depot. His soldiers grab all the food, clothing, and other supplies they can before the remainder is torched. At the same time, Longstreet begins his part of the plan and begins moving to join Jackson.

27 August, 1862; Pope finally reacts to Jackson, sending Hooker’s forces to isolate Jackson. They meet confederate troops under Major General Richard Ewell at Kettle Run, and are driven back. A second engagement at Bull Run Bridge also results in a Federal repulse. That evening, Jackson conceals his forces in a wooded area and an unfinished railroad cut.

28 August, 1862: 6:00 p.m.: Jackson opens the Second Battle of Manassas by launching an attack on a lone Federal brigade at Brawner’s Farm. This particular brigade, made up of Western regiments, became known afterwards as the Iron Brigade for their stiff defense.

Pope saw this as a point on which to destroy Jackson, but would have to wait until the next morning to do so.

29 August, 1862: Pope orders his army to assault Jackson’s lines, stretching from Brawner’s Farm the Confederate right to Sudley Springs on the left. Throughout the day the Federals assault the Confederate line, briefly capturing part of the railroad cut before Hill’s division pushes them out. Pope then sends Porter’s corps to Jackson’s right, but the arrival of Longstreet and Lee prevent any further movement. Darkness halts fighting for the day.

30 August, 1862: Pope orders a continuation of the attacks on Jackson’s line. Jackson bears the brunt of the fighting while Longstreet seems to be waiting. He is arranging his artillery and infantry for a mass attack. Jackson knows that Longstreet is in the area but is concerned that no supporting attack has happened. Meanwhile, Jackson’s soldiers are running out of ammunition and at one point resort to throwing rocks at the Federals, repulsing them. Longstreet knows the risk of waiting, but his object was to let the Union troops exhaust them selves before attacking.

3:00 p.m.: Pope sends about 10,000 against Jackson’s right flank, exposing his own left.

3:30 p.m.: Longstreet launches his attack, smashing the Federal left. Jackson follows with a charge of his own and the Federal line breaks.

5:00 p.m.: Pope establishes a defensive line at Chinn Ridge, which lasts about an hour under assault by Longstreet. Pope orders a fall back to Henry House Hill, where another line holds the Confederates long enough to get his army across Bull Run and to Centerville, effectively ending the battle.

31 August, 1862: Rain halts further movements for a while but Jackson decides to push on.

1 September, 1862: There is a last battle at Ox Hill, near Chantilly as a Federal and a Confederate force, both headed for Fairfax, VA, meet. During the battle, Union Brigadier Generals Isaac Stevens and Philip Kearney are both killed.

Following the end of the campaign, President Lincoln ordered McClellan to take charge of the Washington Defenses.

Pope is relieved of command after submitting a report blaming everything but himself for the defeat. He is resigned to the Western frontier where his new job was to fight a Lakota uprising.

The Army of Virginia is folded into the Army of the Potomac.

Lee, embolden by the victory, takes his army into Maryland within days.


Union: 16,054

Confederate: 9197

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