June-Sept. '62.

        After the failure of Fremont, Banks, and McDowell to destroy Stonewall Jackson's greatly outnumbered force in the Shenandoah Valley, the top Federal leaders realized the necessity for unity of command. The short lived US Army of Va. was formed 26 June '62, under the command of John Pope, to be composed initially of the three separate commands just mentioned. When Fremont refused to serve under Pope, Franz Sigel succeeded him. The new army numbered about 47,000.
        Pope's mission was threefold: to cover Washington; to protect the Valley; and to move east of the Blue Ridge Mountains toward Charlottesville so as to present a threat that would assist McClellan by drawing Lee's strength away from the defense of the Southern capital . The day the Army of Va. was ordered into existence Lee started the Seven Days' Battles, which caused the failure of McClellan's Peninsular campaign.
        Lincoln's unilateral selection of Pope has been singled out as one of the President's errors of the war. As a "western man," Pope was not accepted warmly by the Federal forces of the Eastern theater. He got off to a bad start by the publication of a bombastic address. He antagonized the South by prescribing harsh treatment of Confederate sympathizers. The mild mannered Lee developed a personal animosity toward his new opponent, referring to him as "the miscreant Pope" and saying that he must be "suppressed."
        On 14 July Pope started an advance toward Gordonsville. With about 80,000 troops around Richmond, Lee had McClellan's army of 90,000 in front of him and Pope's 50,000 converging from the north. Alert to the certainty of eventual defeat unless he seized the initiative, Lee took advantage of McClellan's inactivity and sent Jackson north toward Gordonsville with 12,000 men. On Jackson's request, Lee next sent A. P. Hill to reinforce Jackson, raising the latter's strength to 24,000.

Cedar Mountain
9 Aug. '62.

        Federal forces were advancing slowly toward Culpeper, and Jackson saw the opportunity of striking rapidly toward that place to destroy the first enemy corps to arrive. Having done this, he thought he would then be able to operate from a central position and defeat the other two corps, one at a time, as he had done at Cross Keys and Port Republic. However, Jackgon's movement was slow because in . his mania for secrecy he did not keep his division commanders-Winder, Ewell, and A. P. Hill-informed of his plans and the subsequent modifications.
        A meeting engagement took place at Cedar Mountain 9 Aug. Banks attacked furiously and was driving Winder and Ewell back when A. P. Hill finally came up to save the day with a crushing counterattack against the Federal east flank. Banks had made the mistake of attacking without reserves and without sending back a request for reinforcements.
        By now Lee knew that McClellan's army was being withdrawn by water to reinforce Pope. Seeing the opportunity of striking the latter before this reinforcement could take place, Lee moved with Longstreet's corps to join Jackson. Pope's army was in position with its center opposite Cedar Mountain and its left opposite Clark's Mountain. Both forces numbered 55,000. Lee saw the opportunity of using CIark's Mountain to shield the concentration of his army and then deliver a crushing attack against Pope's eastern flank; such an operation would not only cut the line along which McClellan's forces were moving to reinforce the Federal army of Virginia, but it would also cut Pope's line of retreat to Washington and might well -destroy his entire force. However, poor staff work again delayed the attack. Then Pope captured J. E. B. Stuart's adjutant general (Major Norman R. Fitz Hugh, on the night of 17 - 18 Aug.) with a copy of Lee's plan and was able to withdraw in time to avoid the threat. Stuart was surprised and almost captured with his entire command group the morning of the 18th.
        While the two armies faced each other across the Rappahannock, Lee probed the enemy lines in a vain effort to find a vulnerable point. In one of the daring Confederate cavalry raids Fitzhugh Lee captured Pope's headquarters near Catlett's Station (22 Aug.) and brought back information that within five days Federal reinforcements from the Peninsula would swell Pope's ranks to 130,000.

Lee's Strategic Envelopment

        Refusing to abandon the hope of a decisive blow against the enemy, Lee adopted a bold plan that is still controversial among military historians. Against an enemy that now outnumbered him 75,000 to 55,000, he intended to split his forces, send one half on a wide strategic envelopment to get astride the Federal line of communications and to follow a day later with the rest of his army. Success depended on speed, deception, and the skill of his subordinate commanders. Failure would have meant the destruction of most, if not all, of his army. On the other hand, a defensive role would have led to inevitable defeat. As always, Lee was taking advantage of the mediocre Federal generalship and the panic he knew would result from any maneuver that put him between the Federal army and Washington.
        On the morning of 25 Aug. Jackson and Stuart's cavalry left the line of the Rappahannock with three days' rations and a small wagon train. That night they bivouacked at Salem, 26 miles away. The next night Jackson was destroying the Federal supply depot at Manassas, after having marched an additional 36 miles.

Lee's Turning Movement

        Pope had observed Jackson's movement on 25 Aug., but assumed he was going to the Valley, perhaps to precede Lee's entire army to Front Royal. He had ordered no pursuit. Longstreet kent up a show of activity the 25th, but the next day started off to join Jackson. On the 26th Pope had also been content to maintain his original position. Early that evening, however, he learned that enemy forces were on the railroad to his rear. Subsequent reports convinced him that this was more than a raid and he started withdrawing. Pope ordered the concentration of Sigel and McDowell at Gainesville, Porter and Banks at Warrenton Junction, and Reno and Heintzelman in between, at Greenwich and Bristoe Station. This put a Federal force of 75,000 between Jackson's 24.000 (at Manassas) and Longstreet's 30,000, which were still west of the Bull Run mountains, about 20 miles away. Pope had a rare opportunity to block Longstreet while annihilating Jackson with overwhelming superiority of force. However, Jackson's next moves so thoroughly confused Pope that he completely lost his head and threw away his chance for victory.
        Jackson's problem was to take up a position on the enemy's flank which had enough natural strength to enable him to hold until Lee could come up with Longstreet's corps. He also wanted to be able to strike the Federals if feasible and to retreat if Longstreet were blocked. Stony Ridge (Sudley Mountain) satisfied his requirements admirably. But further to gain time and to observe his maxim of "always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy if possible," A. P. Hill was ordered to march on Centreville, Ewell was to cross Bull Run and move along the north side of that stream, Taliaferro was to move direct; all were to join up on Stony Ridge. This maneuver, starting during the night of 27-28 Aug., was completed by mid-afternoon.
        Lacking accurate information, and drawing inept conclusions, Pope ordered successive movements in vain efforts to capture Jackson, while ignoring Longstreet's advance until too late to prevent junction. He reached Manassas the morning of the 28th to find the Confederates gone. Getting reports of enemy in Centreville, Pope assumed this was Jackson's whole force and issued orders at 4:15 P.m. for his entire force to proceed there. At about 5:30 King's division was moving east along the Warrenton pike when it was fired on near Groveton.

Battle of Groveton
28 Aug. '62.

        By disclosing his position Jackson accepted the risk of being overwhelmed before the rest of the army could reinforce him. However, the Confederate commander realized that the entire campaign would be futile if Pope were permitted to move to the strong defensive positions around Centreville. In one of the fiercest little skirmishes of the war both Confederate division commanders were wounded and the casualties were high on both sides. This was the "baptism of fire" for John Gibbon's "Black Hat" (later "Iron") brigade: it suffered 33 per cent casualties. The Federals did not withdraw until around midnight.
        When Pope learned of this fight he drew the erroneous conclusion that King had hit the head of Jackson's troops withdrawing toward the Valley. He ordered his forces to assemble in the vicinity of Groveton to destroy Jackson. The stage was set for the main battle.

2d Battle of Bull Run
29-30 Aug. '62.

(Battle Map)

        Pope had 62,000 with which to destroy Jackson's 20,000 before Longstreet's corps could arrive. Pope conducted a series of piecemeal, uncoordinated frontal attacks, all of which failed to drive Jackson from his strong position behind a railroad cut.
        Longstreet came up alongside Jackson's right Bank about 11 A.M. By failing to attack on the first day of the battle (29 Aug.), Longstreet deprived Lee of a victory that would have destroyed the bulk of the Federal army. Although neither side was aware of it at the time, there was a two-mile gap between the corps of Fitz-John Porter (on the south) and the rest of the Federal forces which were attacking Jackson. At the end of the first day Jackson withdrew from positions he had reached in following up the repulse of Pope's attacks. The Federal commander interpreted this movement as a retreat and ordered a vigorous pursuit for the next day.
        On the second day (30 Aug.) the Federal attack was repulsed with heavy losses. Pope still did not realize that Longstreet had arrived. Lee permitted Pope to commit his forces against the Confederate left, then he enveloped the weakened Federal left flank, with Longstreet's corps. Pope suffered a decisive tactical defeat, although the retention of Henry House Hill by Federal forces permitted the bulk of his troops to retreat across Bull Run via the Stone Bridge and the neighboring fords.

Battle of Chantilly (or Ox Hill)
1 Sept. '62

        Maintaining the offensive, Lee executed another wide envelopment, moving around the west flank of the Federal position at Centreville. Striking toward Fairfax Courthouse, Jackson's corps hit Federal forces under Stevens and Kearny near Chantilly. A hot encounter followed and lasted until nightfall, when the Union force withdrew. This skirmish was costly for the Union, however, because Stevens and Kearny -two of the most promising commanders of the army - were both killed. Losses were 1,300 Federals and 800 Confederates (E.&B.). Although reinforcements were near, Pope withdrew into the defenses of Washington.

Summary and Evaluation

        Tactical failures of Jackson and Longstreet at Cedar Mountain, Clark's Mountain, and Bull Run had deprived Lee of the opportunity of destroying Pope's army in the 2d Bull Run campaign. However, his over-all strategic accomplishment during the first three months of his command of the Army of Northern Virginia was remarkable. Starting in an apparently hopeless situation, with McClellan moving on Richmond from the Peninsula and other Federal forces advancing from the north, Lee had succeeded not only in eliminating the immediate threat, but had driven the Federals back into Washington. While the Peninsula campaign, Jackson's Valley campaign, and the 2d Bull Run campaign are usually considered separately, the three actually comprise a single strategic operation. The outcome represented a remarkable Confederate accomplishment and pointed up the marked superiority of Southern generalship at this stage of the war in the East.
        The Federals lost 13 per cent killed and wounded, as compared to 19 per cent for their opponents. Using Livermore's "hit by 1,000" method of comparing effectiveness of the two sides, the Federals killed and wounded 120 of the enemy for every 1,000 of their own troops engaged, whereas the Confederates hit 208 Federals.

Source:  "The Civil War Dictionary" by Mark M. Boatner III

This page last updated 02/16/02