The Second Battle of Manassas (Second Bull Run)
According To Shotgun
The time is late summer, 1862 and the last of the Seven Days battles is over. McClellan is ordered back and Lincoln has formed a new army, The Army of Virginia, under the Western Theater general John Pope. As McClellan's threat to Richmond decreased, Lee became increasingly concerned about this new army to his North. On July 13, Lee sent Jackson with his two divisions north to Gordonsville to be in a position to oppose Pope should he decide to move south. Lee kept the rest of the army where they were in case McClellan turned and decided to advance on Richmond again. Jackson arrived in Gordonsville on the 19th.
As the threat to Richmond became less and less Lee became bolder and bolder. On the 27th he decided to reinforce Jackson with A. P. Hill's division and a brigade of Louisianans. This would give Jackson a force of about 24,000. A force large enough to permit him to strike the Union forces if the opportunity presented itself. True to form, Jackson did not wait long before striking. This resulted in the battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9. That battle is not covered in this writing, but suffice it, despite the fact that Jackson had a force over twice the size of Bank's, he came close to losing the battle.
When Lee got word from a deserter that McClellan's army was boarding transports and moving out, he knew what he had to do. On August 13, Lee ordered the remainder of the army to Gordonsville to form with Jackson. There was an urgency in Lee's movement because he knew he had to engage and beat the new Army of Virginia before it could be reinforced by McClellan. If those two armies combined they would present a very formidable force. Lee himself took a train and arrived in Gordonsville on August 15 where he was met by Longstreet and Jackson. From this point on, Longstreet would be second in command in Lee's army and would command the Right Wing. Jackson would command the Left Wing. This structure would remain in place until after the battle of Antietam when they would be re-designated as corps. It would remain a two corps army until Jackson was killed at Chancellorsville in May, 1863.
There were several plans discussed as to how they would proceed against Pope. Lee knew that Pope's army was in a very precarious position and wanted to attack him where he was. Pope had his army in the "V" formed by the converging Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers. Lee had originally planned to attack on the 17th but had to delay it until the 18th. In the meantime, Pope captured a Confederate courier with Lee's plan and he immediately pulled the Army of Virginia back across the Rappahannock to get it out of harm's way. Lee could no longer consider an immediate attack and for the next week both sides were probing for the other's weakness. Hennessy describes this action in his book "Return to Bull Run" as the Waltzing of the Armies. This would last until the 24th when Lee came up with a new plan.
By August 24, Lee was beginning to lose confidence in his campaign to engage Pope at the earliest possible time. For a week he had been locked in a stalemate with a foe that apparently had good defensive skills. Something had to be done and done fairly quickly. McClellan was bound to reinforce Pope sooner or later and when that happened Lee would be too outnumbered to take the offense and would have to resort to strictly defense and this he did not want to do.
Jackson Moves Out
Then Lee came up with a plan and called Jackson to him to explain it. The plan probably surprised even Jackson. Lee would break one of the major rules of war and split his army in the face of the enemy. He would send Jackson and his 24,000 men in a long arcing run around Pope's far right to place him in the rear of the Army of Virginia, cutting his supply lines. In the meantime, Longstreet would hold the line along the Rappahannock river then march hard to join him. This plan held great risks. The two wings of Lee's army would be separated, at least for a time, by a distance of over fifty miles with an enemy army of nearly twice the size of either of them in between. If Pope realized what was happening and engaged Jackson quickly with great force, half of Lee's army would be destroyed. Plus there was the unknown factor of McClellan's army and Lee not knowing when and where would it arrive. The plan was fraught with peril, but if it succeeded Lee would have a chance to defeat an army, who had invaded Virginia, greater in size than his own, and drive them back to Washington. Lee's brilliance as a battlefield commander and his willingness to take chances was beginning to emerge. Jackson loved it.
In order for this plan to have a chance of working there had to be a way for Lee to keep in constant contact with Jackson. To accomplish this, Lee designated 25 men of the Black Horse troop to act as couriers. No greater responsibility had ever been given a group like this before. The literal survival of the army depended on them. For the next three days they would be the only link between the wings of the army, and the reunion of the army depended on them.
By dawn August 25, 1862 Jackson's foot cavalry was on the move and true to form, only Jackson knew where they were going.
As Jackson's Wing, 24,000 strong, pulled out on the morning of the 25th , it was led by Richard "Old Baldy" Ewell's division. Following him was A. P. Hill's "Light" division. Bringing up the rear was Jackson's old division commanded by William B. Taliaferro (Pronounced Tah-liver). Jackson was not a big supporter of Taliaferro, thought he was too much of an aristocrat, but tolerated him. In addition to the infantry, Jackson had twenty-batteries of artillery (three battalions) amounting to about eighty guns. The lead elements of the column arrived at Salem, a little town on the Manassas Gap Railroad, at about dusk. This was a distance of about 25 miles. A tough march, even by Jackson's standards. By midnight all of Jackson's command was sprawled out around Salem. They were only about 12 miles from Pope's right flank.
In the meantime, on the 25th, Pope, still holding the Rappahannock line, was busy sending messages to Washington asking where McClellan's army was. The following is the disposition at the time; Kearny had reached the front, Hooker was en route, Cox's troops remained at the railhead at Alexandria, Franklin's corps had not unloaded from the boats, and Sumner's boats were slowed by an offshore gale. At somewhere around 8:45 on the morning of the 25th a colonel on Pope's right flank was watching the Confederate column as it moved. At 9:30 he reported to Banks that the column was moving North or Northwest. Pope received this information at 11:25, five hours after Jackson had started his march. He notified Washington that the enemy column numbered 20,000 and he would send McDowell's corps to engage their rear as soon as he was sure they were moving to the Shenandoah. Pope did nothing else and by nightfall he knew little more than he did at midday.
Jackson's column arose early on the morning of the 26th still not knowing where they were going. Most has surmised that because of the direction of the march so far they were returning to the valley. As they marched through the town of Salem, instead of turning left toward the valley, the column turned right. To the surprise of all save Jackson. Now they knew where they were going. Toward Thoroughfare Gap, Gainesville, Manassas Junction-- Pope's rear!
At about 4 p.m. on the 26th of August, the lead of Jackson's column reached Gainesville, a little hamlet where the Warrenton Turnpike crossed the Manassas Gap Railroad. Stonewall was pleased. It had been a mere thirty-two hours since they had first broke camp on the other side of the Rappahannock. They had traveled nearly fifty miles in that short time and were now within five miles of their goal, the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. To make things even better Pope was totally unaware of Jackson's presence. The plan might just work.
In the meantime, while Jackson was grinding out the miles, Lee and Longstreet set about to do their part of the plan. First Lee sent Stuart's cavalry to help Jackson. Longstreet's job was to "demonstrate" in front of Pope so he would think all the army was still there. Longstreet's artillery was in action most of the day. This succeeded in diverting Pope's attention from his flank and rear.
By the afternoon of the 26th Lee had to start thinking about the second part of his plan, that of reuniting his army. But how to do that? Should he force a crossing at the weakest point or take Jackson's route around the army. Jackson's route was safer but it was longer. Lee decided on taking the longer way. The only opposition would probably be at Thoroughfare Gap and that would not be too great if Pope did not know they were coming. Longstreet put his wing into motion. Of all of this Pope knew nothing. As things began to get out of control for Pope late on the 26th, he was about to face the worst seven days of his life.
Jackson Arrives Behind Pope
As Jackson was taking a breather at Gainesville, he had a decision to make. Move on to Manassas Junction and cut the Railroad there where there was a possibility of it being heavily defended, or save that for later and cut the line in a less defended place. He opted for the latter and moved straight south to Bristoe Station. With a march of two hours they were at Bristoe Station and after some skirmishing managed to cut the line. Jackson then decided to make a night attack on Manassas Junction just five miles away and sent Trimble's brigade to make the attack. When that was complete, Jackson had completed two of the most successful days of his career. His men had marched fifty miles, wrecked two trains, captured several hundred federal soldiers, eight cannon, and stores beyond their wildest dreams.
On the evening of the 26th while Jackson was at Bristoe Station, the high command of the Army of Virginia was starting to get ripples of information, a foreboding of things to come. There were indications that a large Confederate force had passed through Thoroughfare Gap earlier in the day. By midnight Pope knew that something was drastically wrong. His communications had been cut. By this time, piecing together bits of information Pope was reasonably certain that Lee had split his army, or at least strung it out in a huge fifty mile arc. Pope had a couple of choices at this point. He could pull out and move toward Fredericksburg where he could link with the rest of the McClellan's Army of the Potomac. However this would leave Washington basically uncovered. Or he could try to make an opportunity of the situation as it stood. He thought if he could move swiftly enough to Centreville or Manassas he could catch Jackson and crush him. Pope chose the latter and shortly before dawn on the 27th he issued orders to abandon the Rappahannock line and move on Gainesville to "crush the enemy." Pope would move with about sixty-six thousand men.
By 6 a.m. on the 27th Pope had made a plan. He would march east, toward Gainesville, with more than sixty thousand men, Franklin's ten thousand man corps would move westward from Alexandria toward Gainesville, Haupt's rescue force of 4,000 was moving on Manassas Junction from the east. If all went well Pope would squeeze Jackson from two directions with a force of about 80,000 men.
Jackson had spent the night of the 26-27 at Bristoe Station but had no intention of staying there. During the night he received a message from Trimble, whose brigade now occupied Manassas Junction, that the Yankees were nearby and he needed reinforcements. On the morning of the 27th Jackson left Ewell at Bristoe Station to watch for any Yankee force while he took Taliaferro's and Hill's brigades to Manassas. When they arrived they beheld a sight that they had never seen before. Acres and acres of Yankee goods in railcars. Not just food, but weapons. They immediately began taking advantage of the situation. This was to be short lived however. Part of the Union rescue force started arriving and opened with their cannon. The Confederates quickly started forming their defensive perimeter in the earthworks still in place from the first battle there in July, 1861. By 9 a.m. they had about nine thousand infantrymen and twenty-eight cannon in place. The Yankee forces quickly realized they were a bit short of men. After this morning action from the east was squashed, Jackson still feared an attack from the west. This was why he had left Ewell at Bristoe Station.
It was well that Ewell had been left at Bristoe Station because a reconnaissance force from Hooker's division reported back that there was a strong Confederate force there. After that they began to move in earnest to an engagement with the Confederates. Had Ewell not been there no one would have known they were coming. In the meantime Ewell deployed his men either to defend or make an orderly retreat and sent word to Jackson that the Federals might advance and he was going to require support. Before he could receive word back from Jackson the Federals advanced and the fight was on. As the fight continued for over an hour it became obvious to Ewell that the Federal force was larger than his, but he had to hold. Then at about 4 p.m. Ewell got word from Jackson that if he could not hold to fall back across Broad Run and unite with them at Manassas. The last of Ewell's men were across Broad Run by 6 p.m. Ewell's division and Jackson's command was safe. The battle fought that day would become known in history as the battle of Kettle Run.
Although Jackson, because of the Black Horse Troops being the couriers, knew where Lee and Longstreet were, he was not that sure exactly where Pope's main army was. He did know that they were close enough so that he would probably engage them the next day and he did not want to do it from this position. Around midnight, after the Confederates had finished feasting on the Yankee larder and had their haversacks full, Jackson ordered the burning of the rest. The fires could be seen for miles. He then ordered his command to move out. They were going to move just north of the Warrenton Turnpike to a position behind an unfinished railroad there. Jackson was very familiar with this ground and knew that would be a good defensive position and one from which he could move north toward Aldie if he had to. In the meantime, Pope is aiming most his army toward Manassas, making no provision as to what to do if Jackson is not there and making no provision to stop the two wings of the Confederate army from uniting.
The Battle of Brawner Farm, August 28
By the 28th, Pope has discovered that Jackson was not at Manassas. He made the invalid assumption that Jackson was running and spent the day trying to find him. Jackson spent most of the day consolidating his line on the unfinished railroad and trying to determine exactly were Pope was.
Late in the day of the 28th, almost dusk, Jackson was at the Brawner farm area, just north of the Warrenton Turnpike, when he saw a Union column moving west to east on the turnpike. After watching them for a few minutes, he turned to his commanders and said, "Bring up your men gentlemen." The second battle of Manassas was about to begin.
The Column that Jackson saw was Rufus King's division, consisting of the brigades of Hatch, Gibbon, Doubleday, and Patrick. King had epilepsy and was still suffering from an attack he had a few days before and was in an ambulance to the south of the turnpike. Thus the division had no central command. Each brigade commander would be on his own. As Jackson opened with artillery the column took cover on the sides of the road. Gibbon swung Campbell's battery, 4th U.S. artillery, up a small lane going to the north of the turnpike to return fire. Gibbon consulted with Doubleday, the closest brigade commander to him, as to what he thought they should do. Both decided that they were facing Stuart's "horse artillery" therefore they should stand and fight.
As Gibbon marched his Wisconsin regiments through the Brawner woods it was almost night. He expected some opposition, but not much. After all, he thought was facing "horse artillery." Instead when they cleared woods they were face to face with some of the most battle hardened Confederates in the entire army. The Stonewall Brigade! The most horrific "face to face" fighting in the entire war occurred there for the next couple hours. The two lines stood face to face about 75 yards apart and those Wisconsin men had rather die than run. Only darkness forced the withdrawal of Gibbon. It should be noted that at this battle Gibbon's brigade was known as the "Black Hats" because of the unusual hats they wore. After Antietam, less than three weeks in the future, they would be known as the "Iron Brigade."
After the action at the Brawner farm, there was no doubt at to where Jackson was.
Along the Unfinished Railroad August 29
About 11:00 p.m. on the evening of the 28th Pope learned of the Brawner Farm fight. Thinking he had Jackson trapped, he issued the following orders: (1) To King: Hold your ground. King never received this order and pulled back. (2) To McDowell: Hold your ground. McDowell had become physically lost from his headquarters and never received the order. (3) To Kearny: "at 1 a.m. move out from the Warrenton Turnpike. Advance cautiously and drive in the pickets tonight and at early dawn attack him vigorously." (4) To Heintzelman: "Move Hooker's division at 3 a.m. (Reserve for Kearny). (5) To Reno: (verbal via T.C.H. Smith) "Follow Hooker toward the field. (6) To Sigel: "Attack the enemy at dawn." (7) To Porter: At 3 a.m. he wrote ". . .move upon Centreville at the first dawn of day with your whole command, leaving your trains to follow. Still no provisions to counter Longstreet should he arrive. All efforts were concentrated on Jackson.
At dawn Pope's forces attacked. But he had completely misjudged the situation. He had based his plan on the belief that Jackson was desperately trying to escape and that Jackson would turn and fight never occurred to him. As the battle along Jackson's line progressed, during the morning Pope sent out what would become know as the "Joint Order" to Porter and McDowell. Written from Centreville it had two purposes: to assign Hatch's division to McDowell's command, as he had requested, and to clarify Porter's and McDowell's assignment on the Manassas-Gainesville road. However, the purpose seemed to have gotten lost in the rambling style it was written in. Basically, it said, (1) move forward, (2)halt, and (3)prepare to fall back. In addition, Buford sent a message to McDowell at about 9 a.m. that Longstreet's half of the army had passed through Thoroughfare Gap and were on the Gainesville road. This message apparently was never delivered to Pope.
Longstreet's column started arriving on the field about 10 a.m. with Hood's Texans in the lead. Jackson's line along the unfinished railroad was running roughly east/west. Longstreet locked onto Jackson's right and extended his line to the South about 1 ½ miles. This formed an angle that would later be called be called the "Jaws of Death, with Longstreet's wing being the moving mandible of the jaws. The entire confederate line was now about 4 miles long. Lee wanted to attack right away but Stuart reported there was a large Union force (this was Porter) just to the South of them. If they attacked, this force would be on their flank. Longstreet wanted time to reconnoiter. Lee agreed.
As the battle along the unfinished railroad started to die down about noon Pope surmised that if Porter followed his orders he would proceed up the Gainesville road and attack Jackson's rear and flank. Pope was completely ignoring the fact that Longstreet had arrived on the field. He just would not believe it. He stepped up the action in hopes that it would keep Jackson busy while Porter made his move. Porter was stuck. He had Longstreet between him and Jackson's flank so he remained in place. Pope had no intention of supporting any breakthrough that might occur in this action since this, in his mind, was only a diversion in support of Porter. At least that is what Pope claimed later. There is not time to give a description of all the fighting on the 29th in this writing. Suffice it, by day's end, all lines were still intact. Jackson's command was exhausted and Pope was furious that Porter had made no attack.
The Final Day, August 30.
At about 7 a.m. on the morning of the 30th Pope called his senior officers to headquarters to discuss what was to be done next. Porter showed up late for this meeting and Pope must have surely have ignored his warnings about the position of Longstreet. He ordered Porter to bring his corps to the battlefield from his position on the Gainesville road. Porter then marched his corps up the Sudley road to the battlefield and put his men in the center of the line on the Dogan Ridge. Longstreet and Lee watched. The removal of this corps was one of two obstacles that Lee wanted out of the way. Porter was heading right into the "Jaws of Death" and off Longstreet's flank. There was only one obstacle left. Part of McDowell's corps was still on Chinn Ridge. This ridge would have to be taken if Longstreet was going to be successful in mounting an attack to cut Pope off. Henry Hill would have to be reached as it controlled the intersection of the Sudley Road and the Warrenton Turnpike, Pope's only avenue of retreat, and the only way for Longstreet to reach that hill was over Chinn Ridge. Lee and Longstreet just watched.
There was firing from all along the Confederate line but Pope was still convinced that Jackson was withdrawing. Despite repeated warnings, Pope, believing the enemy was in retreat, ordered Porter to attack and King (Hatch) would support. Pope later issued orders to Porter to pursue instead of attack but these orders never reached him. By 3 p.m. all was ready. Porter had Hatch's division on the right, Roberts Brigade in the Center, and Weeks's brigade on the left. As they marched off into history, this was Gettysburg in reverse. There was a wide expanse of open ground, called School House Meadow, they had to cross (a little over a half mile) to take a fortified position in Jackson's line known as the "Deep Cut". Confederate artillery was waiting for them and this time the Confederates had the good ground. As Porter's troops started across the meadow, S.D. Lee's artillery, located on a ridge overlooking the meadow and was on Porter's left, opened with a horrific barrage. Federals were dropping like flies, but on they came. The problem was that once the meadow was crossed the sloop up to the Deep Cut was extremely steep and Confederates were firing down on them.
Thirty minutes of furious firing emptied many Confederate cartridge boxes. Teams of men left the firing line to search the dead and wounded. Not enough could be had. Hennessy in his book, "Return to Bull Run" described it best. ". . . . In Johnson's and Stafford's Brigades the firing diminished noticeably. Dozens of men, their guns empty, stood idly, waiting for someone to tell them what to do now. Then an Irishman of Stafford's brigade named O'Keefe stood up and yelled, "boys, give them rocks." Along Stafford's and Johnson's lines those out of ammunition grabbed stones and started throwing them at the federals. Some wound up and whipped them like baseballs, but men in Stafford's brigade lobbed them like beanbags over the top of the embankment onto the heads of the Yankees huddled on the opposite slope. This wrote Haight of the 24th New York was "an unlooked for variation in the proceedings. Huge stones began to fall about us with very unpleasant effect" The Yankees had never encountered such tactics before. Slightly bewildered, some simply picked the stones up and threw them right back. . . ." While this only lasted a few minutes it was one of the more humorous aspects of this bloody conflict. There was nothing wrong with the Yankee guns, they had ammunition. Yet they were throwing rocks. As the fight went on it became obvious that Porter could not take this position, the federals started to fall back. Some say the retreat was more deadly than the charge.
As the federals started their retreat from the Deep Cut, around 4 p.m., McDowell, from his position on Chinn Ridge, saw this and thought it worse than it actually was. Seeing the federals falling back, probably all he could think of was 1st Manassas (remember he was the commander there), so he stripped the Union left, including Chinn Ridge, of all but about 2500 troops South of the Warrenton Turnpike, to go in support of Porter. All that was left on Chinn Ridge was Warren's brigade and the Ohioian McClean's brigade.
Lee, seeing this, knew that his opportunity had come. The Union left flank was in the air. Completely uncovered except for those two brigades. The entire Union force was now in the "Jaws of Death." It was the time Lee had been waiting for. He ordered Longstreet to make his move. Longstreet ordered the attack. The largest "flank attack" in military history was underway. The entire half of Lee's army was on the move with Hood's Texans in the lead. The first warning to the federals had that something was wrong was when a company of the 10th New York, who had been picketing forward of their position, came running back. The Texans ran through the 5th and 10th New York as if they weren't even there. The bodies of the New Yorker's lay scattered across the field in their bright red Zouave uniforms. On the Confederates came. Across Young's branch and up toward Chinn Ridge. It is entirely possible that the two brigades on Chinn Ridge could have seen what had just happened and knew they were next.
Pope immediately saw the trouble he was in. This was probably the first indication that he had that he could lose his entire army. As the two brigades on Chinn ridge held as long as they could, Pope started putting in brigade after brigade to slow the Confederate advance. He knew that when Chinn Ridge fell, Henry Hill was next and with that his only escape route. The fighting was horrific. Then the ridge fell and Confederates moved toward Henry Hill. By this time Reno had deployed along the Sudley road to stop the Confederate onslaught. Time after time the Confederates charged until darkness finally closed in. The Union escape route was saved and Pope was fast moving his army out. Lee had won a great victory, but it was incomplete. Pope's army had escaped. The second battle at Manassas was over.
This page last updated 09/18/05
Acknowledgement: Much of the information contained in this writing was taken from "Return To Bull Run" by John Hennessy. This book is probably the finest written on this battle.
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