Vol. 23 No. 6 - June 2010
Upcoming Program: Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Long-time member Janell Bloodworth will discuss “The Life and Work of Clara Barton.” We can look forward to an inspiring presentation.
May 11, 2010 Program
William McEachern gave us an advance look at his new book in his talk entitled, “Lee and the Art of Command-Second Manassas Campaign.” His comments and critiques were not limited to Robert E. Lee.
McEachern first gave us a thumb-nail sketch of the principal players on both sides:
Robert E. Lee had masterminded the Seven Days’ Battles, but had not been tactically brilliant and his reputation had been enhanced only slightly. The casualties were overwhelming and Richmond overflowed with wounded. As late as August 18th, the average Confederate soldier did not have a high opinion of Lee.
Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson had not performed well during the Seven Days. He had literally fallen asleep at crucial junctures! Even so, Jackson emerged from the Seven Days with his reputation intact. The Richmond press lionized Jackson and he was more famous than Lee at this point.
James Longstreet had performed admirably during the Seven Days. Time and time again, it was Longstreet who had delivered the hammer blows which had pushed McClellan back from Richmond, while Jackson remained idle. Little wonder Lee felt that “Longstreet was the staff in his right hand."
George B. McClellan emerged from the Seven Days’ Battles with his reputation severely damaged. The Army of the Potomac had come through relatively intact, but this was due more to McClellan’s subordinates than to anything done by McClellan. Throughout the campaign, McClellan had been absent from the field when the Army was engaged in fighting. At Glendale, for example, McClellan never designated a second in command and was absent from the field of combat onboard a gunboat eating oysters and champagne.
John Pope began with a high reputation. On paper, Pope appeared to be a man with a destiny to fulfill. His victories at New Madrid and Island No. 10, which were relatively small affairs, still had captured the imagination of the public. Pope had the benefit of being a staunch Republican and abolitionist. The public enthusiasm at Pope's appointment contrasted starkly with the skepticism of his officers.
Fitz John Porter had shown himself to be a good fighter during the Seven Days. Porter fought Lee to a standstill at Beaver Dam, orchestrated the defense of Malvern Hill, and while bested at Gaines' Mill, his day long defense by one corps against the bulk of the Army of Northern Virginia had been masterful.
Henry Halleck was a lucky general. He was lucky to have under his command Grant, who won at Ft. Donelson, Ft. Henry and Shiloh, and Pope who won at New Madrid and Island No. 10, making him look like a winner. His nickname, "Old Brains," completed a picture of man of intellect and accomplishment.
Franz Sigel spoke with a distinct and pronounced German accent which brought out the bully in Pope. Pope thought Sigel was "the God damnedest coward he had ever knew." Sigel for his part, thought Pope an arrogant, offensive, pompous man, who played favorites with his subordinates.
Nathaniel Banks, in Pope’s view, was a mere political general who had been defeated by Jackson. Hailing from Massachusetts, Banks had served as Speaker of the House.
Irvin McDowell was Pope's only advisor and confidant during the campaign. McDowell, unfairly, was thought by many of his troops to be almost a coward. He wore a straw hat, which, according to rumor, was a signal to the Confederates to protect him from enemy fire.
Prelude to Battle
Frustrated with McClellan’s “slows,” President Abraham Lincoln was looking for an aggressive leader. Pope, with his victories in the West, seemed a good choice. Pope combined family connections, military experience, and the right politics to merit his appointment. The morale of the soldiers of his new Army of Virginia, however, was low and they lacked respect for his three corps commanders. All three held higher rank and felt they were better qualified than Pope, but all three had been thrashed by Jackson: McDowell at Port Republic, Banks at Front Royal and at Winchester, and John Fremont at Cross Keys. Fremont resigned upon hearing of Pope’s appointment and was replaced by Sigel.
Into this cauldron of distrust and defeatism, Pope quickly made things worse. He earned McClellan's enmity by telling Lincoln that even if McClellan was ordered to attack Lee while Pope moved south, Pope feared that McClellan might idly sit by and allow the Army of Virginia to be "sacrificed." [Ed.: As we heard from Robert Bonekemper in May, this might not have been far off the mark!] Pope insulted his new Army by comparing it unfavorably with the Western Army. Finally, Pope’s inflammatory General Orders gave his soldiers license to wreak vengeance upon the populace of Virginia. These Orders lead Lee to label Pope a 'miscreant', very strong language for Lee.
With Pope’s appointment on June 26, 1862, Lee knew his Army of Northern Virginia of 80,000 was not enough to confront both the 95,000 of McClellan’s Army of the Potomac and the 55,000 of Pope’s Army of Virginia. Pope straddled the river system north of Richmond while McClellan was southeast of Richmond. Juncture of these armies could capture Richmond, destroy Lee’s army and be the end of the Confederacy.
Lee first reorganized his army, appointing Longstreet and Jackson as Wing Commanders and transferring A.P. Hill and his Light Division to Jackson's Wing, because Longstreet and Hill were feuding in public over their respective contributions to the Seven Day's Battle. Finally, Lee consolidated all of the cavalry into a division under Jeb Stuart. In July, Lee sent Jackson and Hill north to bother Pope and to protect the vital supply line from the Shenandoah Valley. But first Jackson fought Banks at Cedar Mountain. Due to Jackson’s habitual inattention to drafting orders the outcome was a tactical draw, but it did prevent Pope from cutting Lee’s supply line. Banks helped Jackson by attacking instead of simply defending his position.
In mid-August 1862, Lee made a daring decision. Learning that reinforcing Pope would take weeks, he decided to take his army North and try to destroy Pope. On August 15th, Lee met with Jackson at Gordonsville, Virginia, and they agreed (over Longstreet’s objections) on a plan to go around the Union left flank, pinning Pope between the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers. If the only bridge over the Rappahannock at Rappahannock Station, just behind Pope, was destroyed, Pope’s army might be destroyed before McClellan's reinforcements arrived. Fitzhugh Lee (Lee’s nephew) was to cut this bridge, but instead, Union cavalry got across the river first and captured Jeb Stuart’s headquarters along with his plumed hat, cape and a dispatch case containing a complete copy of Lee’s plan of campaign, just the first of three times during this campaign that one side’s plans fell into the hands of the other side!
Pope quickly and properly retreated behind the Rappahannock. Nevertheless, gloom swept the troops for once again a Union army, after invading enemy territory, turned tail and retreated. Halleck read Pope's retreat as a sign that Pope needed McClellan's reinforcements. Halleck did all he could to hurry McClellan, could not get him to go faster than eight miles a day from Harrison's Land to Newport News.
Lee's opening gambit in this chess game had been a complete failure. Stuart unfairly held Fitzhugh Lee responsible for his near capture and the loss of Lee's orders, cape and plumed hat. At least one historian believes that had Lee trapped Pope's army on August 18, things would have gone badly for Pope. In any event, Lee now switched to Longstreet’s plan of going around Pope’s right flank, thus drawing Pope away from reinforcements coming from Pope’s left. On August 22, two punches were simultaneously thrown.
The first punch was by Jackson, who got across the Rappahannock at Sulphur Springs. Unfortunately, only a brigade and a battery of artillery got across before nightfall. During the night the river rose stranding the troops across the river. The next day, Jackson was able to retrieve his men, in good part due to Sigel’s glacial advance and fortuitous failure of a bridge upstream, providing wood used to build a bridge!
The second punch was by Stuart who got his troopers across the Rappahannock beyond the right flank of Pope after riding through the night in a torrential thunderstorm, reaching Catlett's Station. Stuart's mission was to destroy the railroad bridge over Cedar Run, thus severing Pope's link to Alexandria. The rainstorm saturated the bridge and it would not burn. Stuart had to content himself with raiding Pope's headquarters. Although the raid failed in its strategic objective of destroying the bridge, it did yield a good harvest: 300 prisoners, $500,000 in cash, $20,000 in gold, supplies, equipment, 500 horses, mules, and wagons. Not only did Stuart avenge the loss of his plumed hat and cape by capturing Pope's dress uniform, but more importantly, Stuart captured Pope's correspondence which disclosed McClellan's plans and the dispositions of both Pope and McClellan. For the second time this summer, enemy orders had been captured.
What was Lee's strategy for the upcoming campaign? Lee usually read the Bible and Marcus Aurelius at night in his tent, but he also read Clausewitz, von Bülow and Jomini, respected military historians and theoreticians who preached "reliance on mobility, active defense, and even offensive measures" including attacking the enemy’s flank and threatening his rear. Lee intended to rely upon a turning movement, much as he had done throughout the Seven Days, menacing Pope's rear and communications and forcing Pope to retreat without battle. Lee planned to liberate northern Virginia without loss of men and material!
On August 24, Lee held a council of war with Jackson, Longstreet, and Stuart. This meeting is immortalized by Mort Kunstler’s painting entitled, "I will be moving within the hour." Lee ordered Jackson (without cavalry!) to march around Pope's right flank and appear somewhere in the Union rear. To cover Jackson's departure, Longstreet would fill Jackson’s abandoned lines, deceiving Pope as to Lee’s intentions as long as is possible. Having seen written orders captured so easily, Lee relied upon oral orders only. Lee’s orders, general in nature, left it to his subordinates to improvise as the situation demanded. He had learned the problems created by complex plans during the Seven Days. Lee now relied upon his subordinates to meet circumstances as they arose, but this approach might allow a subordinate to cause a full scale battle contrary to Lee’s intentions. Lee’s plan was daring to the brink of recklessness. First, if Pope learned of Jackson's departure, Pope could hit either portion of Lee's army at great advantage. Second, each day brought McClellan's army closer.
Union scouts detected Jackson’s movement and by noon, Pope had accurate intelligence about the size of Jackson's column and the direction of their march. This is when Pope faltered as a commander. Pope concluded that Jackson was headed for the Shenandoah Valley, but failed to send any troops to watch Jackson and see whether that was where he was going and just assumed this. Pope could have sent enough forces from his defense line to block Thoroughfare Gap, an easily defensible defile through the Bull Run Mountains, and to warn of an attack upon his rear. Instead, Pope did nothing to prevent Jackson from striking into his rear, to protect his supply base at Manassas Junction, or to prepare to unite with McClellan.
The next day, Lee overcompensated for not sending cavalry with Jackson by sending all of his cavalry under Stuart to Jackson to provide complete screening of his force and reconnaissance. McEachern surmised that Lee did not intend to harass Pope if he withdrew from the Rappahannock line; otherwise Lee would not have stripped himself of all of his cavalry. Lee’s mishandling of his cavalry indicated to McEachern that Lee had not fully thought out his plan. Nevertheless, Longstreet fulfilled his role and diverted Pope's attention to his front and away from his rear. Lee's plan was working perfectly.
By August 26, Lee concluded that Longstreet should join Jackson. Sigel, thinking that his force was isolated and was about to be flanked, panicked and retreated from the Waterloo Bridge area. When Lee probed this area, he found no Union forces and concluded, erroneously, that Pope had retreated to cover his communications. Next, President Jefferson Davis surprised Lee by sending nearly all the defenders of Richmond to Lee as reinforcements.
August 27: Jackson Severs Pope’s Supply Line
Jackson's had to destroy a railroad bridge to sever Pope's supply line. His first target, the bridge over Broad Run at Bristoe Station was lightly guarded, as opposed to the bridge at Manassas Junction, which he thought was heavily guarded. He ended up taking both! With the capture of both Bristoe Station and Manassas Junction, Jackson accomplished the first stage of Lee’s strategic plan: Pope's supply line was now cut.
How did Pope react? Partly to avoid letting McClellan have the glory of defeating the Confederate forces at Manassas Junction, or splitting part of his army to join McClellan, which would have required him to leave Sigel or Banks (both of whom he disliked and mistrusted)in charge of the defense line, Pope decided to take his whole army to Manassas Junction! Pope also interposed a force of 40,000 men between Longstreet and Jackson. Back in Washington, D. C., Halleck reacted by ordering troops to a position North of Manassas Junction. Unwittingly, Pope and Halleck had orchestrated Union forces amounting to 80,000 men in a double envelopment of Jackson's isolated wing. Pope planned to converge early on August 28 upon Manassas Junction and "bag the whole crowd." Pope's plan displayed aggressiveness, initiative, and simplicity, but fell short in several ways. First, Pope assumed that Jackson would remain in place at Manassas Junction. Second, it did not seal off all possible routes of escape. And third, it ignored the other half of Lee's army (Longstreet's wing).
Manassas Junction was a veritable cornucopia of supplies, food, ammunition, artillery, caissons, shoes, blankets, uniforms, and whiskey for the Confederates. Jackson moved most of his forces there. Union troops advancing to Manassas Junction were quickly defeated, losing almost a third of their force. Meanwhile, Gen. Richard Ewell (Jackson’s favorite subordinate) successfully stopped Hooker in the vicinity of Bristoe Station, executing a masterful fighting withdrawal before joining Jackson at Manassas Station. Unfortunately, Longstreet’s column moved slowly. During the march, Lee and his staff encountered a Union cavalry patrol which nearly captured Lee. Lee learned an important lesson: no wing of the army could travel without cavalry escort and cavalry eyes scouting the road ahead.
Jackson learned on the evening of August 27 that Lee and Longstreet were about 20 miles away. To Jackson, this meant that the army could be reunited the next day. Jackson had not been cornered by Pope or really even threatened. There was no reason for Jackson to retreat. Jackson, on the other hand, had no intention of staying at Manassas Junction. Contrary to Lee’s plan, Jackson wanted to bring Pope to battle, but only upon his own terms and in a place that would present an opportunity for Lee to throw Longstreet's half of the army upon Pope's flank. This required Jackson to move nearer to Thoroughfare Gap and to a defensive position which he could hold until Longstreet arrived. Further, Jackson had to plan for the contingency that he might have to retreat, if Longstreet were delayed. Finally, Jackson wanted to prevent Pope from retreating across Bull Run to the defenses of Washington.
Stony Ridge satisfied all these requirements. It was a moderately high ridge north of the Warrenton Turnpike, which Pope's army would have to traverse to retreat across Bull Run. Longstreet could use the same Warrenton Turnpike to join with Jackson, or, if this path was blocked, Longstreet could use a road coming up to behind Jackson. Despite some mishaps, Jackson occupied Stoney Ridge the morning of August 28. Jackson, however, made one mistake: he failed to hold Thoroughfare Gap. This is remarkable because not only did he know that Longstreet had to pass through this gap in order to unite with him, but also this gap was his major escape route. He should have been sent a portion of Stuart’s cavalry to hold the gap.
Pope issued new orders at 1 AM, August 28. These orders unwisely undid most of what Pope had correctly ordered only hours before. Pope ordered Heintzelman and Porter to march to Bristoe Station, even though Hooker had already taken it earlier in the day. Pope then ordered McDowell, Sigel, Reynolds and Reno to march from Gainesville to Manassas. These moves removed the plug blocking the juncture of Longstreet and Jackson, deliberately throwing away the advantages of his position at Gainesville and enabling an easy juncture of the Confederate wings. These orders alone could be said to have cost Pope the campaign.
McDowell, recognizing the necessity of holding off Longstreet, ordered Sigel and Reynolds to Haymarket to hold that key town. This decision allowed McDowell to deal fully and completely with Longstreet, and yet allowed him to march to Manassas, if necessary. This was one of the best command decisions during the campaign by a Union officer. Sadly, McDowell abandoned this plan when he got Pope's new orders.
During the morning of August 28, Jackson received a captured copy of Pope’s latest orders (Number three!). Jackson concluded there was little or no threat to Longstreet's joining Jackson's wing. However, Jeb Stuart pointed out that Union cavalry occupied Haymarket, which was in Longstreet’s path. At Stuart’s suggestion, Jackson sent a force to Haymarket to flush out these Union forces and to effect a connection with Lee.
Around noon on August 28, Pope entered Manassas Junction. Originally, he knew nothing of Jackson's whereabouts, but he soon learned from some Confederate prisoners that Jackson had marched towards Centreville. Pope promptly redirected his army to Centreville, in hopes of catching Jackson
Longstreet, seriously behind schedule, did not reach Thoroughfare Gap until 3 PM. A small a Union force put up stiff resistance, but could not prevent Longstreet from forcing the gap late in the afternoon. Lee had already halted for the night, so the fight did not delay him. The fight actually made Lee march several miles further east than he otherwise would have. Lee was now alarmed about the situation in general and for Jackson in particular. Lee ordered Longstreet to press the march vigorously on August 29 and advised Jackson of the victory at the gap and his intention to unite with Jackson the next day.
Around 6:00 PM, Brig. Gen. Rufus King's column was marching eastward on the Warrenton Turnpike to link up with Pope at Centreville. No one in the column dreamt of the danger lurking in the woods to their left. Jackson and many of his men had fallen asleep against a fence corner. The sound of the Union column, equipment clanking and clanging, awakened Jackson. He jumped up, buckled on his sword, and mounted his horse, and rode to within 100 yards of the Union column and watched it awhile, slowly riding back and forth. Union soldiers watched him, but no one took what would have been an easy shot. Galloping back to his forces, Jackson saluted his staff and quietly ordered: "Bring out your men, gentlemen!" The battle of Second Manassas was about to begin where and when Jackson had decided.
The site of battle was just east of Groveton, near the farm of the John Brawner family, along the Warrenton Turnpike. King, 48, was McDowell's favorite division commander. King had been riding for the past week in an ambulance, because he had suffered a serious epileptic seizure on August 23. McDowell had grave reservations about King’s ability to lead his division, but did not remove King for two reasons: First, King and McDowell were good friends. Second, if King were removed, command would devolve upon Hatch, whom McDowell thought was both disagreeable and incompetent. As the Confederate attack began, King suffered a severe seizure. King would be out of action for some hours and his division would be leaderless during the entirety of this evening's battle.
From front to rear, the line of march was: John P. Hatch, John Gibbon, Abner Doubleday and Marsena R. Patrick. Neither Hatch nor Patrick were really involved in the fight. Gibbon charged into the woods because he assumed he was facing only horse artillery, having been advised by Pope that Jackson was at Centreville. His assumption was perfectly logical, but perfectly wrong. Doubleday led his men to shelter in Brawner's Woods. There, he met Gibbon. Without orders from King, and believing Jackson was well to their east at Centreville, Gibbon felt the danger was trifling and off-handedly suggested, "we ought to storm the battery."
The resulting fight was a confused affair. Most of the action was at 50 yards or less. Units on both sides were thrown in piecemeal. Neither side could gain an advantage. Units fought each other until 9 PM when it became too dark to see. The fight was "a hideous tactical stalemate," that came at a heavy cost, with over 1,150 Union and 1,250 Confederate casualties. The 2nd Wisconsin lost 276 of 430 engaged. The Stonewall brigade lost 340 out of 800. Two Georgia regiments—Trimble's 21st and Lawton's 26th—each lost more than 70%. In all, one of every four men engaged in the fight was wounded or killed.
Given that Jackson had approximately 24,000 men at his disposal against 5,000, this should have been a decisive victory. Given that he faced a lone untried Federal division without support, it should have been a decisive victory. Given that Jackson had the element of surprise, it should have been a crushing victory. It was not for a number of reasons. First, Jackson sent only 6,200 men against Gibbon's 2,100. Second, the attack was shortly before darkness so there would not be enough time to launch the telling blow. Third, Jackson threw in his men in a piecemeal fashion. Fourth, Jackson bypassed the chain of command and personally ordered in regiments, leaving his subordinates bewildered as to the course of the action. Fifth, Jackson lost two key division commanders (Richard Ewell and William B. Taliaferro) during the fray which further eroded command control. Sixth, and this was beyond Jackson's control, the Union forces fought with fierce determination and tenacity (It was this battle in which the Iron Brigade, then known as Gibbon's Black Hat Brigade, began to acquire its reputation). Seventh, Taliaferro and Ewell failed to perform up to their usual levels. Eighth, Jackson's artillery was brought in piece meal. Jackson gained very little at great cost. Jackson himself muttered about the lost possibilities of Brawner's Farm. After the battle, Jackson rode a mile west of his lines looking for Longstreet and Lee to no avail. This must have caused him some concern, because now he suspected he would have face Pope alone on the morrow.
Pope misconstrued the significance of the fight at Brawner’s Farm. He was still convinced (!) that Jackson was retreating toward the Valley. Instead, Jackson was in a good defensive position, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Longstreet to begin attacking Pope. Finally, despite having received intelligence of Longstreet's movements, Pope inexplicably discounted the effect Longstreet's troops would have on the battle to come. Pope’s officers expressed bewilderment that Pope did not realize how close King had come to destruction. Pope issued orders to his subordinates to surround Jackson and attack him at sunrise the next morning, but these orders contained erroneous assumptions. Pope not only did not know what Jackson had done or intended to do, but also was unaware of the dispositions of his own forces. Pope thought that McDowell's corps, which now included Reynolds' division, held Gainesville. He assumed that Sigel was west of Jackson and was blocking Jackson's retreat routes toward the Bull Run Mountains. Pope thought he had some 40,000 men between Longstreet and Jackson. In fact, Pope through his conflicting orders had virtually no one between Longstreet and Jackson!
Battle of Second Manassas - Day
August 29: Jackson defends Stony
August 29: Jackson defends Stony
On the morning of August 29, Pope's army was scattered across the map and was not concentrated, contrary to what Pope had intended. In front of Jackson at Groveton were only the corps of Sigel and Reynolds' division. Thus, Pope had on the field a force of some 20,000 men to face Jackson's 23,000. Banks, Porter, and Rickett's divisions (some 11,000 men) were at Bristoe Station. King's and Hooker's divisions (some 20,000 men) were at Manassas Junction. Kearny's division and Reno's corps (some 18,000 men) were at Centreville. Worse, Pope's men were exhausted from their marching and counter marching. Finally, Pope's men were hungry because their supply trains were with Banks in the rear.
Pope's best course of action would have been to withdraw behind Bull Run, rest and resupply his army, and await for reinforcement from McClellan, only days away. This course of action proved impossible for a man of Pope’s aggressive disposition. Instead, he chose to attack Jackson on Jackson's chosen ground and on Jackson's terms. Pope had promised aggression and decisive action. "Success and glory are in the advance, disaster and shame lurk in the rear," Pope had written. Now, he would try to attain glory and avoid shame.
On the morning of August 29, Jackson assumed a defensive position along the unfinished Independent Line of the Manassas Gap Railroad. Grading had begun in the 1850's but financial difficulties forced a halt before the war began. Jackson was essentially strung out west to east along a railroad cut two miles long forming a slight convex curve facing southwards. The railroad cut was about 500 yards below the crest of Stony Ridge. The cut was not an ideal military formation. It ranged in depth from 1 to 10 feet. A large portion of the cut was too deep for men to take cover. No firing steps had been built into the cut. The cut also lacked revetments which prevented the defenders from getting close to the earthen sides to gain both maximum firing angles as well as protection from enemy fire. Woods screened the frontage of most of the railroad grade. The left and center-left were behind woods which obscured any artillery fields of fire; but protected the infantry from being fired upon by enemy artillery. Jackson placed Major Shu-maker's artillery of eight batteries on his extreme right, but had virtually nowhere else to place his other 13 batteries. The railroad cut was an imperfect defense line needing work to make it an effective military earthwork. Jackson's men fought bravely and fought hard to defend this line, which could have been made far easier for them by proper construction. Jackson’s failure to do so is cause for criticism.
On the morning of August 29, Pope learned that King and Ricketts were not where he had thought them to be. Pope ordered Porter to attach King to his corps and march from Manassas north to Gainesville and to attack Jackson. Sigel who was in front of Jackson with 12,000 men, in obedience to Pope's orders, attacked along a broad front, mainly because Sigel was uncertain where Jackson's forces lay. As would be the manner of the Union attacks throughout the day, forces were committed piecemeal, made brief inroads into Jackson's defenses and then were repulsed with heavy losses. Milroy's brigade was nearly a wreck after its attack and repulse. Jackson could have struck this brigade which was the center of Sigel's line. Such a move could have spelled disaster for the Union army, but Jackson remained on the defensive. Around 10 AM, Sigel's offense petered out without having altered the military picture. Sigel's attacks had done one thing: they had definitely located Jackson. Sigel did one other thing that certainly helped to ruin the Union's chances for victory. As the units of Reno's and Heintzelman's corps arrived, Sigel dispersed them to wherever there was a need regardless of corps organization. As a result, neither corps functioned as a corps for the rest of the battle.
Because Pope's attacks were uncoordinated, small in scale, and hampered by a lack of reconnaissance which did not find Jackson's exposed flank, Jackson was able to counter Pope by moving forces from one threatened spot to another and fight off any break-through which occurred. Nonetheless, had Pope launched determined and coordinated attacks, it is not likely that Jackson would have been able to hold out. Several times, Jackson's line was breached only to be saved by the fact that Union reinforcements were not sent in to the breach to completely break Jackson's line. On at least one occasion, the Confederate defenders were completely out of ammunition and defended their position by throwing rocks and stones. Additional Union forces could have broken the Confederate line and could have won a Union victory.
August 29, 12 noon: Longstreet arrives, Porter stalls.
Lee had roused Longstreet's wing early that morning. As they marched, Lee and Longstreet heard the sounds of battle. Lee stated, "We must hurry and help him." By 9 AM, Lee had reached Gainesville and turned northeast on the Warrenton Turnpike. Lee, surprisingly, went ahead of his forces alone and narrowly escaped being shot by a Yankee sharpshooter. By 10 AM, Hood was getting in line at an right angle to the end of Jackson's right flank. At about that time, Lee also arrived on the field and immediately summoned Jackson. Jackson outlined both the location of his wing and the positions he had reconnoitered for the placement of Longstreet's wing. Lee approved these dispositions which would put Longstreet's men almost at a right angle to Jackson's wing. By noon, Longstreet's divisions were arrayed on a north-south line about three miles long facing east. There is no evidence that Lee or Longstreet did anything to hide or mask the arrival of Longstreet's wing and had no reason to suppose that the presence of Longstreet's wing was not immediately made known to Pope.
Lee wanted Longstreet to attack immediately, but Longstreet urged caution and requested time to do a reconnaissance. Within an hour, Longstreet reported back that the Union line in front of him (Reynolds and Schenck) extended down about half of his line and that these forces would offer considerable resistance to a Confederate attack. Lee and Longstreet argued over the course of action, with Lee insisting upon an attack and Longstreet strongly resisting the idea. At this point, Stuart rode up and confirmed that additional Union forces (Porter) had arrived off Longstreet’s right flank. Porter by simply staying in place pinned Longstreet’s corps in place and prevented Longstreet from doing on the 29th what was done on the 30th!
What of the Union side? Porter's corps had been doing its share of wandering. Pope's 3 AM orders had Porter marching from Bristoe to Groveton via Centreville, an unnecessary detour adding 10 miles to the march. After Porter's corps had passed Manassas Junction, Porter received new orders, to about face and march to Gainesville. At about this time, Stuart encountered Porter's van and Stuart's horse artillery fired upon the head of the Union column and brought it to a halt. Stuart then decided to try to bluff the Union forces. He ordered his men to tie branches to their horses and ride in circles to stir up as much dust as would an entire corps. This stratagem worked, in part because just as the clouds of dust were rising, Porter received a report from John Buford that said that he had counted 17 regiments of infantry, one battery, and 500 cavalry marching through Gainesville early that morning.
In the midst of this confusion, another order from Pope arrived. It became known as the Joint Order and is certainly the most controversial order issued during the campaign. The Joint Order was addressed to both Porter and McDowell. It was written at 10 AM at Centreville. It asserted that Jackson was retreating, so the army would only have to deal with Jackson, not the whole Army of Northern Virginia. The Joint Order made it clear that Longstreet was not on the scene and would not be for another 24 to 36 hours! It directed Hatch to become a part of McDowell's corps. The Joint Order was an order which was cautious in tone and used qualifying language, while appearing to grant great discretion to Porter and McDowell. It did not explicitly order an attack by either Porter or McDowell. It did direct Porter and McDowell to move towards Gainesville and instructed them as follows: "...as soon as communication is established [with the other divisions of the army] the whole command shall halt. It may be necessary to fall back behind Bull Run to Centreville tonight. . .the troops must occupy a position from which they can reach Bull Run to-night or tomorrow morning." Finally the Joint Order concluded, "...if any considerable advantages are to be gained from departing from this order it will not be strictly carried out."
From all appearances and from the information received from Buford, it was clear to McDowell and Porter that Pope's order was in error. Longstreet was on the scene and the Army of Virginia would have to deal with Lee’s entire army. What were Porter and McDowell to do? They were to move “towards Gainesville.” How far does one go to move 'towards Gainesville'? Next, they were to move until “communication” is made with the rest of the Army and then halt. What constitutes communication? But if they comply with the portion of the Order which then directs a halt, how can they be able to fall back to Centreville over Bull Run, when Centreville is east of Gainesville on the Warrenton Turnpike? In the end, Pope tells them that they do not have to carry out the Joint Order, if there are any “considerable advantages” not to do so. Does this make the whole Joint Order discretionary? Armed with this Joint Order and the intelligence from Buford, McDowell and Porter made decisions as to what they were going to do. First, McDowell told Porter: "you are out too far already; this is no place to fight a battle." McDowell, it must be remembered, is a wing commander and thus superior to Porter. McDowell ordered Hatch and Ricketts to march to Bristoe, then get on the Manassas-Sudley Road and march north. Finally, McDowell would turn west and reestablish connection with Porter. Porter decided to stand where he was and await clarification from McDowell or Pope. Porter tried throughout the rest of the afternoon to get orders from Pope or McDowell, but to no avail. It appears that his scouts and couriers ran into the enemy and could not get through.
McDowell then did several incredible things: he did not advise Pope that Longstreet had arrived, he did not forward to Pope Buford's detailed report of the movement of Longstreet through Gainesville and he did not advise Pope what he intended to do. Had he simply forwarded his information to Pope, would Pope have dropped his obsession with Jackson’s “retreat”? Remember this is the man Pope trusts the most!
At about 12 noon, Pope reached the field. After dispatching his Joint Order, Pope then told his corps commanders, Sigel, Reno, and Heintzelman that he merely wished to keep the rebels in place. Victory would come from a sweeping flank movement. During the afternoon, Pope authorized four separate attacks upon Jackson's wing, each of which had the purpose of fixing and distracting Jackson, until Porter would draw up on Jackson's right wing in a strong attack.
The first attack, composed of Hooker and Stevens, was to relieve Schurz on the Union far right wing. At about 3 PM, Grover's brigade of Hooker's division hit a gap between Thomas' and Gregg's Confederates and opened a one-quarter mile wide rupture in the Confederate line. Unfortunately, Philip Kearney who was supposed to support Grover did not do so, and after awhile Grover was repelled with great loss. Next Reynolds was ordered to deliver a spoiler attack on Jackson's right wing. Reynolds reported to Pope that Longstreet had arrived and was facing the flank of Reynolds' men. Pope dismissed Reynolds' report as a case of mistaken identity: the forces Reynolds had seen were Porter's corps readying for an attack on Jackson's right flank! Next, Nagle went forward. Nagel's attack pierced the Confederate center, but had to fall back after reinforcements were not forth coming. This is the second time Pope had an opportunity to win the battle.
Around 4:30 PM, Pope finally wrote orders to Porter ordering the attack which Pope had been waiting for all day. "Your line of march brings you on the enemy's right flank. I desire you to push forward into action at once on the enemy's flank, and if possible, on his rear, keeping your right in communication with General Reynolds." Unfortunately, Pope’s aide, his nephew, lost his way and did not deliver the order until 6:30 PM. By then it was early evening. Even had Porter moved immediately, he still could not have reached the field, placed his men in a line of battle and attacked before darkness. Pope, expecting Porter to attack at any time, prepared to attack Jackson on Jackson’s left flank in hopes of simultaneously attacking both flanks.
Late in the afternoon, Pope ordered Kearney to lead the attack on the Confederate left flank. Kearney assembled 2,700 soldiers to attack Hill's division. Four of Hill's six brigades had been involved in fighting and repulsing Sigel's, Grover's, and Nagel's attacks and were worn out. At about 5 PM, Kearney's attack was poised to hit Maxcy Gregg's South Carolinians, who had already exhausted their ammunition. Hill sent a courier to Jackson asking for reinforcements. Jackson told the courier: "Tell him if they attack him again, he must beat them back." Jackson rode back with the messenger and met Hill, who wanted to speak personally with Jackson. Jackson told Hill simply: "If you are attacked again you will beat the enemy back." Just then a crash of musketry announced Kearney's assault. Hill shouted: "Here it comes." Jackson replied: "I'll expect you to beat them." Maxcy Gregg inspired his troops by waving his father's Revolutionary War sword over his head and yelling: "Let us die here, my men, let us die here!" Branch's brigade of Hill's division, in reserve during the day, counterattacked but was unable to beat back the Union onslaught.
At this moment, as had been the case during the entire day, Confederate reinforcements, from a portion of the line that was not being attacked made their way to help Hill's battered division. Early's men fell upon Kearney's flank with a wild rebel yell and collapsed the Union attack. "'I knew he could do it,' Jackson commented with a smile when he learned of this critical event. It was one the rare occasions in which he would give even oblique credit to anyone but God." As an aside, General Branch reported that after this attack, he could only find 24 cartridges in his entire brigade.
All day, Lee had worried about Longstreet's flank and had extended it further and further to meet the threat presented by Porter. Longstreet had changed the direction of the front of two of his units (Jones' Division and Corse's Brigade) to meet this challenge. Around 5 PM, Longstreet had seen dust clouds rising off in his front right, as McDowell marched to the field. Longstreet noted that these clouds were moving away from him and reported this to Lee, who immediately began talking about an attack on Pope. Longstreet argued that it was too late in the day. He suggested a reconnaissance in force to explore Pope's left flank. He selected Hood's division and portions of Wilcox's and Kemper's divisions to attack East along the Warrenton Turnpike. At about sunset, John Bell Hood's division advanced.
At about the same time as the initial success of Kearney's attack, Pope and George Ruggles, who had joined Pope and who was Pope's chief of staff, saw a number of Confederate ambulances moving away from the battlefield to the west. Ruggles said it looked like Confederate ambulances were taking wounded to the rear. Pope retorted these were troops retreating and decided to have Hatch attack West along the Warrenton Turnpike. The result was that at sunset, Hatch collided with Hood division on the Warrenton Turnpike. After a short period of time, Hatch withdrew. A Union officer commented: "The enemy... were rather more combative than we presumed retreating forces usually to be."
Although Hood's men had captured an artillery piece and the ground needed for a dawn attack on Pope's left flank, both Hood and Wilcox persuaded Longstreet, who in turn persuaded Lee, to give up the position won. This was done because Hood found himself in the midst of the enemy. Concurrently, Jackson ordered his men to withdraw back to the railroad cut. It appeared that the Confederates were departing from the battlefield, which only enhanced Pope's perception that the Confederates were retreating. Falling victim to wishful thinking and erroneous deductions, Pope believed that he had won the battle.
McDowell finally rode to Pope's headquarters after dark on the evening of August 29. Amazingly, it was only then that he finally told Pope of Buford's report that morning. It was only at this time that Pope finally acknowledged that Longstreet was on the field. Pope somehow then determined that Longstreet would take a position lengthening Jackson's line to the west, not at right angles to Jackson's line. Pope also became furiously angry at Porter and sent peremptory orders to Porter to join the army by morning. Pope decided to use Porter's corps in an all-out attack on Jackson on the morrow. McDowell, rather than defending Porter against Pope's charges of being treasonous and incompetent, agreed with Pope that Porter was incompetent. McDowell did not mention his part in the decision to halt Porter's corps upon receipt of the Joint Order, nor did he mention that both he and Porter believed that Porter faced Longstreet's wing alone. McDowell’s actions seem to be aimed at bringing Porter down.
From the Confederate viewpoint, Jackson's defense throughout the day had been a close thing. Even though the attacks generally got weaker during the day, it was harder for Jackson to repel each successive attack. Why didn't Lee order Longstreet to attack Porter on the 29th? Testifying at Porter’s court-martial after the war, Lee said: "The result of an attack would have been a repulse, especially at an early hour or before five P.M.” Lee could remain on the defensive and await a good opportunity.
Second Manassas-Day Two
August 30: Longstreet
counterattack, Union retreat
August 30: Longstreet
counterattack, Union retreat
At dawn on August 30, Pope telegraphed to Halleck that after a great battle lasting from daylight to dark the prior day the enemy had been driven from the field. The telegram concluded: "The news has just reached me from the front that the enemy is retreating towards the mountains." August 30th dawned with more news to excite the fertile imagination of John Pope. Hatch's division witnessed the early morning pull back of Anderson's division from a position just west of Hatch on the Warrenton Turnpike. Anderson, arriving on the field at 3:30 AM, had wandered in the darkness past Hood's division before bedding down. At dawn, Anderson recognized how exposed he was and, at Hood’s order, withdrew. Around the same time, paroled Union officers reported to Pope's headquarters that the Confederate army planned a wholesale retreat.
Pope held a council of war at 8 AM at Stone House on Buck Hill, reporting that the Confederates were in full retreat and outlining a full-blown offensive. As this meeting was winding up, Porter arrived and tried to convince Pope that Longstreet's line extended well south of the Warrenton Turnpike to Porter's old position on the Manassas-Gainesville Road. Pope dismissed these claims. Reynolds supported Porter, but Pope dismissed Reynolds' testimony because Reynolds had served under Porter previously. Pope did not order a reconnaissance to verify or disprove Porter's and Reynolds' statements. Two hours later, Ricketts and Stevens confirmed that the Confederate line still was in place on the right and the center. Reynolds confirmed that Longstreet still was on the left. McDowell and Heintzelman then undertook their own personal reconnaissance but somehow failed to find the Confederate lines! When an escaped Union officer told Pope of the Confederate pull back, Pope ordered Porter, supported by Hatch and Reynolds, to advance along the Warrenton Turnpike to the west, while Kearney, Hooker, and Ricketts would sweep on the Union right in “a grand pursuit” of the Confederate army.
Lee knew that he was outnumbered, but also knew his army lay in a strong defensive position. Nevertheless, he expected, based upon Pope's aggressiveness the day before, that Pope would attack again. Lee convened a council of war in the late morning at his headquarters on Stuart's Hill. Jackson felt that Pope would not attack that day. Absent an offensive by Pope, Lee directed Jackson to make another sweeping right movement around the Union army via Pleasant Valley and Chantilly to get to Fairfax Court House before Pope and place himself between Washington and Pope. Longstreet was to make a late afternoon diversionary attack to keep Pope in place. Lee put an added 18 pieces of artillery on the heights near Brawner Farm which could rake the open fields of approach to Jackson with enfilade fire. Lee moved his cavalry to both flanks and expressed the hope that Pope would attack and in doing so would expose a weakness.
During the morning, several things conspired to render Pope's grand pursuit order inappropriate. First, Porter had stumbled during the night and had not reached the position that Pope assumed he had. Porter was actually in a position which rendered him unable to move down the Warrenton Turnpike in a timely fashion. Further, Ricketts, in obedience to his orders got off in the late morning, but was quickly repulsed, demonstrating that the Confederates had not withdrawn in his area. Finally, Reynolds again warned that Longstreet loomed south of the Warrenton Turnpike and was a greater danger than ever. To this point, Pope had handled his army in a fairly good manner. Along both the Rapidan and the Rappahannock Rivers, Pope had been able to counter every move made by Lee to turn Pope's position. He had not panicked at Stuart's raid upon Catlett's Station. He had formulated good plans for striking Jackson, which failed mainly because Pope did not know where his own forces were. He had been reasonably aggressive and sought victory through hard fighting. To be sure, Pope had made many mistakes to date. But none had seriously imperiled his army. He now faced an enemy where he had the interior lines and a 30% larger force. Pope could have and should have won this battle.
What choices faced Pope this August 30? He could remain in place and await an attack by Lee. Pope was still receiving supplies and would in a day or two receive significant reinforcements. Franklin and Sumner with 20,000 men were hastening to him. Pope also could have assumed the offensive, but in a different manner from the day before. There was no doubt that he now knew that Longstreet was on the field. While he may not have known the exact location of Longstreet, a significant force could have blocked Longstreet while Pope attacked Jackson. At hand now, Pope had Porter's corps. Porter had performed brilliantly on the defense during the Seven Days' Battle. He could have and should have been cast in that role again. Had Pope's left flank been put in a defensive posture facing Longstreet, Pope would have been free then to launch an all-out attack against Jackson. At numerous times during the prior day, Pope's men had breached Jackson's line only to be repulsed when Jackson rushed reinforcements from an unengaged portion of line to the threatened portion of his line. An all-out offensive would have robbed Jackson of this ability. Finally, Pope should have weighed whether Jackson's men had been resupplied during the night. During the prior day, Pope's men had been repulsed by bayonet charges and rock throwing; indications that Jackson's men were out of ammunition.
Pope had one overwhelming flaw as a commander: once he had an idea in his head he stubbornly stuck to it irrespective of the facts. Pope believed that Jackson was retreating. Pope became angry at Porter's contrary insistence that Longstreet was arrayed on the left flank of the Union army. By 1 PM, Pope decided to order an attack by Porter's entire corps, supported by Hatch, upon the right half of Jackson’s position. Porter would be advancing across open fields exposed to the 18 artillery pieces posted at the heights near Brawner’s Farm. Finally, Porter would be marching across Longstreet's front. Pope did not provide Porter with any reinforcements or other support. Pope, however, finally allowed Reynolds to pull back from his exposed position to Chinn Ridge. He also reinforced Reynolds with a brigade under Nathaniel McLean. Thus, Pope had 8,000 men facing off against 30,000 Confederates! Pope did not place this attack by Porter within any tactical framework: there would be no diversions at any other place along the Confederate line. Like all the attacks of the day before, there were no plans to support Porter if he breached Jackson's line.
The attack initially went well with Hatch's men on the extreme Union right breaking through Johnson's line. Additional artillery had been placed on the hill near Brawner’s Farm. These batteries had an unobstructed view of the rolling pastureland over which any Union reinforcements must come and over which any retreating Union forces must go and could hit the flank and rear of Porter's troops. Within 20 minutes, the effect of this vast array of artillery was devastating. In addition, Jackson had moved Lawton's men from his left flank and they hit Porter's forces in the flank forcing them back. Porter decided not commit the second and third lines of his corps. Porter, had he known how close he came to breaking Jackson's line might have ordered the advance of the rest of his corps. Both Stafford's and Johnson's brigades had completely expended their ammunition and were fighting the right side of Porter’s attack with rocks.
Porter's men retreated across pastures swept by Confederate artillery. More men were killed and wounded in the retreat than in the attack. Some of Starke's Confederates started a spontaneous counterattack which was cut short when they hit Porter's reserves. Nonetheless, to McDowell this looked like a disaster and on his own initiative ordered Reynolds to cross the Turnpike from Chinn ridge, leaving only 2,200 men on Chinn Ridge. McDowell’s action was unwarranted and stripping Chinn Ridge almost caused a disaster later. Porter's corps was righting itself as Sigel's corps, Milroy's brigade, Hatch's division and cavalry units halted the routed troops and restored order before Reynolds reached the scene.
One commentator contends that Lee, Jackson and Longstreet displayed 'tactical dullness' in this battle. This seems unfair “second guessing.” First, none of them could know that Pope would attack where and when he did. Second, the terrain in front of Longstreet and Lee cloaked the Union attack for awhile, thus masking the opportunity. Finally, when Porter did attack, the first responses of all involved were reflexive to the immediate situation and were “traditional” responses learned at West Point.
August 30, 4 p.m.: Start of Longstreet's attack.
As Porter's corps struggled back to its start line and Reynolds left Chinn Ridge, both Lee and Longstreet concluded that the time for Longstreet's offensive had come. The opportunity was so great in front of the Confederates that a number of Confederate units of Longstreet's line jumped off without orders! Longstreet had five divisions spread out in a roughly north-south line facing east. This line began near Brawner’s Farm in the north and to the Manassas Gap Railroad on the south. Lee’s goal was to take Henry House Hill, about one and one-half miles to two miles from Longstreet's line. Henry House Hill was significant, not only because it was the scene of the successful defense by the Confederate at First Manassas, but more importantly, it dominated the only escape route Pope had over Bull Run via Stone Bridge to Centreville.
Hood first fell upon two New York regiments of 1,000 men. Within ten minutes these regiments were virtually swept aside. The Fifth New York Zouaves lost more men in these few minutes than any other regiment would lose in a single battle during the entire war, about 440 out of 500 men deployed. Hood next swept over Warren's brigade.
The magnitude of the coming disaster became evident to both Pope and McDowell at this time. Pope ordered a concentration of forces at Henry House Hill. Pope also ordered McLean's brigade to Chinn Ridge to purchase as much time as possible in blocking Long-street's onslaught. Nathaniel McLean was the son of a Congressman and a Supreme Court Judge. His men were Ohioans. McLean arrayed his force of 1,200 men on the crest of Chinn Ridge and placed
a battery of artillery in his center. Combined volleys from his men and canister from the battery stopped Hood's men. Hood called upon Evans, who was on his right flank. Evans shifted his regiments and charged up Chinn Ridge from the south. McLean responded just in time and repulsed Evans. Evans was killed in this charge. Hood then called upon Kemper, who directed Corse's regiment to attack. Corse wheeled his men to face north, rather than east as the two previous Confederate assaults had done. Corse's men were originally identified by McLean's men as Union reinforcements, which allowed Corse's men to close without being fired upon. The Ohioans were sited behind a rail fence and for ten minutes traded volleys at point-blank range with Corse's regiment.
In the end, the Confederate pressure was too much and McLean was forced to retreat. Nonetheless, he had purchased thirty minutes of valuable time at a cost of one-third of his forces.
Pope deployed more forces at Chinn Ridge. Fortunately for Pope, Jackson's front was still quiet. This left many Union units unoccupied and allowed Pope to shift forces from the north to the south side of the field. The first of these units was Rickett's division and the Fifth Battery of Maine Light Artillery. Hood, Evans and Corse assaulted these units from three sides, with Corse having moved to the east of Ricketts and the battery where his regiment was able to enfilade the Union forces on their unprotected left flank. Within minutes, Ricketts and the Maine Battery had been overrun. While this combat was dying out, Stiles’ brigade (which had the Twelfth Massachusetts regiment led by Fletcher Webster, the son of famous statesman, Daniel Webster, as one of its constituents) arrived to defend Chinn Ridge. Stiles formed a rough line which was hit by two brigades of Kemper's division, which poured a devastating fire into Webster's regiment, killing Webster and many of his men. Two more brigades tried to stop the Confederate juggernaut, but had no more success than had McLean, Tower, or Stiles. By 6 PM, the defense of Chinn Ridge was over. It had taken Longstreet's men 90 minutes to conquer it. In front of them, several hundred yards away loomed Henry House Hill. By this time, Hood's and Kemper's divisions had themselves been mauled and were not available for the next push. Lee had about another hour before darkness would fall and curtail the offensive.
To his credit, Pope used this time wisely to build a defense on the western slope of Henry House Hill of four brigades. Behind them in reserve were two more brigades. Pope also ordered Banks to burn the army's supplies at Bristoe Station, retreat to Centreville and hold the defensive lines that had been built there in the past. Jackson still was relatively quiet and most of his forces had done little to aid Longstreet's advance. This reflects badly upon Lee for not coordinating his attacks this afternoon. Had Jackson been more active, Pope would have been hard pressed to shift troops, as he did from the northern sector to the southern sector. Longstreet's attack would have been more successful.
Neighbor Jones threw 3,000 men in a frontal assault against the western slope of Henry House Hill. Just as the Union defense halted this attack, two brigades of Richard H. Anderson's division appeared on the left flank of the Union defenders. The Union forces then retreated north to Henry House. One final push from the south and east of Henry House Hill would have taken the Hill. Inexplicably, Anderson failed to order the final assault. Maybe the coming darkness or the lack of a direct order from Longstreet or Lee to attack stopped Anderson. Perhaps, it was a failure to realize the critical nature of state of the Union forces. Whatever the reason, just as the culmination of what Lee had sought, a battle of annihilation, was within Confederate grasp, Anderson stopped and the chance was gone.
While this was going on, a cavalry conflict swirled on the extreme southern edge of the field. John Buford led the Union cavalry and Beverly Robertson led the Confederate cavalry. By 6 PM, Robertson was approaching Lewis Ford and was only a mile or so from the Stone Bridge. John Buford had hidden his horsemen and was lying in wait for just such an opportunity. Robertson, seeing only a small body of horse, ordered Munford’s regiment, to disperse this small body. When Munford charged this small body, he soon discovered that Buford was there with four regiments. Munford's men were overwhelmed and beaten--the first time Stuart's vaunted cavalry had been beaten by Union horse. Robertson joined the fray. The fighting swirled on for awhile, until the Union cavalry reverted to form, lost the battle, and retreated. Robertson made a half-hearted pursuit and thereby lost the opportunity to cut the Stone Bridge. Whether 1,500 horse could have done much to hold the bridge is open to question. The fact, however, is that Robertson did not try.
Where was Jackson in all of this? Lee had ordered Jackson to attack shortly after he ordered Longstreet to attack. It was not until about 6 PM that Jackson's men moved forward. It is questionable whether Jackson forced the Union troops to retreat or whether they were retreating at Pope's order. Jackson did manage to overrun several artillery and infantry units. Why Jackson was so slow to act? His men had fought continuously for three days and had withstood assault after assault from Pope's entire army and were justifiably exhausted. Porter's attack had been furious and had depleted ammunition which took time to replenish. Still, Jackson’s delay in attacking is one of the great mysteries of the battle. This was a great failure on the part of Lee and his command that day. Jackson’s delay nullified much of the impact of his attack. He allowed Pope time, that precious commodity, to reinforce Henry House Hill. His attack became a glancing blow when it should have been a knockout punch.
Pope ordered a complete retreat at 8 PM and his army was able to leave the field in good order using the Warrenton Turnpike to cross Bull Run at Stone Bridge. By 11 PM, the army was completely over Bull Run. The battle of Second Manassas was over. It should be noted that Franklin's corps met Banks at Centreville at about 6 PM the evening of August 30. Had Pope waited a few more hours or even a day he would have had significantly greater fresh troops with which to assault Lee.
During the evening of August 30, Lee ordered Jackson to undertake the flank movement against the Union right which he had outlined that morning. The choice of Jackson to lead this movement was one driven by geography, his troops were in the right position, and by Jackson’s successful execution of the same move against Pope that lead to Second Manassas. However, given the terrible condition his men were in after the battle, it probably was not Lee's most inspired decision. Lee had other much fresher troops at hand who might have served him better. He had Richard H. Anderson's division and he had two brigades of Ripley’s division who came in that evening.
Pope on August 31 decided not to move to the fortifications of Washington, even though all of his subordinates suggested such a move. Pope decided to stay at Centreville, which aided Lee's plan. The position at Centreville was extremely strong and that is why Lee decided to turn it rather than assault it.
Uncharacteristically, Jackson's men only covered 10 miles on August 31, far short of Lee's goal. Jackson on September 1, quickly encountered Union cavalry patrols which erased the element of surprise. Jackson also unwisely ordered a halt at mid-morning to wait for Longstreet to catch up which halt gave Pope just enough time to escape the trap. Pope ordered Reno's corps (which was under the command of Stevens) and Kearny's division to delay Jackson while the rest of the army retreated. Around noon, Jackson resumed his march but halted again at Ox Hill at 2 PM, again to wait for Longstreet. Later in the afternoon, Stevens and Kearny collided with Jackson near Chantilly. The scene of this battle was one which could have been out of Dante's Inferno. As the battle unfolded, a violent thunderstorm covered the field. Lightning flashes were brilliant and numerous. Troops were blinded by the wind-driven sheets of rain. In the battle, both General Stevens and Kearny were killed. The Battle of Chantilly was another confused affair with neither side gaining an advantage, underscoring Lee’s poor judgment in having Jackson's men attempt this turning movement. Although the Confederates outnumbered the Union forces 10 to 1 at the beginning of the battle and about 2.5 to 1 at the end, the Union was not only able to inflict nearly equal losses (500 for the South and 700 for the North), but also thwarted Lee's plan for the turning movement.
Hennessy calls Second Manassas Lee's greatest campaign. Langellier calls it Lee's greatest victory. Over the course of three months, Lee's army had not only driven a larger and better-equipped Union force away from the gates of Richmond, it had routed a second army and had cleared nearly all of Virginia of Union presence. Pope's army had been out-maneuvered from the Rapidan, flanked at the Rappahannock, and beaten severely on the plains of Manassas, all in about 14 days. Lee had freed Richmond of the threat from Union forces and had driven the Federals from Virginia. Virginia's grain basket was now open to the Confederacy. He was now poised to bring the war to Northern territory. There seemed to exist the potential to compel a "swift and happy political solution to the war."
This was Lee’s first campaign in which he led the Army of Northern Virginia from start to finish. Lee may not have been flawless, but he didn't need to be against Pope; he merely needed to be competent. Lee however, was more than competent. While Lee was still learning his craft, he was learning fast. Each day taught him something and he learned his lessons well. He moved fast once the hint of an opportunity surfaced. He daringly split his force in the face of a larger enemy. He sent his best marching general behind the mountains, to appear in the rear of his enemy. This move baffled his opponent. For two days, Jackson's forces stood on the defensive, with Longstreet's wing, seemingly invisible to the Union high command. Then, Lee unleashed Longstreet’s wing, which was situated nearly at right angles to both Jackson and Pope, after another devastating repulse of a Union attack.
Despite this, Lee failed to destroy the Union forces. Why? "[T]he maneuverability and defensive power of Pope's troops enabled him promptly to redeploy, cover his exposed flank, and withdraw in the night." The fact that darkness arrived early due to the worsening weather and the lack of initiative, for whatever reason, on the part of Richard H. Anderson, played significant roles. Allan lays the blame upon Lee for not making the final push: "The attempt seemed injudicious to General Lee in the darkness and confusion of the field."
[Ed.: Is this a valid criticism? If you remember Lee’s battle plan was to force Pope to retreat without a battle, it seems a little unfair. If you think Lee should have somehow discovered how close to disaster Pope really was, it seems fairer. Like so many military disputes, a lot depends upon your point of view!]
Of course, Pope played a part here too. Pope exhausted his men by tiresome marches and counter marches that went by circuitous routes. He had refused to believe the arrival of Longstreet in the face of substantial indisputable evidence. He refused to believe that there were forces on his left flank, even though Porter and others had not only seen these forces but some of his men, Hatch for example, had fought them. On the first day, he sent in piecemeal attacks, which were unsupported, even after he had learned that some of the early attacks had breached Jackson's line. He swore his Joint Order to Porter and McDowell ordered Porter to attack Longstreet, but it did nothing of the sort. He failed to undertake proper reconnaissance on the field, but believed anecdotal evidence so long as it confirmed his assumptions. On the second day, he had Porter attack across fields swept by strong enemy artillery. He removed a substantial force on his left flank that could have checked an advance by Longstreet. Pope also failed to order up all available forces for his battle on the 30th. Banks had another 8,000 men at Manassas Junction guarding supplies.
On the second day, Pope did not have to attack at all. Pope had strong reinforcements in the form of Sumner's Corps and Franklin's corps less than a day away. These two corps exceeded 20,000 men in total. Had Pope waited another day, he would have had overwhelming superiority. However, when Longstreet attacked, Pope reacted, promptly, properly, and wisely. He sacrificed forces on Chinn Ridge, while he built a strong defense on Henry House Hill. His troops’ sacrifice on Chinn Ridge won him time, which was his greatest ally on that day. For as the minutes ticked away, daylight faded also until it was too dark for another attack to be successful on Henry House Hill.
Lee made his share of mistakes in the campaign. He did not send cavalry with Jackson, his lead element. It was fortunate that Jackson did not encounter Union forces during his flank march. While Jackson did what he could to mask his movement, not lighting fires, ordering his men not to make loud demonstrations, placing pickets at cross roads, etc., these measures could not have prevented a cavalry patrol from locating his forces, had Pope ordered such a patrol. Pope was so convinced that Jackson was retreating to the Shenandoah Valley that he failed to shadow these forces, letting Jackson march off into the fog of war.
Lee, on the second day, over-compensated and sent all of his cavalry to Jackson, leaving none available for Longstreet's wing when it made its march. This almost lead to Lee himself being killed when a sharpshooter grazed his cheek with a bullet. But more importantly, Longstreet, without cavalry, almost stopped for the night which would have given Thoroughfare Gap to the Union. Had the Union held Thoroughfare Gap, Longstreet could have been prevented from uniting with Jackson. Pope could have annihilated Jackson's wing. Lee, even without cavalry, should have seen how important Thoroughfare Gap was and should have had Jackson detail a force to hold this crucial pass.
After moving too slowly en route to the battlefield, Longstreet made a significant contribution to Lee's success on it. Longstreet launched an attack a mile or so wide with remarkable speed: only 45 minutes elapsed between the order being given and the first impact of Longstreet's men upon the enemy. While it was not one massive blow, but a succession of blows; it was nonetheless impressive. It was also costly. Longstreet lost in three hours of fighting as many or more troops as did Jackson is three days of fighting.
Lee had inflicted 50% more casualties (estimated at 8,300 to 9,500 Confederates vs. 13,826 to 16,504 Union), but this was not a battle of annihilation and the Union armies remained bigger than Lee’s army. Lee, after the battle, while deciding to invade Maryland, lamented the poor condition his army was in, how depleted were its numbers, and the lack of equipment, supplies, shoes, etc. This from the victor who had the spoils of several battlefields and enemy supply bases upon which to draw.
For once, Confederate artillery shone. S.D. Le, Crutchfield and Shumaker performed extraordinarily well because they were able to mass their batteries upon favorable terrain which was near enough to the Union infantry lines, but far enough away from the Union artillery. Jackson had picked this spot with his artillerist's eye. While the Confederate artillery was not decisive the first day; it was absolutely decisive the second day.
Union cavalry performed well after John Buford replaced Hatch. It won its first engagement of the war. It prevented Robertson from getting to the Stone Bridge and possibly cutting off Pope’s retreat.
We look forward eagerly to publication of McEachern’s book, upon which his presentation was based.
Palm Beach Civil War Roundtable
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