This Week in the Civil War: Aug 27-Sep 2, 1862

Wednesday, August 27:  In Virginia, the Federals under General John Pope withdrew from the Rappahannock River after being outflanked by advancing Confederates. Pope shifted his troops north toward the railroad junction at Manassas, where General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates were destroying Federal supplies. Pope was confused about Jackson’s purpose, and at the same time General Robert E. Lee was moving north with the rest of his Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to join Jackson. President Abraham Lincoln had no communication with Pope because all telegraph lines to Washington had been cut, and half of Lee’s army was between Pope and the Federal capital. Meanwhile, General George McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac began trickling into Washington from the Virginia Peninsula. In Tennessee, skirmishing intensified as Confederate General Braxton Bragg began an excursion to recover eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, as well as to counter the Federal threat to Chattanooga.

Thursday, August 28:  In Virginia, Confederates under “Stonewall” Jackson withdrew to positions west of the old Bull Run battlefield, while John Pope’s Federals arrived at Manassas to find Jackson gone. Pope received conflicting reports about Jackson’s whereabouts, so he decided to concentrate at Centreville, erroneously thinking Jackson was there. When a Federal division accidentally clashed with Jackson at Groveton, Pope believed Jackson was retreating and redirected his forces against him. In Tennessee, Braxton Bragg’s Confederates advanced into central Tennessee.

Friday, August 29:  In Virginia, John Pope’s Federals attacked “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates concentrated in a railroad cut north of Groveton and the Warrenton Turnpike. The Federals were dispersed and tired from hard marching in the heat, and their piecemeal attack was ineffective. Pope blamed General Fitz John Porter, whose corps failed to attack because Porter claimed that the Confederate corps under General James Longstreet had arrived and outnumbered him. Meanwhile, Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck continued urging George McClellan to hurry his troops to reinforce Pope. President Lincoln telegraphed his commanders three times, “What news?” with no response. In the Confederacy, P.G.T. Beauregard succeeded John C. Pemberton as commander of the Department of South Carolina and Georgia. In the Union, Frederick Steele assumed command of the Army of the Southwest.

Saturday, August 30:  In Virginia, John Pope attacked “Stonewall” Jackson’s left flank, erroneously thinking Jackson was retreating. However, James Longstreet counterattacked on Pope’s right with 25,000 troops in the largest mass assault of the war. Combined attacks by Jackson and Longstreet compelled Pope to withdraw by nightfall, and the major fighting in the Battle of Second Bull Run was over. Pope’s Federals established defenses at Centreville; they were defeated but not routed. George McClellan’s feeble efforts to reinforce Pope had failed. Robert E. Lee was victorious, he had relieved Federal pressure on Richmond, but he had not destroyed Pope as hoped. In Kentucky, Confederates under General Edmund Kirby Smith attacked at Richmond, compelling the Federals to retreat toward Louisville. This small but impressive Confederate victory began the invasion of Kentucky. In Washington, President Lincoln anxiously awaited news from both Virginia and Kentucky.

Sunday, August 31:  In Virginia, John Pope concentrated his defeated Army of Virginia on the heights of Centreville. Two corps from the Army of the Potomac finally arrived to reinforce Pope, but they were too late to reverse the defeat. The Confederates moved to turn the Federal right, with “Stonewall” Jackson moving west of Chantilly and James Longstreet following the next day. The Federals abandoned Fredericksburg, leaving behind many supplies. On the Tennessee River, the Federal transport W.B. Terry was captured by Confederates after being grounded on the Duck River Sucks. In the Union, many were alarmed by the recent Confederate successes. The Army Surgeon General called for women and children to scrape lint for bandages.

Monday, September 1:  In Virginia, the last major fighting in the Second Bull Run campaign took place at Chantilly or Ox Hill. Robert E. Lee sent “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps around the Federal right. After severe fighting in heavy rain, the Federals withdrew. Federal General Philip Kearny was killed in the fight, and his death was mourned in both North and South. John Pope’s troops held off the Confederate advance, then withdrew closer to Washington during the night. In Washington, President Lincoln conferred with Henry Halleck and George McClellan about the military situation in Virginia. In the Union, General Ormsby M. Mitchel, famed astronomer and lecturer, was assigned to command the Department of the South. In the Confederacy, General J.P. McCown assumed command of the Department of East Tennessee.

Tuesday, September 2:  In Virginia, John Pope pulled his defeated Army of Virginia back to the Washington area, ending the Second Bull Run campaign. In the fighting of 27 Aug-2 Sep, the Federals lost 1,724 killed, 8,372 wounded, and 5,958 missing (16,054 total casualties) from about 75,000 engaged. The Confederates lost 1,481 killed, 7,627 wounded, and 89 missing (9,197 total casualties) from about 48,500. President Lincoln restored George McClellan to full command in Virginia and around Washington, a decision opposed by cabinet members Edwin Stanton and Salmon Chase. The Confederates gathered near Chantilly to prepare for their next campaign. In Minnesota, the Dakota Sioux uprising continued as the Indians besieged a Federal detachment at Birch Coulee. In Kentucky, Edmund Kirby Smith’s Confederates occupied Lexington. Business was suspended and citizens began drilling in Cincinnati, fearing that Smith would invade Ohio. Meanwhile, Confederates under Braxton Bragg continued moving north from Chattanooga. In the Union, Flag Officer Louis M. Goldsborough was relieved of command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. President Lincoln wrote “Meditation on the Divine Will,” in which he stated, “In great contests each party claims to act in accordance wit the will of God. Both may be, but one must be wrong. God can not be for, and against the same thing at the same time.”

Primary Source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1971)

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