August 30 This day during the American Civil War

August 30, 1862 – The Second Battle of Bull Run was fought August 28–30, 1862, as part of the American Civil War. It was the culmination of an offensive campaign waged by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia against Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia, and a battle of much larger scale and numbers than the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) fought in 1861 on the same ground. Following a wide-ranging flanking march, Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson captured the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction, threatening Pope’s line of communications with Washington, D.C. Withdrawing a few miles to the northwest, Jackson took up defensive positions on Stony Ridge. On August 28, 1862, Jackson attacked a Union column just east of Gainesville, at Brawner’s Farm, resulting in a stalemate. On that same day, the wing of Lee’s army commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet broke through light Union resistance in the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap and approached the battlefield. Pope became convinced that he had trapped Jackson and concentrated the bulk of his army against him. On August 29, Pope launched a series of assaults against Jackson’s position along an unfinished railroad grade. The attacks were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. At noon, Longstreet arrived on the field from Thoroughfare Gap and took position on Jackson’s right flank. On August 30, Pope renewed his attacks, seemingly unaware that Longstreet was on the field. When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter’s V Corps, Longstreet’s wing of 25,000 men in five divisions counterattacked in the largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war. The Union left flank was crushed and the army was driven back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rear guard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster. Pope’s retreat to Centreville was nonetheless precipitous. After the collapse of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign in the Seven Days Battles of June 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed John Pope to command the newly formed Army of Virginia. Pope had achieved some success in the Western Theater, and Lincoln sought a more aggressive general than McClellan. The Union Army of Virginia was divided into three corps of 51,000 men, under Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel (I Corps); Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks (II Corps); and Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell, who had led the losing Union army at First Bull Run (III Corps). Parts of three corps (III, V, and VI) of McClellan’s Army of the Potomac and Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s IX Corps (commanded by Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno), eventually joined Pope for combat operations, raising his strength to 77,000. On the Confederate side, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was organized into two “wings” or “commands” totaling about 55,000 men. The “right wing” was commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet, the left by Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson. The Cavalry Division under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was attached to Jackson’s wing. Pope’s mission was to fulfill two basic objectives: protect Washington and the Shenandoah Valley; and draw Confederate forces away from McClellan by moving in the direction of Gordonsville. Based on his experience fighting McClellan in the Seven Days, Robert E. Lee perceived that McClellan was no further threat to him on the Virginia Peninsula, so he felt no compulsion to keep all of his forces in direct defense of Richmond. This allowed him to relocate Jackson to Gordonsville to block Pope and protect the Virginia Central Railroad. Lee had larger plans in mind. Since the Union Army was split between McClellan and Pope and they were widely separated, Lee saw an opportunity to destroy Pope before returning his attention to McClellan. He committed Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill to join Jackson with 12,000 men. On August 3, General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck directed McClellan to begin his final withdrawal from the Peninsula and to return to Northern Virginia to support Pope. McClellan protested and did not begin his redeployment until August 14. On August 9, Nathaniel Banks’s corps attacked Jackson at Cedar Mountain, gaining an early advantage, but a Confederate counterattack led by A.P. Hill drove Banks back across Cedar Creek. Jackson’s advance was stopped, however, by the Union division of Brig. Gen. James B. Ricketts. By now Jackson had learned that Pope’s corps were all together, foiling his plan of defeating each in separate actions. He remained in position until August 12, then withdrew to Gordonsville. On August 13, Lee sent Longstreet to reinforce Jackson. From August 22 to August 25, the two armies fought a series of minor actions along the Rappahannock River. Heavy rains had swollen the river and Lee was unable to force a crossing. By this time, reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac were arriving from the Peninsula. Lee’s new plan in the face of all these additional forces outnumbering him was to send Jackson and Stuart with half of the army on a flanking march to cut Pope’s line of communication, the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Pope would be forced to retreat and could be defeated while moving and vulnerable. Jackson departed on August 25 and reached Salem (present-day Marshall) that night. On the evening of August 26, after passing around Pope’s right flank via Thoroughfare Gap, Jackson’s wing of the army struck the Orange & Alexandria Railroad at Bristoe Station and before daybreak August 27 marched to capture and destroy the massive Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. This surprise movement forced Pope into an abrupt retreat from his defensive line along the Rappahannock. During the night of August 27–28, Jackson marched his divisions north to the First Bull Run (Manassas) battlefield, where he took position behind an unfinished railroad grade below Stony Ridge. The defensive position was a good one. The heavy woods allowed the Confederates to conceal themselves, while maintaining good observation points of the Warrenton Turnpike, the likely avenue of Union movement, only a few hundred yards to the south. There were good approach roads for Longstreet to join Jackson, or for Jackson to retreat to the Bull Run Mountains if he could not be reinforced in time. Finally, the unfinished railroad grade offered cuts and fills that could be used as ready-made entrenchments. In the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap on August 28, Longstreet’s wing broke through light Union resistance and marched through the gap to join Jackson. This seemingly inconsequential action virtually ensured Pope’s defeat during the coming battles because it allowed the two wings of Lee’s army to unite on the Manassas battlefield. Union casualties were about 10,000 killed and wounded out of 62,000 engaged; the Confederates lost about 1,300 killed and 7,000 wounded out of 50,000.[54] As the Union Army concentrated on Centreville, Lee planned his next move. He sent Jackson on another flanking march in an attempt to interpose his army between Pope and Washington. Pope countered the move and the two forces clashed a final time at the Battle of Chantilly (also known as Ox Hill) on September 1. Lee immediately began his next campaign on September 3, when the vanguard of the Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River, marching toward a fateful encounter with the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam. Pope was relieved of command on September 12, 1862, and his army was merged into the Army of the Potomac as it marched into Maryland under McClellan. He spent the remainder of the war in the Department of the Northwest in Minnesota, dealing with the Dakota War of 1862. Pope sought scapegoats to spread the blame for his defeat. On November 25, 1862, Fitz John Porter was arrested and court-martialed for his actions on August 29. Porter was found guilty on January 10, 1863, of disobedience and misconduct, and he was dismissed from the Army on January 21. He spent most of the remainder of his life fighting against the verdict. In 1878, a special commission under General John M. Schofield exonerated Porter by finding that his reluctance to attack Longstreet probably saved Pope’s Army of Virginia from an even greater defeat. Eight years later, President Chester A. Arthur reversed Porter’s sentence. James Longstreet was criticized for his performance during the battle and the postbellum advocates of the Lost Cause claimed that his slowness, reluctance to attack, and disobedience to Gen. Lee on August 29 were a harbinger of his controversial performance to come on July 2, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee’s biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, wrote: “The seeds of much of the disaster at Gettysburg were sown in that instant—when Lee yielded to Longstreet and Longstreet discovered that he would.”

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