Prelude to 2nd Manassas - Saturday, August 9, 1862 The Fight at Cedar Mountain
Prior to the Battle of Second Manassas / Bull Run, during the spring of 1862, Major General George Brinton McClellan successfully moved his massive army up the
peninsula between the York and James Rivers to within the outskirts of the Confederate Capital. With his back to Richmond,
Joseph E. Johnston gave battle to the northern forces at Seven Pines. Grievously wounded during the fighting, General Johnston would
eventually relinquish command of his forces to General Robert E. Lee. General Lee's aggressiveness forced the Federals back down the
peninsula to Harrison's Landing where Lee felt the men in blue were likely to remain in relative inactivity. He considered the capital's greatest
threat to be the newly formed Army of Virginia under Union Major General John Pope. With that assessment in mind, Lee sent Major General Thomas
Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson on a quest to get around General Pope's Army,
cut his supply lines, and perhaps and bring him to battle before any of General
McClellan's forces came to his aid.
The portion of the Cedar Mountain battlefield
where Jackson rallied his men.
December 31, 2008
(Refresh browser if player does not appear.)
On August 9, 1862, as he continued his move northward, General Jackson's men would collide with a portion of Pope's army at Cedar
Mountain just south of Culpeper, Virginia. Although they found themselves outnumbered, the Federal's aggressive assaults pushed back
their gray clad opponents. Sensing the crisis, Jackson rushed into the fray and attempted to draw his sword to rally his men. To his
chagrin, he would find his infrequently used sword rusted into its scabbard. So, with scabbard on sword, he waved both, successfully
reforming his retreating forces. By day's end, he would push the men in blue from the field.
[C] According to Lt. Colonel G. F. R. Henderson in his biography
of Stonewall Jackson, while trying to bring together his disorganized men, Jackson shouted, "Rally, men, and follow me!"
Henderson added that Confederate General Taliaferro, then approached Jackson and "...emphatically insisted that the midst of
the mêlée was no place for the leader of an army." He added that Jackson, "...looked a little surprised, but with his
invariable ejaculation of 'Good, good,' turned slowly to the rear."
In Jackson's report, he would describe the plight of his men as the Union troopers under Major General Nathaniel P. Banks surged
forward. "While the attack upon Early was in progress the main body of the Federal infantry moved down from the wood through
the corn and wheat fields, and fell with great vigor upon our extreme left, and by the force of superior numbers, bearing down all
opposition, turned it and poured a destructive fire into its rear. Campbell's brigade fell back in disorder. The enemy pushing
forward, and the left flank of Taliaferro's brigade being by these movements exposed to a flank fire, fell back, as did also the
left of Early's line, the remainder of his command holding its position with great firmness."
With reinforcements however, Jackson would describe their
ultimate success. "At this critical moment Branch's brigade, of Hill's division, with Winder's brigade, farther to the left,
met the Federal forces, flushed with their temporary triumph, and drove them back with terrible slaughter through the wood. The fight
was still maintained with obstinacy between the enemy and the two brigades just named, when, Archer and Pender coming up, a general
charge was made, which drove the enemy across the field into the opposite wood, (Trimble in the advance) and pressed forward under a
heavy fire from the enemy's artillery, the front covered by skirmishers from the Fifteenth Alabama, and the brigades advancing en
echelon of regiments. Thus repulsed from our left and center, and now pressed by our right, center, and left, the Federal force fell
back at every point of their line and commenced retreating, leaving their dead and wounded on the field of battle."
After this fighting subsided, General Lee
offered his congratulations to his aggressive lieutenant.
"HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, August 12, 1862.
Major General THOMAS J. JACKSON,
Commanding Valley District:
GENERAL: I congratulate you most heartily on the victory which God has granted you over our enemies at Cedar Run. The country
owes you and your brave officers and soldiers a deep debt of gratitude. I hope your victory is but the precursor of others over
our foe in that quarters, which will entirely break up and scatter his army. I mourn with you the loss of many gallant officers
and men, and chief among them that noble and accomplished officer and patriot General C. S. Winder.
I am, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
Whatever their opponents felt, Federal authorities did not necessarily view Cedar Mountain as a Confederate victory. Quite the
contrary, they either viewed it as a stalemate obtained valiantly with fewer men than their foes or even a victory. In
correspondence with the General-in-Chief of the Union forces, General Pope would initially offer that the battle was won by neither
side. He stated, "The enemy crossed the Rapidan day before yesterday, and yesterday advanced in heavy force against Culpeper.
Their advance under Ewell had a very severe engagement yesterday with Banks' corps, in which the loss was heavy on both sides without
decisive results. Both parties at dark occupied their original positions."
However, later, after
describing his views of how the fighting unfolded, General John Pope would speak of the efforts of the men under his command in very
complimentary terms. "...the enemy...made no advance until nearly 5 o'clock, at which time a few skirmishers were thrown forward
on each side under cover of the heavy woods in which his force was concealed. The enemy pushed forward in strong force in the rear of
his skirmishers, and General Banks advanced to the attack. The engagement did not fairly open until after 6 o'clock, but for one and a
half hours was furious and unceasing...I arrived personally on the field at 7 p. m. and found action raging furiously. The infantry
fire was incessant and severe. I found Banks holding the position he took up early in the morning. His losses were heavy...The
artillery fire at night by the Second and Fifth Maine Batteries in Ricketts' division of McDowell's corps was most destructive, as was
readily observable the next morning in the dead men and horses and broken gun carriages of the enemy's batteries which had been
advanced against it.
rested on their arms during the night in line of battle, the heavy shelling being kept up on both sides until midnight.
At daylight the next morning the enemy fell back 2 miles from our front and still higher up the mountain...Our loss was about 1,500
killed, wounded, and missing, of whom 290 were taken prisoners. As must be expected from the character of the engagement a very large
proportion of these were killed. The enemy's loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners we are now satisfied is much in excess of our
Of the officers with whom he was newly associated, Pope freely offer glowing praise for their actions. "The behavior of Banks'
corps during the action was very fine. No greater gallantry and daring could be exhibited by any troops. I cannot speak too highly
of the intrepidity and coolness of General Banks himself during the whole of the engagement. He was in the front and exposed as much
as any man in his command. His example was of the greatest benefit to his troops, and he merits and should receive the commendation
of his Government. Generals Williams, Augur, Gordon, Crawford, Prince, Greene, and Geary behaved with conspicuous gallantry."
Responding to his subordinate in a similar fashion to General Lee, General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck would respond to General Pope's
report with appreciative praise.
"Washington, August 14, 1862.
Your telegram of last evening is most satisfactory, and I congratulate you and your army, and particularly General Banks and his
corps, on your hard earned but brilliant success against vastly superior numbers.
Your troops have covered themselves with glory, and Cedar Mountain will be known in history as one of the great battle-fields of
After the Confederate victory at Cedar Mountain, General Thomas Jackson's men would swing northeast towards another clash with his blue
clad foes on the old battlefields of Manassas where, one year earlier, he and his men won the name Stonewall.