Chronology of the Second Manassas Campaign

by

Stephen Schmidt

June 26, 1862
In an effort to unify command in Northern Virginia, Major General John Pope is appointed to command the Army of Virginia, containing the corps of Major Generals Irwin McDowell, Nathaniel Banks, and John Fremont, seven divisions in total. Fremont refuses to serve under Pope, his junior, and is replaced by Franz Sigel.
July 2, 1862
Following his defeat by the Army of Northern Virginia (eleven divisions) under General Robert E. Lee in the Seven Days Battles, Major General George B. McClellan withdraws the Army of the Potomac (also eleven divisions) to the cover of Union gunboats on the James River at Harrison's Landing.
July 6, 1862
Major General Ambrose Burnside, with a corps of two divisions, sails from North Carolina to Newport News, where he can reinforce the Army of the Potomac if necessary.
McClellan's chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Randolph Marcy, returns from Washington with the news that McClellan cannot expect substantial reinforcements for a month to six weeks.  
July 8, 1862
President Abraham Lincoln arrives at Harrison's Landing to discuss further operations with McClellan. McClellan hands Lincoln a letter advising him on the general direction of the war. Lincoln ignores it.
July 9, 1862 Lincoln asks McClellan's five corps commanders whether the Army of the Potomac should be withdrawn from the Peninsula. Two say yes, three say no.
July 11, 1862
Major General Henry W. Halleck is appointed Commanding General of the United States Army, filling a position vacant since March. Halleck, who is in Mississippi, will not assume command until his arrival at Washington D.C.
July 12, 1862 Pope's army occupies Culpeper, Virginia in the morning. Lee learns of the capture that evening.
July 13, 1862
Lee sends two divisions of his army under Major General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson to oppose Pope, and to occupy Gordonsville, on the rail line between Lee and his supply sources in the Shenandoah Valley.
July 14, 1862 Pope issues an ill-considered address to the soldiers of the Army of Virginia, which many take as a direct attack on McClellan. It lowers the confidence of his officers in his abilities and enhances his reputation as a bombast. Among the lines which will come back to haunt him: "Let us study the probable lines of retreat of our opponents, and leave our own to take care of themselves."
July 17, 1862 Pope issues three general orders mandating harsh treatment for disloyal citizens of Virginia in the path of his advancing army. This order, also designed to strongly contrast Pope's policies with McClellan's, earns Pope the eternal enmity of Virginia. Lee refers to him as a "miscreant" who must be "suppressed."

McClellan, in a letter to his wife, states that he could advance on Richmond with 20,000 reinforcements.

July 19, 1862
Jackson's divisions arrive at Gordonsville; Pope halts his forward movement.
July 20, 1862 A cavalry force from Pope's army under Colonel Judson Kilpatrick destroys the Beaver Dam Station depot on the Virginia Central railroad. They also capture Captain John S. Mosby, carrying messages to Jackson; but parole him a few days later, and send him to Fort Monroe to be exchanged.
July 22, 1862 Lincoln meets with his cabinet and reads them the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. There is great variety in their reactions to it. Secretary of State William Seward suggests that its issue be postponed until after a Union victory; Lincoln agrees.
July 23, 1862 Burnside visits Washington D.C. to discuss his corps' future operations. Discontented with McClellan, Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton offer him the command of the Army of the Potomac. Burnside declines.

Halleck arrives in Washington and assumes command of the United States Army. His first act is to visit McClellan at Harrison's Landing, where he arrives on the 25th.

July 25, 1862 McClellan proposes to Halleck that he cross the James River with his force and capture Petersburg. Halleck is opposed, believing the move too risky, and impractical.
July 26, 1862 McClellan gives up his Petersburg plan, stating that he fears Confederate troops from the West, who have evaded Major General Don Carlos Buell's army in Tennessee, may interfere with the move. He instead proposes to lay siege to Richmond with 30,000 reinforcements. Halleck offers 20,000; McClellan indicates he is willing to try with that number. Halleck gives him the choice of doing so, or withdrawing from the Peninsula.
July 27, 1862 Lee sends Major General A.P. Hill's division to join Jackson, with orders to use the reinforcements to attack Pope's army. It arrives on the 29th.
July 28, 1862 Halleck receives a telegram from McClellan, claiming (incorrectly) that the Confederates in Richmond were being heavily reinforced, and requesting 30,000 to 35,000 reinforcements more than the 20,000 already agreed upon.
July 30, 1862 Pope, in command for over a month, joins the Army of Virginia in the field for the first time, and begins preparation for a forward movement against Jackson.

Halleck instructs McClellan to send his sick off from the Peninsula.

August 1, 1862 Burnside receives orders to move his corps, still on transports off Fort Monroe, to Aquia Creek. He sails at midnight August 3, and his troops arrive at Aquia Creek on the night of the 3rd. Burnside takes command at Fredricksburg; his divisions, under Major General Jesse Reno, move forward to cover Pope's left.
August 3, 1862 Halleck orders McClellan to withdraw from the Peninsula and move to the Rappahannock River.
August 5, 1862 Two Union divisions under Major General Joseph Hooker occupy Malvern Hill, threatening a renewed attack on Richmond.

Captain Mosby, at Fort Monroe, is exchanged and returned to the Confederate army. He reports to Lee that Burnside's corps has been ordered to Fredricksburg.

August 6, 1862 Lee organizes a three division attack to retake Malvern Hill.

Pope orders his army to concentrate at Culpeper for an advance.

August 7, 1862 Hooker withdraws from Malvern Hill, just prior to the Confederate attack.

Halleck reiterates his order to McClellan to withdraw.

Jackson learns of Pope's concentration and, with Lee's concurrence, determines to attack before the concentration can be completed.

August 9, 1862 Banks attacks two of Jackson's divisions at Cedar Mountain. The attack is initially successful, but the arrival of Jackson's third and largest division, Hill's, turns the battle into a Confederate victory. Major General Charles Winder, commanding Jackson's old division, is killed.
August 11, 1862 Pope brings the rest of his army up to join Banks.

Jackson, now heavily outnumbered, retreats back to Gordonsville.

August 12, 1862 McClellan hears from his cavalry commander, Brigadier General Alfred Pleasanton, that the Richmond defenses were down to 36,000 defenders (approximately correct; the true number is perhaps 45,000 or so). He telegraphs Halleck and offers to attack Richmond --- but only if he receives reinforcements.
August 13, 1862 Lee orders Longstreet with three divisions to move to join Jackson. He also orders Major General John B. Hood to move his division to Hanover Junction. (Recent research suggests it is possible that Longstreet's troops began moving sooner than this, perhaps as early as the 9th or 10th.)

Lee receives a deserter from McClellan's army, who reports that McClellan's army is being loaded onto transports. (Other sources report the deserter's arrival on August 7th. In either case, McClellan's main body was still on dry land at Harrison's Landing. It is possible that the deserter saw McClellan's sick being loaded under his orders received on July 30th and reiterated on August 7th.)

August 14, 1862 Lee, with all but three divisions of his army, leaves the Richmond lines, moving to Gordonsville to join Jackson, arriving early the next morning.

The Army of the Potomac begins withdrawing from Harrison's Landing, falling back to Fort Monroe to take ships for the Rappahannock line.

Major General D.H. Hill, commanding one of Lee's divisions, reports the Federal withdrawal from Harrison's Landing to Lee.

August 16, 1862 Major General Richard H. Anderson's division leaves the fortifications at Drewry's Bluff and heads north to join Longstreet, leaving only two Confederate divisions around Richmond.

Lee receives word from Petersburg that more than 100 vessels have sailed down the James River away from Richmond. (It is unclear whether this report was true or not.) Concerned that McClellan may be moving to unify his army with Pope's, Lee orders an attack on Pope's army for August 18th.

August 18, 1862 Union cavalrymen nearly capture Major General J.E.B. Stuart of Lee's cavalry, and do capture Stuart's hat and his copy of Lee's orders to attack Pope's army. Pope hastily falls back to the Rappahannock line, and Lee's attack is cancelled. The captured orders have informed Pope that Lee has concentrated most of the Army of Northern Virginia against him.
August 19, 1862 The first Army of the Potomac troops, Major General Fitz-John Porter's corps, start embarking on ships at Fort Monroe. Major General Samuel Heintzelman's corps follows them onto the transports. Porter's troops sail on the 20th, and arrive at Aquia Creek on the 21st. Heintzelman's land at Alexandria the following day. Both corps are immediately pushed forward to join Pope.
August 21, 1862 Lee contacts President Jefferson Davis and asks for confirmation that McClellan's army has left the Peninsula; but Davis reports that nothing is known except that McClellan has withdrawn from Harrison's Landing at least as far as New Kent Court House.

Jackson crosses a part of his force over the Rappahannock at Beverly's Ford; but the Union army reacts strongly and forces him back to the south bank.

August 22, 1862 After shifting upriver, Jackson crosses his force over the Rappahannock, part at Freeman's Ford, the rest at Sulphur Springs. Union attempts to resist the Freeman's Ford crossing are unsuccessful; the Sulphur Springs crossing is unopposed. Pope cannot advance to fight at Sulphur Springs without abandoning his railroad and risking his connection with McClellan's forces, marching towards him from Aquia Creek.

Brigadier General Hermann Haupt, commanding Union railroad operations, finds that he cannot bring Heintzelman's corps forward by rail because Pope has ordered all the cars on the line to Warrenton Junction. The time required to locate and return the cars delays the movement of Heintzelman's corps to the front.

(Overnight) Stuart's cavalry, raiding behind Union lines at Catlett Station on the railroad, captures Pope's coat and, more importantly, his dispatch book, which reveals the impending arrival of McClellan's forces.

August 23, 1862 Heavy rains have swollen the Rappahannock River to the point where it cannot be crossed. With his rear made secure by the uncrossable river, Pope decides to attack the Confederate bridgehead north of the river at Sulpher Springs. Due to bungling by the Union generals, the attack is not strong, and the Confederates hold long enough to finish building a bridge over the river, by which they withdraw to the south bank early on the 24th.

McClellan, accompanied by Major General William Franklin's corps, sails from Fort Monroe. The next day, McClellan lands at Aquia Creek, Franklin's corps at Alexandria.

The first troops from McClellan, Brigadier General John Reynolds's division of Porter's corps, reach Pope from Aquia Creek. The rest of Porter's corps comes up through the following day.

August 24, 1862 Major General Edwin Sumner's corps departs Fort Monroe, heading for Aquia Creek, where they arrive the next day. Only Major General Erasmus Keyes' corps is left on the Peninsula; it will stay there for the duration of the campaign.

Lee, armed with knowledge of Pope's position from his dispatch book, and worried about the impending arrival of McClellan's army, orders Jackson to march around the Union right flank and attack Pope's supply lines at Manassas Junction, while Longstreet holds Pope on the Rappahannock line.

Major General Philip Kearny's division of Heintzelman's corps reaches Pope at Warrenton Junction. The other division, Hooker's, will arrive the next day.

August 25, 1862 Union observers on the north bank of the Rappahannock detect Jackson's march in the morning; Pope receives word of it around noon. He does not alter his operations plans and does nothing to protect his right flank or rear. He does order McDowell to force a crossing of the Rappahannock with his corps on the 26th.
August 26, 1862 Lee orders Stuart's cavalry to move to join Jackson; they will reach him late that afternoon. He also orders Longstreet's artillery to fight a prolonged duel with Union artillery across the Rappahannock, which holds Pope's army in place while Jackson moves around behind it. Late that afternoon, the Union withdraws from the Sulphur Springs area, and Lee orders Longstreet to move to join Jackson. Longstreet's march begins that evening.

McDowell, finding Longstreet in strength, decides not to cross the Rappahannock, with Pope's approval.

Word reaches Pope around midday that Confederates have passed through Thoroughfare Gap in strength. Pope does nothing in reaction to the report. (Pope's postbattle report will claim that he did, but the claim is false.)

At sunset, Jackson's corps reaches Pope's supply line at Bristoe Station. Pope quickly learns of their presence, as they prevent Pope's trains from running on the line, and they destroy the railroad bridge over Broad Run.

August 27, 1862 McClellan, summoned to Alexandria by Halleck on the preceding day, requests authority over all Union troops involved in the campaign. Halleck gives it to him, but requires that orders to Pope's army pass through Halleck. Halleck extracts a promise from McClellan to advance immediately to join Pope with Sumner's and Franklin's corps; McClellan will not keep the promise.

Before dawn, Jackson moves up the rail line and captures the Union supply depot at Manassas. After taking what his troops can carry and destroying what they cannot, he retires. Hooker's division makes an attack on his rearguard under Major General Richard Ewell, retaking Manassas, but Ewell gets his entire command away and destroys the railroad bridge at Manassas.

At dawn Pope orders his army to concentrate at Gainesville to attack Jackson. After learning of Jackson's capture and destruction of Manassas, that night he changes his mind, ordering a concentrate the next day at Manassas (which Jackson has already left). Upon learning of Jackson's departure the next day, and hearing reports of A. P. Hill's movement towards Centerville, Pope revises his orders again, to concentrate his army at Centerville.

At the initiative of Haupt, two brigades leave the Washington garrison to scout at Manassas. They make a brief attack on Jackson which is easily repelled. But following the repulse, McClellan cancels orders, issued earlier that day, for Franklin to march to Gainesville, and instead holds him in Alexandria for two days.

A. P. Hill's division moves north towards Centerville, then turns west and recrosses Bull Run on the Stone Bridge, camping for the night at Groveton. Jackson's other divisions reach the same point, by more direct routes, by noon the following day. The fact that Jackson's three divisions have left Manassas by three different routes will cause Pope to completely lose track of Jackson's position.

August 28, 1862 Halleck orders McClellan to order Franklin's corps forward to Pope. He also contacts Franklin, ordering him directly to march if McClellan has not issued the orders. Franklin does not march.

Jackson spots Brigadier General Rufus King's division of McDowell's corps marching towards Centerville on the Warrenton Turnpike, near Groveton. He attacks it, but six of its regiments (Brigadier General John Gibbon's Iron Brigade plus two regiments from Brigadier General Abner Doubleday's brigade) hold their ground against two of Jackson's divisions. Fighting ends at dark: King and his commanders conclude the turnpike is blocked, and move instead to Manassas along the Manassas-Gainesville road. Ewell receives a wound which will cost him a leg; also wounded is Brigadier General William B. Taliaferro, commanding Jackson's division in place of Winder.

Longstreet's command passes through Thoroughfare Gap at 2p.m., which is undefended. McDowell, realizing the importance of defending the Gap (though Pope does not), sends Brigadier General James Ricketts's division of his corps to close it, but they arrive too late, instead meeting Longstreet at Haymarket, where Ricketts is quickly flanked and driven back. (Brigadier General John Buford's cavalry brigade has been observing Longstreet's advance; but contrary to the story in the novel Killer Angels, did not oppose his march through Thoroughfare Gap, nor at any other point.) At the end of the engagement, Longstreet and Lee can clearly hear the firing at Groveton, only a few miles distant.

After watching the Groveton fight, Pope, knowing at last where Jackson is, orders yet another concentration point for his army, this time at Groveton. At this time he is not aware that Ricketts's fight has occurred, nor that Longstreet is through Thoroughfare Gap.

August 29, 1862 Franklin is ordered to march to Pope early in the morning, and does so, but at McClellan's suggestion, he halts at Annandale (Virginia), seven miles from Washington. Sumner's corps does not leave the Washington fortifications.

(Morning) Pope learns of the withdrawal of King's division from Groveton to Manassas. Believing that he needs a strong position west of Groveton to block Jackson from retreating, and that the Manassas-Gainesville road is still open, he orders Porter to move his corps to Gainesville.

(Morning) Longstreet marches at 6a.m. and reaches Jackson around 10a.m. He takes position on Jackson's right, blocking the Manassas-Gainesville road. Lee and Longstreet discuss an attack, but decide not to make one; the Federal left is protected by two unengaged divisions, and Porter's corps, approaching on the Manassas-Gainesville road, threatens Longstreet's right flank if he advances.

Pope's army, badly scattered as a result of Pope's frequently changing orders the previous two days, cannot mount a unified attack on Jackson's position. In the morning, Sigel's corps attacks alone and is repulsed. That afternoon, Heintzelman's corps and part of Reno's corps are thrown in and similarly repulsed. Pope orders Reynolds to move his division, guarding the Union left flank against Longstreet, to move right and join the attack. Reynolds protests, reporting the danger from Longstreet; Pope, believing Longstreet is not up, ignores the protest and the report, but allows Reynolds to remain in place.

About 11a.m., Porter and McDowell receive a Joint Order from Pope, directing them to move up the Manassas-Gainesville road and join the left flank of the Union battle against Jackson. The position of Longstreet's corps makes this impossible. The Joint Order gives Porter and McDowell discretion to disregard it if advantageous, and they decide to do so. McDowell takes his command back to the main Union position; Porter remains in place, preventing Longstreet from advancing but not otherwise contributing to the battle. At 4:30 p.m., Pope sends another order to Porter, ordering him to attack Jackson's right flank, still unaware of Longstreet's presence. Porter, knowing Longstreet's strength, makes no attack. Pope, enraged, orders Porter to fall back from Longstreet's flank and join the main army in front of Jackson.

(Afternoon) About 4p.m., Longstreet detects the withdrawal of McDowell's corps from his right, and the inactivity of Porter's corps. Lee proposes an immediate attack; Longstreet, concerned about the approaching darkness, proposes a reconnaissance in force, to be followed by an attack the next morning. Lee approves Longstreet's proposal. The reconnaissance leads to moderate fighting with Reynolds' division, but Reynolds holds his position and the Confederates fall back to their starting point. Pope seizes on this as evidence that the Confederates are in retreat. He orders Reynolds to pull back, exposing his left flank, and prepares to renew his assault on Jackson the next day.

August 30, 1862 Franklin's corps departs Annandale, and pushes ahead as far as Centerville, where it encounters the fragments of Pope's beaten army. Sumner's corps remains in Washington until midday, when it marches towards Centreville, arriving there on the 31st.

(Morning) Pope continues to believe that the Confederates are retreating despite multiple reports from his corps and division commanders that they are not. Despite this, Pope issues no attack orders until noon, when he orders an attack on Jackson by one corps (Porter's) alone. Pope receives, and disregards, several reports that his left flank is being turned; and Porter's movement to attack Jackson leaves one brigade (Colonel Nathaniel McLean's) plus one regiment (5th New York) guarding the Union left.

(Afternoon) Porter's attack on Jackson shakes Jackson's lines, and he calls on Longstreet for assistance. Longstreet opens fire with Colonel Stephen D. Lee's artillery battalion, then pushes five divisions forward against Porter's left flank, just as Porter's attack is being repulsed. The 5th New York is destroyed and McLean's brigade demolished; but Pope shifts units from his right to reinforce his left and stops Longstreet's attack before it reaches the Stone Bridge over Bull Run. Jackson, his troops battered, does not join the attack by moving on Pope's weakened right. After dark, Pope retreats across the Stone Bridge to Centreville.

August 31, 1862 Lee, repeating his strategy of the past week, orders Jackson to again march behind the Federal right flank while Longstreet pins Pope's army in position near Centreville.

Pope, now reinforced by all four corps of the Army of the Potomac, spends the day resting and reorganizing at Centerville, motionless.

Sept. 1, 1862 Pope writes to Halleck, and suggests that because of treasonous behavior by Army of the Potomac officers, his force should retreat into the Washington defenses for a thorough reorganization.

Pope detects Jackson's advance and makes one more attempt to crush him. He sends forward two divisions, under Kearny and Major General Isaac Stevens, to attack Jackson's advance at Chantilly. The fighting is inconclusive, but Jackson's advance is halted. Both Stevens and Kearny are killed in the fight. Pope's army falls back to Washington.

Sept. 2, 1862 McClellan is placed in command of all units near Washington D.C., including the Army of Virginia.

Lee concludes that an attack on Washington is hopeless, and the campaign of Second Manassas ends.

Sept. 6, 1862 Pope is relieved of his command and assigned to command operations against the Sioux in Minnesota. Subsequently, Pope charges McDowell and Porter with disobeying the Joint Order and causing the defeat. McDowell is relieved of command of his corps, shelved for two years, and eventually sent to the Pacific Coast to command Union forces there. Porter is court martialed and dismissed from the service in January 1863. The convinction is reversed in 1879, fourteen years after the war's end.

Sources:
Official Records of the War of the Rebellion; Ser. I, vol. XI and XII.
Ambrose, Stephen,
Halleck: Lincoln's Chief of Staff.
Dyer, Frederick,
Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, vol. 1.
Foote, Shelby,
The Civil War, a Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville.
Hennessey, John,
Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas.
McPherson, James M,
Battle Cry of Freedom.
Sears, Stephen W,
To the Gates of Richmond.
------------------------,
George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon.