Manassas Station Operations (August 25-27,1862)
Comprising several battles, including the Prince William County. On the evening of August 26th, after passing around Union General Pope’s right flank via Thoroughfare Gap, Confederate General Jackson’s wing of the army struck the Orange & Alexandria Railroad at Bristoe Station and before daybreak on August 27th marched to capture and destroy the massive Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. This surprise movement forced General Pope into an abrupt retreat from his defensive line along the Rappahannock River. On August 27th, General Jackson routed a Union brigade near Union Mills (Bull Run Bridge), inflicting several hundred casualties and mortally wounding Union Brigadier General G.W. Taylor. Confederate General Richard Ewell’s Division fought a brisk rearguard action against Union General Joseph Hooker’s division at Kettle Run, resulting in about 600 casualties and holding back Union forces until dark. During the night of August 27-28, General Jackson marched his divisions north to the First Manassas battlefield, where he took position behind an unfinished railroad grade. The Confederate victory resulted in estimated total casualties of 1,100.
Thoroughfare Gap (August 28, 1862) – Also known as the Battle of Chapman’s Mill, this engagement took place in Fauquier and Prince William Counties. After skirmishing near Chapman’s Mill in Thoroughfare Gap, Brigadier General James Ricketts’s Union division was flanked by a Confederate column passing through Hopewell Gap several miles to the north by troops securing the high ground at Thoroughfare Gap. Ricketts retired, and Confederate General James Longstreet’s wing of the army marched through the gap to join Jackson. This seemingly inconsequential action virtually ensured Union Major General John Pope’s defeat during the battles of Aug. 29-30 because it allowed the two wings of General Robert E. Lee’s army to unite on the Manassas battlefield. Ricketts withdrew via Gainesville to Manassas Junction. The Confederate victory resulted in estimated total casualties of 100.
Manassas II (August 28-30, 1862) – Also called the Battle of Second Bull Run, Manassas Plains, Groveton, Gainesville, or Brawner’s Farm, this Confederate victory took place in Prince William County. To draw Union Major General John Pope’s army into battle, Confederate Major General Thomas J. Jackson ordered an attack on a Federal column that was passing across his front on the Warrenton Turnpike on August 28th. The fighting at Brawner Farm lasted several hours and resulted in a stalemate. General Pope became convinced that he had trapped Jackson and concentrated the bulk of his army against him. On August 29th, Pope launched a series of assaults against General Jackson’s position along an unfinished railroad grade. The attacks were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. At noon, Confederate General James Longstreet arrived on the field from Thoroughfare Gap and took position on Jackson’s right flank.
On August 30th, General Pope renewed his attacks, seemingly unaware that Longstreet was on the field. When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by General Fitz John Porter, Longstreet’s wing of 28,000 men counterattacked in the largest, simultaneous mass assault of the Civil War. The Union left flank was crushed, and the army was driven back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rearguard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster. General Pope’s retreat to Centreville was precipitous, nonetheless. The next day, General Robert E. Lee ordered his army in pursuit. This was the decisive battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign. The Confederate victory resulted in an estimated 13,830 Union casualties and 8,350 Confederate casualties.
Chantilly (September 1, 1862) – Also known as the Battle of Ox Hill, this engagement occurred in Fairfax County. Making a wide flank march, Confederate Major General Thomas J. Jackson hoped to cut off the Union retreat from Bull Run. On September 1st, beyond Chantilly Plantation on the Little River Turnpike near Ox Hill, Jackson sent his divisions against two Union divisions under Major General Isaac Stevens and Major General Phillip Kearny. Confederate attacks were stopped by fierce fighting during a severe thunderstorm. Union generals Stevens and Kearny were both killed. Recognizing that his army was still in danger at the Fairfax Courthouse, Major General John Pope ordered the retreat to continue to Washington. With Pope no longer a threat, General Robert E. Lee turned his army west and north to invade Maryland, initiating the Maryland Campaign and South Mountain and Antietam’s battles. Major General George B. McClellan assumed command of Union forces around Washington. Though the battle itself was inconclusive, it was considered a strategic Confederate victory. There were an estimated 1,300 Union casualties and 800 Confederate.
Fredericksburg Campaign (November-December, 1862)
In November 1862, President Abraham Lincoln needed to demonstrate the Union war effort’s success before the Northern public lost confidence in his administration. Confederate armies had been on the move earlier in the fall, invading Kentucky and Maryland, and although each had been turned back, those armies remained intact and capable of further action. Lincoln urged Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant to advance against the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi; replaced Major General Don Carlos Buell with Major General William S. Rosecrans, hoping for a more aggressive posture against the Confederates in Tennessee; and on November 5, seeing that his replacement of Buell had not stimulated Major General George B. McClellan into action, he issued orders to replace McClellan with Major General Ambrose E. Burnside.
Fredericksburg (December 11-15, 1862) – Also known as the Battle of Marye’s Heights, this large engagement involving more than 170,000 troops took place in Spotsylvania County and Fredericksburg. On November 14th, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, now in command of the Army of the Potomac, sent a corps to occupy the vicinity of Falmouth near Fredericksburg.
The rest of the army soon followed. Confederate General Robert E. Lee reacted by entrenching his army on the heights behind the town. On December 11th, Union engineers laid five pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River under fire. The next day, the Federal army crossed over, and on December 13th, General Burnside mounted a series of futile frontal assaults on Prospect Hill and Marye’s Heights that resulted in staggering casualties. On the Union’s left flank, General George Meade’s division briefly penetrated Confederate Major General Thomas J. Jackson’s line but was driven back by a counterattack. Union Generals C. Feger Jackson and George Bayard, and Confederate Generals Thomas R.R. Cobb and Maxey Gregg were killed. On December 15, General Burnside called off the offensive and re-crossed the river, ending the campaign. Burnside initiated a new offensive in January 1863, which quickly bogged down in the winter mud. The abortive “Mud March” and other failures led to General Burnside’s replacement by Major General Joseph Hooker in January 1863. The Confederate victory resulted in an estimated 13,353 Union casualties and 4,576 Confederate casualties.