Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August 27, 1862

—August 27, 1862: Eastern Theater, Second Bull Run Campaign - Up to this point, the Northern Virginia campaign has resembled two boxers sparring, circling warily, and landing a tentative jab now and then—except that one boxer, Pope, is blindfolded. He is conducting a campaign without the benefit of knowing where the enemy is.

Gen. Pope finally realizes that Lee is moving to his rear, and he gives orders for his army to move back and north of their Rappahannock line. By this time, Pope now has Reno’s division of the IX Corps, Porter’s V Corps, and Heintzelman’s III Corps from the Army of the Potomac, nearly doubling his numbers to about 90,000. Meanwhile, Stonewall Jackson finishes looting the Union supply base at Manassas Junction, and pulls back to the crossroads of Groveton, near the 1861 battlefield. Hill’s division had gone as far east as Centreville. Believing that Jackson was actually much farther west than Manassas, Pope pushes on to Warrenton and then to Manassas Junction, in hopes of stopping Jackson’s push east (as Pope thought) and hoping to catch him coming through Thoroughfare Gap (which Jackson had passed two days before). Elements of the two armies brush each other going by. George Taylor’s Union brigade, venturing out from Washington, attacks Stonewall’s men along Bull Run Creek, but the Yankees are driven back. Gen. Joseph Hooker, commanding a division in Heintzelman’s corps, also deploys near Bristoe Station, and attacks Ewell’s division there. Ewell bloodies Hooker badly, inflicting over 300 Union casualties at the Battle of Bristoe Station. Jackson then decides to torch the base at Manassas, and move to the northern edge of the old Bull Run battlefield, where he places his divisions along an unfinished railroad cut that was concealed and yet which overlooked the two main roads nearby. Pope, convinced that Jackson is now at Manassas Junction (which he was but no longer is), and so changes his direction from west to east, just as the Rebels go north and west. Another miss.

—McClellan, now arrived at Aquia Creek, argues with Halleck that Burnsides’ Corps and Franklin’s Corps should be held back to protect the capital.

—Charles Francis Adams, Jr., an officer in the 1st Mass. Cavalry regiment, arrives at Aquia Creek, his regiment having been taken from their state of idle uselessness in South Carolina to the Virginia theater, where more cavalry was needed. He writes to his father in London (who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain) and tells what he is hearing and thinking about the state of affairs in the war:
Here I have access to certain means of information and I think I can give you a little more light than you now have. Do you know that just before leaving the Peninsula McClellan offered to march into Richmond on his own responsibility? Do you know that in the opinion of our leading military men Washington is in more danger than it ever yet has been? Do you know that but for McDowell’s jealousy we should have triumphantly marched into Richmond? Do you know that Pope is a humbug and known to be so by those who put him in his present place? Do you know that today he is so completely outgeneraled as to be cut off from Washington? Yet these are not rumors, but facts, doled out to me by members of McClellan’s and Halleck’s staffs.

Our rulers seem to me to be crazy. The air of this city seems thick with treachery; our army seems in danger of utter demoralization and I have not since the war begun felt such a tug on my nerves as today in Washington. Everything is ripe for a terrible panic, the end of which I cannot see or even imagine. I always mean to be one of the hopeful, but just now I cast about in vain for something on which to hang my hopes. I still believe in McClellan, but I know that the nearest advisers of the President — among them Mr. Holt — distrust his earnestness in this war. Stanton is jealous of him and he and Pope are in bitter enmity. All pin their hope on Halleck and we must do as the rest do; but it is hinted to me that Stanton is likely to be a block in Halleck’s way, and the jealousies of our generals are more than a new man can manage. We need a head and we must have it; a man who can keep these jealousies under subordination; and we must have him or go to the wall. . . . I do consider the outside condition of affairs very critical, but it is my glimpse behind the scenes, the conviction that small men with selfish motives control the war without any central power to keep them in bounds, which terrifies and discourages me.

—Stephen Minot Weld, of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry, writes to his father, as his regiment approaches the front:
Warrenton Junction, Aug. 27.
Dear Father, — We arrived here this morning and find that the enemy are at Manassas Gap, between us and Washington. General Pope, in my opinion, is a complete failure. He can handle 10,000 men, but no more. We still have communication with Washington via Aquia Creek. I hope we shall see a successful issue to this trouble.

—George Templeton Strong writes in his journal about the anxious times, and the scuttlebutt going around New York City concerning the campaign in Virginia:
We seem to be falling back successfully and maintaining our defensive line on the north fork of the Rappahannock. There has been sharp fighting at several points. an enterprising rebel foray seems to have beat up General Pope’s headquarters, destroyed supply trains, and carried off important papers and letters. Scandalous and disgraceful, if we have the whole truth. . . .

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