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Second Battle of Bull Run

The Second Battle of Manassas, also known as the Second Battle of Bull Run, was a battle during the American Civil War. It began with an attack by Confederate forces on a Federal column near sunset on August 28, 1862.

Date: August 30, 1862.

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Background On June 26, 1862, the U.S. Army of Virginia was formed under the command of General John Pope. Manuevering following the Battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9, brought the armies to positions across the Rappahannock. On August 22, Lee received information that Pope expected to be reinforced from the Peninsula within five days - bringing his forces to 130,000 men. Facing a force of 75,000 men to his 55,000, Lee decided to split his forces and send half on a wide flanking movement.

On August 25th Jackson and Stuart left the lines and the next evening detroyed a Federal supply depot at Manassas. Pope moved to intercept Jackson.


August 28:

The engagement began as a Federal column, under the Jackson's observaton near Brawner Farm, moved along the Warrenton Turnpike. In an effort to prevent Pope from moving into a strong defensive postion around Centreville, Jackson risked being overwhelmed before Longstreet could join him. Jackson ordered an attack on the exposed left flank of the column and, in his words, "The conflict here was fierce and sanguinary." The fighting continued until approximately 9 p.m. (some sources say midnight), at which point the Union withdrew from the field. Losses were heavy on both sides.

Pope believed he had trapped Jackson and sought to capture him before he could be reinforced by Longstreet. Pope's dispatch sent on the evening of the 28th to General Kearney stated, in part, "General McDowell has intercepted the retreat of the enemy and is now in his front.... Unless he can escape by by-paths leading to the north to-night, he must be captured."

August 29:

Jackson had initiated the confict with the goal of holding Pope in the area until Longstreet with the remainder of the Army of Northern Virginia arrived. Jackson formed his line of battle near Warrenton Turnpike generally along the excavation for an unfinished railroad line.

Beginning about 10 a.m. the Union forces launched a series of assaults against the Jackson's position. The fighting was intense and causualties were heavy on both sides. The battle continued until Federal forces withdrew at approximately 9 p.m.

Longstreet's corps arrived on the field at approximately 11 a.m. and took up postions on Jackson's right. His arrival apparently went unnoticed by Pope until late in the afternoon when a portion of Longstreet's command repulsed a Union advance.

August 30:

Early that morning, Jackson's troops pulled back from forward positions gained while repulsing the assaults. Pope viewed this as evidence of a retreat and, although he was now aware that Longstreet had joined Jackson, was determined to push forward. His order was, "The ... forces will be immediately thrown forward in pursuit of the enemy, and press him vigorously during the whole day..."

Following skirmishing throughout the day, Pope moved against Jacksons' position in force at about 3 p.m. Jackson described the assault, "In a few moments our entire line was engaged in a fierce and sanguinary struggle with the enemy. As one line was repulsed another took its place and pressed forward as if determined by force of numbers and fury of assault to drive us from our positions."

While the Union forces were engaged with Jackson, Lee ordered Longstreet forward. Longstreet's forces consisting of 28,000 troops, led by Hood's brigades, drove forward and crushed the Union left flank as Jackson repulsed the assault. The Union forces were driven from the field in disorder.

In Jackson's words, "As Longstreet pressed upon the right the Federal advance was checked, and soon a general advance of my whole line was ordered. Eagerly and fiercely did each brigade press forward, exhibiting in parts of the field scenes of close encounter and murderous strife not witnessed often in the turmoil of battle. The Federals gave way before our troops, fell back in disorder, and fled precipitately, leaving their dead and wounded on the field."

Sources: Reports from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion:

  • Report of Lieut. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, C.S. Army, Commanding Second Corps, Battle of Second Manassas, dated April 27, 1863.
  • Report of General Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army, Commanding Army of Northern Virginia, Battle of Second Manassas
  • Report of Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet, C. S. Army, commanding First Corps, of the Battles of Groveton and Manassas dated October 10, 1862.
  • The Army Under Pope, John Codman Ropes, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901.

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