Second Battle Bull Run: Details

Setup

Pope's (Union) mission was to fulfill two basic objectives: protect Washington and the Shenandoah Valley; and draw Confederate forces away from McClellan by moving in the direction of Gordonsville.

This allowed him to relocate Jackson to Gordonsville to block Pope and protect the Virginia Central Railroad.

From August 22 to August 25, the two armies fought a series of minor actions along the Rappahannock River. Heavy rains had swollen the river and Lee was unable to force a crossing.

On the evening of August 26, after passing around Pope's right flank via Thoroughfare Gap, Jackson's wing of the army struck the Orange & Alexandria Railroad at Bristoe Station and before daybreak August 27 marched to capture and destroy the massive Union supply depot.

During the night of August 27–28, Jackson marched his divisions north to the First Bull Run (Manassas) battlefield, where he took position behind an unfinished railroad grade below Stony Ridge.

The defensive position was a good one. The heavy woods allowed the Confederates to conceal themselves, while maintaining good observation points.

In the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap on August 28, Longstreet's wing broke through light Union resistance and marched through the gap to join Jackson. This seemingly inconsequential action virtually ensured Pope's defeat during the coming battles because it allowed the two wings of Lee's army to unite on the Manassas battlefield

Battle August 28: Brawner’s Farm (Groveton)

The Second Battle of Bull Run began on August 28 as a Federal column, under Jackson's observation just outside of Gainesville, near the farm of the John Brawner family, moved along the Warrenton Turnpike.

At about 6:30 p.m., Confederate artillery began shelling the portion of the column to their front.

Gibbon (Union) met the 2nd in the woods saying, "If we can get you up there quietly, we can capture those guns."

A standup fight with little cover, trading mass volleys for over two hours. Jackson described the action as "fierce and sanguinary." "In this fight there was no maneuvering and very little tactics. It was a question of endurance and both endured."

August 29: Jackson defends Stony Ridge

Jackson had initiated the battle at Brawner's farm with the intent of holding Pope until Longstreet arrived with the remainder of the Army of Northern Virginia. Longstreet's 25,000 men began their march from Thoroughfare Gap at 6 a.m. on August 29

Stuart's cavalry encountered Porter, Hatch, and McDowell moving up the Manassas-Gainesville Road and a brief firefight halted the Union column.

Meanwhile, Stuart's cavalry (Confederate) under Col. Thomas Rosser deceived the Union generals by dragging tree branches behind a regiment of horses to simulate great clouds of dust from large columns of marching soldiers.

August 30: Longstreet counterattack, Union retreat

The final element of Longstreet's command, the division of Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson, marched 17 miles (27 km) and arrived on the battlefield at 3 a.m., August 30. Exhausted and unfamiliar with the area, they halted on a ridge east of Groveton. At dawn, they realized they were in an isolated position too close to the enemy and fell back.

It took about two hours for the 10,000 men to organize themselves for the assault against Jackson's line to their front.

The Union men faced a formidable task. Butterfield's division had to cross 600 yards (550 m) of open pasture land owned by widow Lucinda Dogan, the final 150 yards (140 m) of which were steeply uphill, to attack a strong position behind the unfinished railroad; Hatch's division had only 300 yards (270 m) to traverse, but was required to perform a complex right wheel maneuver under fire to hit the Confederate position squarely in its front.

Stonewall Jackson, under relatively ambiguous orders from Lee to support Longstreet, launched an attack north of the turnpike at 6 p.m., probably as soon as his exhausted forces could be mustered. Historian John J. Hennessy called Jackson's delays "one of the battle's great puzzles" and "one of the most significant Confederate failures" of the battle, greatly reducing the value of his advance.

At 8 p.m., he ordered a general withdrawal on the turnpike to Centreville. Unlike the calamitous retreat at the First Battle of Bull Run, the Union movement was quiet and orderly. The Confederates, weary from battle and low on ammunition, did not pursue in the darkness. Although Lee had won a great victory, he had not achieved his objective of destroying Pope's army.

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