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Northern Virginia Campaign
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Campaigns
Northern Virginia Campaign
Other names: Virginia Campaign, Manassas Campaign
Note: The Manassas Campaign refers to the series of battles leading up to and including Second Manassas
In mid-July, 1862, before George McClellan began withdrawing troops from the peninsula, Robert E. Lee sent Stonewall Jackson northwest to battle John Pope's Army of Virginia. There were many reasons why Lee chose Jackson for this duty. In the Shenandoah Campaign earlier in the year Jackson had shown a brilliance that seemed to elude him during the Seven Days. Jackson repeatedly came up against an enemy of superior numbers and stood his ground. Finally, federal troops regarded Jackson as a fear-invoking spirit of sorts.
Major General John Pope had been placed at the head of five separate commands after McClellan went south, including Nathanial Banks, John C. Fremont, and Irvin McDowell. He had a wide ranging mission that included protecting Washington, the Shenandoah Valley and keeping watch on the Rappahanock River for Rebels.
Jackson moved west to the town of Gordonville, south of the Rapidan River and east of the Blue Ridge. Lee reinforced Jackson over the next three weeks, sending A. P. Hill's Light Division on July 27. Powell Hill was a rising star in Lee's camp and his performance during the Seven Days had clearly outshone Jackson's. Lee told Old Jack "...advising with your division commanders as to your movements much trouble will be saved you in arranging details, as they can act more intelligently." For some reason Jackson took this the wrong way and did exactly the opposite, fueling the famous feud between himself and Powell Hill.
Jackson knew that that he had to defeat the Army of Virginia piecemeal and marched north of the Rapidan toward Culpepper to do it. In spite of Henry Halleck's advice to be cautious, Pope advanced much of his force. It would be Hill's last minute appearance that saved the day for the Confederates at Cedar Mountain. Following the battle Lee continued to reinforce Jackson until he was convinced McClellan was withdrawing from the peninsula, at which time he dashed north to a fateful meeting with Pope at Bull Run.
Lee's advance caused Pope to pull back north of the Rappahannock River and wait for McClellan to arrive with reinforcements. At the end of the Seven Days, Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton pulled Henry Halleck from the West to oversee Pope and McClellan. Halleck ordered McClellan to support Pope, but sullen over a second demotion McClellan did everything in his power to prevent reinforcements from reaching Pope. When Jackson came through Thoroughfare Pass and appeared at Bristol Station, John Pope did not understand the dire circumstances surrounding his army. There were so many Rebels around him that he could no longer communicate with Washington.
In a raid on Manassas Junction on August 27, Jackson netted about 400 prisoners and a good amount of needed supplies. As Jackson withdrew from Manassas he engaged Rufus King [US] division along the Warrenton Turnpike in the Battle of Groveton the following day. Confusion as to Jackson's whereabouts had Pope concentrating his forces at Centerville. The stage was set for Second Manassas.
Second Manassas is perhaps one of Lee's greatest battles, but it has historically suffered because of its proximity in time to Antietam. Lee was banking on Pope making a stupid error, so Lee set about intimadating the Union commander as he had intimidated George McClellan on the peninsula.
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Northern Virginia Campaign was last changed on - June 27, 2006
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