The Civil War – Cedar Mountain and Clara Barton

Submitted by C.J. Johnson

On August 9, 1862¸ C.S.A. General Stonewall Jackson claimed a narrow Confederate victory over General Nathaniel Banks at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Virginia, also known as Slaughter’s Mountain or Cedar Run.

During the summer of ’62, Union General George McClellan had been working his way toward the Confederate Capital, Richmond, Virginia. He had not moved quickly or very successfully. He had been stopped by General Lee at the Seven Days’ Battle toward the end of June.

President Lincoln ordered troops from the Virginia peninsula to General Pope’s new Army of Virginia, in the Washington, D. C. area. According to civilwar.org, Pope “vowed to bring the vagaries of war to the Southern populace. Gen. Robert E. Lee responded to Pope’s threats against his home state by dispatching Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson with 14,000 men to Gordonsville in July.”

The size of the two armies varied, but with reinforcements, the Rebel troops outnumbered the Yanks by more than two to one, with Union casualties outnumbering the Confederate losses.

The Encyclopedia Virginia stated, “Lee saw an opportunity to defeat the new army before McClellan arrived with reinforcements. He ordered Jackson, who had 24,000 troops near the rail hub at Gordonsville, to defend the town from Pope’s forces at Culpeper. When he learned that a single Union corps of 8,000 men under Nathaniel P. Banks was isolated at Cedar Run—about twenty miles north of his position and eight miles south of Culpeper—Jackson saw his chance.

Beginning at about two o’clock on the afternoon of August 9, Confederate batteries, including some on Cedar Mountain, exchanged fire with Union artillery. Confederate infantry moved into formation to charge the Union guns and then suffered immensely while charging, while Union infantry also arrived in strength. Instead of retreating in the face of his old Shenandoah Valley nemesis, however, Banks decided to stand and fight. As the Confederates attacked, Confederate general Charles S. Winder of the Stonewall Brigade fell with a mortal wound. Union troops, meanwhile, pressed the Confederate center and right, but their advance petered out. The moment of crisis came at six o’clock in the evening, when the brigade of Union general Samuel W. Crawford attacked the Confederate left flank and began to roll up the entire Confederate line.

The fighting became so desperate that Jackson rushed in and attempted to rally the men himself, cutting a dramatic figure as he waved his sword in the air with one hand and a Confederate battle flag with the other. Crawford’s men withdrew under the pressure of the now- reinvigorated Confederate troops.

Confederate general A. P. Hill’s division launched a counterattack, pushing Banks’s men back a bit as night fell. The following day the two sides separated slightly, but stood close enough for light skirmishing to occur throughout the day. The armies remained in place until August 11, when Jackson began to withdraw toward Orange.”

It was this engagement that moved the fight from the Virginia Peninsula to Northern Virginia. It was Cedar Mountain that highlighted Lee’s aggressive nature and also his strength in making quick decisions on strategies, often successful decisions. Cedar Mountain is considered to be the first battle in the Second Manassas [Bull Run] Campaign.

Another angle of the battle involved Clara Barton, the “Angel of the Battlefield,” who had become active in providing supplies to troops in mid-1861. In Washington, Barton had tended soldiers wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. Encouraged by her father, she collected supplies and developed a distribution agency.

In mid-summer 1862, she was granted permission to take supplies to battlefields. Cedar Mountain is said to be the first battle where Clara Barton served “in the field.” The National Park Service said, “Arriving on August 13, she spent two days and nights tending the wounded. Before leaving, she provided assistance at a field hospital for Confederate prisoners.”