Submitted by C.J. Johnson
By early August 1862, attention was shifting from the Peninsular Campaign in Virginia to the interior of the state. After McClellan failed to capture Richmond, President Lincoln began moving troops to the northern part of the state to join the Army of Virginia under General John Pope. Pope’s forces stretched from Manassas (just east of Washington D. C.) to the Shenandoah Valley.
About the same time, General Robert E. Lee sent the corps under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to monitor the Federal activities. Planning to harass Pope and push him away from the area, Jackson and his forces captured the rail center southwest of Manassas Junction.
According to history.com, “On August 26, the Confederates captured Manassas and began looting and destroying Pope’s huge supply depot located there. Pope was surprised by the large Rebel force operating in his rear, but he also realized that Jackson was detached from the rest of Lee’s army and so he began gathering his forces around Manassas. But Pope soon had a new problem: He could not find Jackson,”
whose men were hidden for days along Bull Run Creek, near the area where the Rebels had defeated Union troops in July 1861.
Knowing that Longstreet’s corps was not far away, on August 28, Jackson and his troops left the protection of the woods and attacked late in the afternoon. The short engagement that began the second battle of Bull Run ended in a draw with nightfall. The following morning, Union leader Pope initiated the action, but his attacks were met with heavy casualties. Longstreet reinforcements arrived at mid-day to join Jackson’s forces, unknown to Pope.
August 30, the third day of the battle, Pope attacked again, Rebel artillery turned back the assault, and the Confederate forces, 28,000 men now, counterattacked and drove the Union forces back. Pope retreated to Centreville, giving the Confederates a victory at the second battle at Bull Run. Lee ordered his troops to pursue Pope’s army.
Both sides suffered heavy losses, with the Union casualties at 14,000 and Confederates around 8,000.
In July 1861, the first battle at Bull Run shocked both sides, and gave notice the war would not end quickly, and it would be brutal. This second victory at Bull Run highlighted Lee’s leadership.