Mountain Department

Harpers Ferry

1. McDowell's secondary attack to hold Beauregard's attention.

2. Union flanking column.

3. Confederate position at outset of battle.

4. Direction of Confederate reinforcements to meet the Union flanking column.

5. Last Confederate reinforcements arrive from Shenandoah Valley.




Gainesville strategic concentration and later shifted troops from their right to their left along shorter tactical lines. Finally, the battle demonstrated the difficulty of achieving a truly decisive tactical triumph. Although battered and forced to retreat, the Union army remained intact.

The battle had a major impact on the home fronts. Northerners abandoned all hopes of a speedy end to the war. Subduing the rebels would be more difficult and costly than many had imagined. Confederates took heart, celebrating what they saw as the superiority of their fighting men. The battle remained prominent in the national consciousness for many months because no other major action occurred in Virginia until the spring of 1862.

Abraham Lincoln knew he had to replace McDowell after the ignominious result of

First Bull Run. He selected 34-year-old Major-General George Brinton McClellan to command the Union army near Washington. A West Pointer who finished second in the class of 1846, McClellan had earned distinction as an engineer during the war with Mexico, studied European military thinking and policies in the 1850s, and retired from the army to go into business in 1857. He returned to military service in April

British artist Frank Vizetelly witnessed the Union retreat at First Manassas, making this sketch for the Illustrated London News. The terror-stricken soldiers threw away their arms and accoutrements' wrote Vizetelly disdainfully,'herding along like a panic-stricken flock of sheep, with no order whatever in their flight. Those who had been fortunate enough to get placed in the baggage-waggons thrust back others with their bayonets and musket-stocks.'

Como Ser Dibujo Paisaje

1861 and won some modest victories in western Virginia early in the war. A man of medium height with large shoulders and a barrel chest, he dressed carefully and presented a thoroughly professional appearance. The northern press lauded him as a brilliant commander, which fed his considerable ego and led him to believe no one else could save the republic.

As a Democrat, McClellan opposed much of the Republican Party's legislative agenda and reserved some of his harshest criticism for Radical Republicans and abolitionists who sought to turn the war into a crusade against slavery. McClellan joined virtually all other northern Democrats (and most Republicans as well) in defining the conflict as a struggle to restore the Union rather than to free slaves. A member of his staff recalled McClellan's saying that anyone who expected him to wage war against the South 'to free the slaves ... would be mistaken, for he would not do it.'

McClellan quickly revealed a deep contempt for most of his civilian and military superiors. He complained to his wife that General-in-Chief Scott got in his way. He called three members of the President's cabinet 'an incompetent little puppy,' a 'garrulous old woman' and 'an old fool.' He dismissed Lincoln as 'an idiot' and a 'well-meaning baboon.' On one occasion, he returned home to find that Lincoln and Secretary of State William Henry Seward had been waiting to see him. The General proceeded to go upstairs, sending word 30 minutes later that he had gone to bed and the two could come back another time.

Obnoxious personal qualities did not prevent McClellan from turning McDowell's demoralized soldiers into a formidable force. He christened them the Army of the

Major-General George B. McClellan won the hearts of soldiers in the Army of the Potomac, but he lacked the stomach for the harsher aspects of war 'I am tired of the sickening sight of the battlefield,' he wrote to Mrs McClellan following his first real engagement at Seven Pines, 'with its mangled corpses & poor suffering wounded! Victory has no charms for me when purchased at such cost.' (Author's collection)

Potomac in August 1861, having expanded their number to more than 100,000, put them through a strict regimen of drill and instilled in them a strong sense of pride. Soldiers and officers alike responded with an outpouring of affection that made McClellan by far the most popular of all the generals who fought with the army.

Promotion came McClellan's way in early November 1861. A combination of infirmities and aggravation with McClellan prompted Winfield Scott to resign on 1 November. 'Little Mac', as the men called him, took Scott's place and added overall planning responsibility to his role as field commander of the Union's largest army. When Lincoln cautioned the General about juggling the many responsibilities of his two positions, McClellan answered, 'I can do it all.'

What he proved unwilling to do was move against Joseph E. Johnston's 45,000 Confederates in northern Virginia. McClellan grotesquely overestimated Johnston's strength, insisting that he needed 200,000 men to launch an offensive. To the end of his time in

Duke Frederick

field command, McClellan inflated southern numbers and devised innumerable excuses for not advancing. In truth, he lacked the mental or moral courage to risk his great army in a major contest with the rebels. He always hedged his bets, refused to take chances, sought to have every detail perfect before engaging in battle, and thus cannot be counted among the war's leading generals.

Lincoln and McClellan engaged in a struggle of wills throughout the late summer and autumn of 1861. Under pressure from Republican politicians and newspaper editors to capture Richmond, the President pressed McClellan to no avail. Months slipped by with no action. McClellan surrounded himself with officers who shared his conservative political beliefs, triggering dark rumours in Washington that he and his subordinates did not want to smite the enemy.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis suffered through a similarly trying period with Joseph Johnston. The two men quarrelled bitterly after Johnston learned in September 1861 that he would be the fourth-ranking full general in the Confederacy. Johnston insisted that he should be the

Thomas Jonathan Jackson in November i 862, in a photograph his wife considered an excellent likeness. During a two-month visit to the Confederacy in 1862, British traveller W. C. Corsan heard stories about the Presbyterian Jackson that reminded him of 'Cromwell, or some old Covenanter. The same silent, brooding self reliance - the same iron will - the same tenacity of purpose ... all surrounded and tinged by the same almost fanatical mingling of incessant devotions with arduous duties.' (Author's collection)

Confederacy's senior commander, engaging in an acrimonious correspondence that highlighted pettiness on both his and Davis's parts. During the ensuing months, Johnston, like McClellan, constantly requested more men and sniped at his civilian superiors.

A diplomatic crisis erupted as Lincoln and Davis labored to manage their principal commanders in Virginia. On 8 November, Captain Charles Wilkes of the USS San Jacinto stopped the British vessel Trent and removed James Mason and John Slidell, a pair of Confederate diplomats bound for London and Paris respectively. The northern public lauded Wilkes's action, but the British government issued a strongly worded protest to the United States, demanded an apology and took steps to strengthen its military presence in Canada and the North Atlantic. After several tense weeks, during which Lincoln sought to find a graceful way to defuse the issue, the United States freed Mason and Slidell to travel to their original destinations. Anglo-American diplomatic relations had survived an initial stressful test.

The winter of 1861-62 passed without significant action in Virginia. McClellan devised a plan to turn Johnston's flank by moving his army by ship to the Rappahannock river and taking Fredericksburg. That would isolate Johnston in northern Virginia, forcing him to attack McClellan in order to reach Richmond. McClellan tarried, however, and a frustrated Lincoln finally ordered him to commence his campaign on 22 February 1862 - George Washington's birthday. When that date came and went without a movement and the first days of March slipped by, Lincoln ended McClellan's stint as General-in-Chief.

Shenandoah valley campaign

Now just commander of the Army of the Potomac, Little Mac changed his plans when word arrived that Johnston had retreated to the Rappahannock line. On 17 March, the Army of the Potomac began a larger turning movement towards Fort Monroe, situated at the tip of the finger of land between the York and James rivers known as the Peninsula. By the end of April, Confederate planners faced a range of threats in Virginia: the bulk of the Army of the Potomac lay on the lower Peninsula; another 30,000 Federals under Irvin McDowell near Fredericksburg; 15,000 under Nathaniel P. Banks in the lower Shenandoah valley, and nearly 10,000 under John C. Fremont in the Allegheny Mountains west of the valley.

The Confederates responded by concentrating forces near Richmond and mounting a diversion in the Shenandoah valley. Johnston fell back to the Peninsula, where he contested a slow Union advance towards the capital. As the forces under

Johnston and McClellan sought to gain an advantage over each other, the ironclad CSS Virginia (popularly called the 'Merrimac') was scuttled on 11 May. The Virginia had raised hopes in many a Confederate breast after its historic victories over several wooden warships on 8 March, before fighting the Union ironclad USS Monitor to a draw at Hampton Roads the next day. 'No one event of the war,' remarked Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas from his post in Richmond, 'created such a profound sensation as the destruction of this noble ship.' Heavy rains drenched the Peninsula during May, adding to Confederate gloom over the Virginia and affording McClellan a good excuse for making little headway. The end of the month found the two forces -more than 100,000 Federals and about 70,000 Confederates - arrayed opposite one another along the Chickahominy river just east of Richmond.

By that time, the first major southern response to McClellan's Peninsula offensive had come in the Shenandoah valley. General Robert E. Lee, acting as principal military adviser to Jefferson Davis, proposed to reinforce Stonewall Jackson's small force in the valley with Richard S. Ewell's division, bringing it to about 17,500 men. He wished for Jackson to pin down all the troops belonging to Banks and Fremont so that they could not join in the advance against Richmond. Jackson had gained attention with an offensive movement in late March that resulted in a sharp action at First Kernstown. Although a tactical defeat, that fight had prompted the Federals to hold Banks and Fremont in the valley, which in turn set up Jackson's subsequent campaign.

Many civilians kept diaries that illuminate attitudes and morale on the respective home fronts. From her home in eastern North Carolina, Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston drew on newspaper accounts, letters from friends and information gleaned from conversations to compile an exceptionally revealing diary. Like most Confederates, she preferred aggressive military leaders. First published in 1979, her diary merits the attention of anyone interested in the Confederacy. (Capital Area Preservation at Mordecai Historic Park, Raleigh, North Carolina)

Jackson stands as one of the most arresting military figures in United States history. Thirty-eight years old in May 1862, he was a devout Presbyterian of odd personal attitudes and characteristics. A British traveler in the Confederacy wrote in 1863, 'I heard many anecdotes of the late "Stonewall Jackson". When he left the US service he was under the impression that one of his legs was shorter than the other; and afterwards his idea was that he only perspired on one side, and that it was necessary to keep the arm and leg of the other side in constant motion in order to preserve circulation.' Secretive, stern and unyielding, Jackson took a very hard view of war. Above all, he fought aggressively, moved rapidly (his infantry became known as 'foot cavalry') and pressed his soldiers to the limit in search of decisive victories.

The outline of Jackson's valley campaign may be sketched quickly. He took part of his force westwards from Staunton to strike the advance element of Fremont's force under Robert H. Milroy at McDowell on 8 May 1862. With these Federals retreating into the wilds of the western Virginia Alleghenies after a largely inconclusive engagement, Jackson hastened back to the valley. He then moved north towards New Market, while Ewell's division paralleled his march to the east in the Luray valley (the Massanutten Range divides the Shenandoah valley into western and eastern sections for 50 miles (80km) between Harrisonburg on the south and Strasburg on the north; the Luray or Page valley constitutes the eastern portion of the valley). Crossing to the Luray valley at New Market Gap, Jackson joined Ewell and captured a Federal garrison at Front Royal on 23 May, defeated Banks in the Battle of First Winchester on 25 May, and pursued retreating Federals all the way to the Potomac river.

Jackson had placed himself in an exposed position in the extreme northern reaches of the valley, and Federals planned a three-pronged offensive designed to cut him off north of Strasburg. Fremont would march east out of the Alleghenies, a division under James Shields would move west from Front Royal, and Banks would pursue southwards from near Harpers Ferry. Jackson responded by driving his men to the limit. Aided by incredibly lethargic movement on the part of the Federals, he escaped the trap and marched southwards to the southern end of the Massanutten Range near Harrisonburg. There he turned on his pursuers, defeating Fremont at Cross Keys on 8 June and Shields at Port Republic on 9 June.

In a whirlwind of action, Jackson's Army of the Valley had marched more than 350 miles (560km), won a series of small battles, immobilized 60,000 Union troops, inflicted twice as many casualties as it suffered, and captured a great quantity of military supplies. After the twin victories on 8-9 June, the Federals retreated northwards down the valley, and Jackson joined the Confederate forces defending Richmond.

Perhaps most important, Jackson's campaign inspirited a Confederate populace starved for good news from the battlefield. A North Carolina woman named Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston wrote a typical reaction, in which she pointedly contrasted Jackson's accomplishment with Joseph Johnston's performance. 'Jackson has gained another victory in the Valley of Va.,' she wrote on 11 June. 'He has beaten Shields & holds Fremont in check, who fears to attack him singly. ... He is the only one of our generals who gives the enemy no rest, no time to entrench themselves. Matters before Richmond look gloomy to us out siders. McClellan advances, entrenching as he comes. Why do we allow it?'

The situation at Richmond did look serious for Confederates in early June. Relatively inactive during much of Jackson's valley campaign, the armies under McClellan and Johnston had fought their first major battle on 31 May and 1 June at Seven Pines (also called Fair Oaks). Johnston had retreated as far as he could without reaching the defensive works of Richmond. Faced with the prospect of a siege that would inevitably favor McClellan, he attacked on the 31st. Wretched coordination, a poor grasp of local terrain and other factors plagued the southern army in a battle that

^ Jackson's battles

■ ' Mc. Dowelf Operation ' ■■ Front Royal Operation^

Federal pincer movement ¿luring Jackson's retreat from }Harper5i|;fcFry ™ Retreat of some of Backs' forces after .


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