by Andy Mateja

After successfully repelling Maj Gen George B. McClellan’s juggernaut to capture Richmond at the end of June 1862, Gen Robt E. Lee dispatched Maj Gen Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and several of his best divisions to intercept the newly formed Union Army of Virginia under the command of Maj Gen John Pope.  Pope’s army was comprised of remnants of Maj Gen John C. Fremont (now under Maj Gen Franz Siegel) & Maj Gen Nathaniel Bank’s commands on Northerners in the Shenandoah Valley and Maj Gen Irwin McDowell’s corps. Once concentrated, Pope’s army would total 44,000 men and would also move on Richmond to provide an additional front and relieve Lee’s pressure on McClellan.

Lee’s orders to Jackson were to protect the Virginia Central and the Orange & Alexandria Railroads which were vital supply lines for the Confederates. Lee also wanted Jackson with his 24,000 men to disrupt Pope’s concentrations efforts in mid -Virginia while he and the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia kept the pressure on McClellan’s larger force which had been backed into a corner at Harrison’s Landing

Pope learned of Jackson’s advance and wanted to destroy him before he was able to concentrate at Culpepper which was 40 miles west of Fredericksburg. The race was on as BOTH armies had the same objective. As Jackson advanced the Union cavalry fell back to their artillery position which was situated in the hilly and wooded terrain all around with cornfields scattered throughout.

Pope’s I Corp commander (Banks) jumped the gun and attacked Jackson’s forces before the Union army was concentrated. This provided Jackson with an initial advantage as his forces at this time now outnumbered his Union opponents by almost 3 to 1.

The battle of Cedar Mountain commenced with a one hour artillery duel. Pope’s infantry then attacked the lead Confederate brigade commanded by Maj Gen Jubal Early. Early moved his men forward to protect exposed Southern artillery. Early then called for reinforcements and members of the vaunted Stonewall Brigade answered the call.

Unfortunately these Confederate reinforcements had panicked and began to fell when they thought they were being outflanked. Disturbed by this turn of events, Jackson personally led the turnaround of his beloved Stonewall Brigade while additional reinforcements from Maj Gen A.P. Hills Light Division arrived. This was the first of several times that Hill’s troops made a timely arrival on a battlefield to save the day.

Union troops now began to fall back being outnumbered by the Confederates and flanked on both sides. The 1st Pennsylvania Union Cavalry tried to blunt the advancing Confederate line by charging straight into the center. The only result was more confusion and a high casualty rate of 164 troopers out of the 235 making the suicidal attack. Darkness mercifully ended the battle with Jackson’s men occupying the original ground they started the day with.

The next day Maj Gen JEB Stuart arrived and took command of cavalry. His reconnaissance confirmed heavy Union reinforcements had arrived and were digging in to await further attacks. A Truce was called the following day to bury the dead. Total Union losses were 2481 while Confederate losses were 1314.

Jackson had decided to fall back to Gordonsville to regroup. Both sides claimed victory but Jackson was unsuccessful preventing Pope’s troop concentration and further advance.

Cedar Mountain was the opening battle that ultimately led to the major Confederate victory at Second Manassas. Stonewall Jackson was to play a significant role in future maneuvers and the aggressive fighting that led to that victory.

 

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