September 18, 2019 by Mel
We were a little more prepared today and had set the alarm so as to not miss breakfast. After breakfast we set out on the CD Auto Tour of Second Manassas.
Summary of the Second Manassas Battle
After the early summer collapse of the Union Peninsula Campaign offensive to capture Richmond, Robert E. Lee sought to move his army north and threaten Washington DC before Union forces could regroup. His trusted and highly capable “wing” commanders, Maj. Gens. “Stonewall” Jackson and James Longstreet, brought Lee’s army within 35 miles of the Union capital by the end of August.
Jackson, who had burned the Federal supply depot at Manassas Junction on August 27th, waited for the arriving Union army just west of the old Bull Run battlefield. Longstreet, trailing Jackson, fought his way eastward through Thoroughfare Gap the next day.
In order to draw Maj. Gen. John Pope’s new Union Army of Virginia into battle, Jackson ordered an attack on a Federal column that was passing across his front on the Warrenton Turnpike late on the 28th. The fighting there at Brawner Farm lasted several hours and resulted in a stalemate. Pope became convinced he had trapped Jackson and concentrated the bulk of his army against him.
On the 29th, Pope launched a series of assaults against Jackson’s position along an unfinished railroad cut. The attacks were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. At noon, Longstreet arrived on the field and took a position on Jackson’s right flank. The afternoon of the 30th, Pope renewed his attacks, seemingly unaware that Longstreet was on the field.
When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter’s Fifth Corps, Longstreet’s wing of 28,000 men counterattacked in the largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war. The Union left flank was crushed and the army was driven back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rearguard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster.
Stop 1 – Brawner Farm
We had done a ranger tour of Brawner Farm on Monday.
On August 28 1862, Gen Stonewall Jackson concealed his troops on Stony Ridge, just north of tenant farmer John Brawner’s fields. In the evening a column of Union troops of the “Black Hat” brigade was marching east along the Warrenton Turnpike towards Centreville when Confederate artillery opened fire. Turning to drive off the guns, the midwesteners encountered the mass infantry of the Stonewall brigade. More troops were fed into the struggle by both sides, and the lines exchanged volleys for nearly 2 hours, in places only 80 yards apart. This opening clash of the second battle ended with darkness. Nearly a third of the 7000 troops engaged became casualties during the stubborn battle.
Stop 2 – Battery Heights
As the battle at Brawner Farm began, Capt. Joseph Campbell’s Battery B, 4th US Artillery deployed along this ridge. The fire of these six guns effectively silenced the opposing Confederate batteries.
Two days later, on the afternoon of August 30, Capt. William Chapman’s Dixie Artillery occupies this elevation, contributing to the repulse of the huge Union attack on Jackson’s line at the Deep Cut of the unfinished railroad. A converging force of 36 Confederate cannon from massed batteries of the Brawner Farm shattered the Union infantry maneuvering over the open fields to the north-east. Chapman’s four guns joined this concentrated fire to strike the flank and rear of the wavering Union troops, hastening their retreat.
Stop 3 – The Stone House
Convinced that Jackson was isolated, Pope ordered his columns to converge upon and attack the Confederates. He was sure he could destroy Jackson before Lee and Longstreet intervened. During the fighting on August 29 and 30, Pope made his headquarters on Buck Hill directly behind this house. The house sheltered the wounded as a Union field hospital during both battles.
Stop 4 – Matthew’s Hill
On August 29, Pope’s army found Jackson’s troops behind the cuts and fills of an unfinished railroad grade west of Matthew’s hill. Throughout the day the fields across the road were awash with Union soldiers forming for assaults against the Confederates. Jackson’s line was strained, but remained unbroken. Union artillery batteries were positioned along the ridge across the road.
Stop 5 – Sudley
Throughout August 39, Federal troops repeatedly attacked Jackson’s left flank on a knoll just west of Sudley. In late afternoon Gen. Philip Kearny’s Union division drove back Gregg’s exhausted Confederate troops, their ammunition depleted. Only darkness prevented a fatal collapse of the Confederates. Meanwhile, unknown to Pope, Longstreet’s troops arrived on the battlefield near Groveton to the south and deployed on Jackson’s right flank, overlapping the exposed Union left beyond the Warrenton Turnpike.
At Sudley we see Sudley United Methodists Church. The church has been rebuilt twice, once after the war and again in 1922 after a fire.
Stop 6 – Unfinished Railroad
Jackson’s line covered a front of about 1.5 miles, extending from near the Sudley Church to a point 3/4 mile southwest. The centre of his line rested in the area this area. The focal point of Jackson’s position was the bed of the unfinished railroad. The grade is still visible running into the woods on both sides of the road.
Stop 7 – Deep Cut
The morning of August 30 passed with desultory skirmishing. Just before noon, mistakenly believing the Confederates to be in retreat, Pope ordered a “pursuit”. The brief advance revealed Jackson’s Confederates steadfast behind the unfinished railroad. Pope ordered a final massive assault of some 8000 troops against Jackson’s line around the Deep Cut. About 3pm Union troops of Gen. Fitz John Porter’s V Corps and Gen. Irvin McDowell’s III Coprs maneuvered in dense formations to attack up the slope. Exposed to taking Confederate artillery fire from the Brawner Farm less than 1/2 mile to the west, and then to sheets of musket fire from Jackson’s infantry, the Union assault was shattered and bloodily repulsed.
Stop 8 – Groveton
The small frame Dogan House is all he remains of the crossroads village of Groveton. It was over the Dugan Farm fields that the Union assault upon the Deep Cut was broken. The Groveton Confederate Cemetery, established in 1869 contains as many as 500 Confederate dead in trench graves identified by state. The identity of only a few are known.
Stop 9 – New York Monuments
On the afternoon of August 30 , seeing the Union lines in disarray following the repulse of Porter, Longstreet pushed his massive columns forward and staggered the Union left flank. A brief, futile stand on this ridge by the 5th and 10th New York Zouave regiments ended in slaughter. In only five minutes the 5th New York lost 123 men – the greatest loss of life in any single infantry regiment in any battle of the Civil War.
Stop 10 – Chinn Ridge
Stretched along this ridge, Union troops desperately struggle on August 30 to delay Longstreet’s counter-attack upon Pope’s vulnerable left flank long enough for Pope to form a rearguard on Henry Hill. A stone foundation is all that remains of Hazel Plain, he house of Benjamin Chinn.
Here is also the place where people came from Washington to picnic and watch the battle of first Manassas a year earlier.
Stop 11 – Stone Bridge
Our final stop was Stone Bridge.
Finally, under cover of darkness, the defeated Union army withdraw across Bull Run in this vicinity toward Centreville and the Washington defenses beyond. Lee’s bold and brilliant Second Manassas campaign opened the way for the South’s first invasion of the North and possible European recognition of the Confederate government.
Summary of our trail today
After yesterday’s trekking, it was nice to do a car tour with air conditioning and water at hand. The actual tour is about 18 miles and very well worth it. It proved again to us the confusion caused by terrain even though many of the woods now grown would not have been there at the time. The ground undulation is as it was and it was difficult to see ( not much line of sight !). Jackson did exceptionally well to hold on for 2 days while awaiting the arrival of Lee and Longstreet with the bulk of the confederate army and proved that the choice of using the unfinished railroad Cut was the best decision as it was so defensible.
We hope you are enjoying our journey. Please feel free to Like, Share and Comment while we continue on this adventure through part of the Civil War.
If you’ve not seen our post on First Manassas then please click here.