The Second Bull Run Campaign

This book by David G. Martin is a nice introduction to and overview of the Second Bull Run [aka Manassas] campaign.

After the end of Jackson’s Valley Campaign, President Abraham Lincoln “saw the error of his ways, the fact that the lack of a unified command structure in the Shenandoah Valley area had been one of the principal causes of Jackson’s success. For this reason he decided on 26 June to unify these commands into one army, to be called the Army of Virginia.” [p. 17] The next decision was who to command the new army. “A logical choice to command the newly created Army of Virginia would have been Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, who was then enjoying the fruits of his successful operation along the coast of North Carolina. Burnside had the necessary aura of success and was certainly available at the time, but Lincoln may have bypassed him because he was a Democrat; the administration already had its hands full with another strong willed Democrat general named McClellan. It is also possible that Lincoln was keeping Burnside available as a possible replacement for McClellan should the latter falter at Richmond; Burnside was indeed offered command of the Army of the Potomac around 25 July (which he declined).” [p. 21] Since Burnside was out, who to choose? “There were at the time two experienced army commanders in the west besides Grant. Major General Don Carlos Buell, commander of the Army of the Ohio, had been Grant’s principal rival before the Shiloh campaign … However, in the anticipated break up of Halleck’s huge command, Buell was destined to return to the head of the Department of the Ohio, which was reconstituted on 12 July. Halleck’s third principal subordinate at Corinth was Major General John Pope, commander of the Army of the Mississippi. Pope had won national attention for his successful capture of Island No. 10 in the Mississippi on 10 March, and his reputation had not been sullied by Shiloh, where he had not been present. Just as significantly, he was a loyal Republican with well known views on abolition and aggressive prosecution of the war, which were quite agreeable to the administration. To cap things off, Pope was a personal friend of Lincoln’s from before the war, and was even a relation to the President by marriage (one of Pope’s second cousins had married Mary Todd Lincoln’s oldest sister).” [p. 22]

Dr. Martin takes the story from Pope’s consolidation of his army in Virginia into the opening moves of the campaign, including some cavalry operations. “Pope anticipated little Confederate opposition in the area [around Gordonsville and Charlottesville], and on 14 July ordered Banks to send his small brigade of cavalry under Brigadier General John Hatch on a raid against the railroad line at Gordonsville. From there Hatch was to push on to Charlottesville, damaging the railroad as much as he could, and if no resistance were met there, he was to move south to cut the James River canal some 50 miles west of Richmond. Pope’s purpose was to cut off Confederate access to the upper Shenandoah Valley, and thereby curtail his own field of operations to a more manageable front. Pope intended for Hatch to conduct a speedy cavalry raid, but Hatch misunderstood and took three critical days to prepare his expedition. He did not set out from Culpeper until 17 July, with his column encumbered by an infantry force and numerous wagons. Hatch’s command then moved so slowly that it had scarcely reached Madison Court House, 15 miles northwest of Gordonsville, when he learned that Jackson’s infantry had just occupied his goal. Hatch did not proceed any farther, but meekly turned back towards Sperryville. Pope was justifiably furious at learning of Hatch’s failure. Had Hatch moved promptly and quickly as ordered, he would have been able to accomplish most of his mission before Jackson’s arrival. Hatch made another attempt on 22 July to cut the railroad between Gordonsville and Charlottesville, but was unsuccessful and turned back again. This time he blamed the bad weather and the worn out condition of his horses. Pope by now had experienced quite enough of Hatch’s cavalry skills, and on 27 July reassigned him to command an infantry brigade in King’s division of McDowell’s corps. Pope then selected one of his staff officers, Major John Buford, to serve as Hatch’s replacement.” [pp. 45-46]

Martin devotes a full chapter to Cedar Mountain and another on the battle at Groveton. He also devotes a chapter to the battle at Chantilly and afterward. That is all in addition to the chapters on the actual Second Battle of Bull Run. The battle descriptions are clear and concise, accompanied by good maps that dispel confusion about troop movements. The book also has several sidebars that bring out supplemental information such as short biographical sketches of the major commanders and various statistical pictures such as the number of units from each state at the battle and the units with the greatest losses at the battle. There’s even a sidebar discussing Fitz John Porter’s court-martial.

The book is very well done and is a terrific first book to read on the campaign. While John Hennessy’s outstanding Return to Bull Run is the one book you should get if you’re only getting one book, and is the go-to resource, this book makes a good supplement to give you a framework to use to help organize all the information in the Hennessy book as you read it.

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4 comments

  1. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

    My next read on the topic is is Scott C Patchan’s Second Manassas: Longstreet’s Attack and the Struggle for Chinn Ridge — have you read that one, yet?

    1. Not yet. Maybe you can review it in a guest post.

      1. Mike Rogers · · Reply

        I think a Shoshana guest post would be a wonderful addition to the blog

        1. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

          That is very kind of you to say, Mike. I will see what I can work up before CWI2018, but I must tell you: Pat Young and Albert Mackey set the bar quite high when it comes to book reviews!

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