On August 18, 1862, 160 years ago, Civil War history was nearly changed when renowned Confederate cavalier Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart narrowly escaped capture in the small hamlet of Verdiersville in Orange County, Virginia. The loss of a prized hat and set of orders had wide repercussions for the Northern Virginia Campaign, setting the stage for one of the most complete Confederate victories of the war.
The Northern Virginia Campaign is widely considered to be Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s most successful military campaign. It culminated in the Second Battle of Bull Run, in which an entire Union army was nearly destroyed. This paved the way for Lee’s invasion of Maryland and the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American history. The Northern Virginia Campaign resulted in over 25,000 total casualties.
After Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson bruised one of Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s three corps at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9, 1862, Pope consolidated his Army of Virginia behind the Rapidan River in Culpeper County. General Lee correctly ascertained that Pope would try to unite with elements of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s force returning from the Virginia Peninsula. To prevent this, the Confederates had to act quickly.