Categories
Historic America

Northern Virginia Campaign – First Battle of Rappahannock Station

Fought between Union and Confederate forces 160 years ago on August 23, 1862, the skirmish at Rappahannock Station along the Rappahannock River in Culpeper County, Virginia was a brief but dramatic episode in the American Civil War. Though casualties were light and its role in the larger Northern Virginia Campaign was inconsequential, it was among the longest artillery duels of the war.

Fought 160 years ago, 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.

In August 1862, Maj. Gen. John Pope’s 51,000-man Union Army of Virginia, consisting of three infantry corps commanded by Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, and Maj. Gen Irvin McDowell, withdrew behind the Rappahannock River along his main supply route, the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, and waited for reinforcements.  

Categories
Historic America

Northern Virginia Campaign – Skirmish at Freeman’s Ford

Fought between Union and Confederate forces 160 years ago on August 22, 1862, the skirmish at Freeman’s Ford along the Rappahannock River in Culpeper County, Virginia was a brief and seldom-remembered episode in American Civil War history. Its role in the larger Northern Virginia Campaign was inconsequential, but it was no less harrowing for the men exposed to enemy fire than any other engagement.

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.

In August 1862, Maj. Gen. John Pope’s 51,000-man Union Army of Virginia, consisting of three infantry corps commanded by Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, and Maj. Gen Irvin McDowell, withdrew behind the Rappahannock River along his main supply route, the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, and waited for reinforcements. 

Categories
Historic America

Northern Virginia Campaign: Visiting the Battlefields

Fought between the Union Army of Virginia and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia 160 years ago in the summer 1862, the Northern Virginia Campaign is widely considered to be Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s most successful military campaign. The Second Battle of Bull Run (aka Second Manassas) was its culminating and most famous battle, but the two armies fought over a half dozen skirmishes and minor battles over the course of four weeks. 

Only a few of these battlefields are preserved and open to the public. Many are simply marked with a roadside sign or nothing at all. The four parks that preserve and interpret battles from the Northern Virginia Campaign are Cedar Mountain Battlefield in Culpeper County, Manassas National Battlefield Park and Battlefield Heritage Park in Prince William County, and Ox Hill Battlefield Park in Fairfax.

Cedar Mountain Battlefield, at 9465 General Winder Road (off James Madison Highway) in Culpeper County, Virginia, is open daily from dawn to dusk. Cedar Mountain is an excellent example of private organizations coming together to preserve a historic site. Beginning in 1998, the American Battlefield Trust and Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield have acquired and preserved 498 acres. 

Categories
Historic America

Northern Virginia Campaign – Battle of Cedar Mountain

Fought between Union and Confederate forces 160 years ago on August 9, 1862, the Battle of Cedar Mountain (aka Slaughter’s Mountain) was a brief but bloody affair in Culpeper County, Virginia. The battle touched off the Northern Virginia Campaign, widely considered to be Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s most successful military campaign. 

The Northern Virginia Campaign 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 campaign resulted in over 25,000 total casualties.

In June 1862, President Abraham Lincoln pulled Union Maj. Gen. John Pope from the Western Theater to consolidate scattered Union forces across northern Virginia, to buy time for Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan to bring his defeated army back to Washington, DC. Pope boasted “I have come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies.”

Categories
Historic America

Cedar Mountain Battlefield in Culpeper County, Virginia

Walk the ground where “Stonewall” Jackson snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, in a short but bloody prelude to the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Click to expand photos

The Battle of Cedar Mountain (aka Slaughter’s Mountain) was fought on August 9, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in Culpeper County, Virginia during the American Civil War. In what was also known as the Battle of Slaughter’s Mountain, Confederates snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, resulting in 3,691 total casualties.

In July 1862, Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s newly formed 51,000-man Army of Virginia was spread out in three corps across northern Virginia. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln had appointed Pope to lead this new army after Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s disastrous Peninsula Campaign earlier that summer, and Pope intended to distract Confederate forces to cover McClellan’s withdrawal.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee sent Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson north with over 14,000 men to confront this new threat. He was later joined by Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill’s division with an additional 10,000 men. Jackson intended to strike Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’ II Corps while it was isolated, but Banks struck first. On August 9, Banks’ 8,000-man force attacked Confederate Brig. Gen. Charles S. Winder’s division northwest of Cedar Mountain after a long artillery duel. Winder was mortally wounded and in the confusion, his men fled.

Categories
Historic America

Kelly’s Ford Battlefield in Culpeper County, Virginia

Old friends, torn apart by war, clash in a chivalric contest of sabres and revolvers in one of the Civil War’s best-known cavalry battles.

The Battle of Kelly’s Ford (aka Kellysville) was fought on March 17, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. William W. Averell and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee in Culpeper County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle, which resulted in 211 total casualties, was a draw but was the first time in the Eastern Theater that Union cavalry held their own against their Southern counterparts.

In a war that produced so many great quotes, the Battle of Kelly’s Ford gave us one of the best. The opposing commanders, William Averell and Fitzhugh Lee, were friends at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before the war. On February 25th, Fitzhugh Lee led a raid across the Rappahannock River and captured dozens of Averell’s men. Lee sent his old friend a note saying “You ride a good horse, I ride a better. If you won’t go home, return my visit, and bring me a sack of coffee.”

After the battle of Kelly’s Ford, Averell left two captured Confederate officers with a sack of coffee and a note saying: “Dear Fitz, Here’s your coffee. Here’s your visit. How do you like it?”

On the morning of March 17, 1863, Brig. Gen. Averell forced a crossing of the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s Ford with three cavalry brigades and one battery of artillery, for a total of 2,100 men. His objective was to destroy Confederate cavalry in the area and stop raids like that of February 25th. His old friend, Brig. Gen. Lee (nephew of Gen. Robert E. Lee), opposed him with approximately 800 men. Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, the Confederates’ flamboyant cavalry chief, and Stuart’s chief of artillery, Maj. John Pelham, were also on hand.

Categories
Historic America

Brandy Station Battlefield Park in Culpeper County, Virginia

Visit the scene of the largest cavalry battle on American soil, where sabres flashed and Union troopers ended Confederate cavalry dominance in Virginia.

The Battle of Brandy Station (aka Fleetwood Hill) was fought on June 9, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart around Brandy Station, Virginia, during the American Civil War. The battle, which inaugurated the Gettysburg Campaign, was a marginal Confederate victory, resulting in a total of 1,430 casualties.

Late in May 1863, fresh off their victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia moved into Culpeper County in preparation for a march north to take the war into Union territory. Secrecy was essential, since Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s Union Army of the Potomac was still camped nearby. It was J.E.B. Stuart and his 9,500 horsemen’s job to shield Lee’s army, and Alfred Pleasonton’s job to find out what Lee was up to.

Pleasonton had at his disposal approximately 8,000 of his own troopers and 3,000 infantry from the V Corps. He divided his force into two wings and crossed the Rappahannock River at Beverly’s Ford and Kelly’s Ford, intending to envelop what he believed to be a smaller Confederate force. If not for poor coordination and quick action by Stuart, he nearly succeeded.