1862: A Country Torn Asunder

DURING THE SECOND YEAR OF THE CIVIL WAR THE NORTH STEADILY ADVANCED IN THE WESTERN THEATER, WHILE THE SOUTH TRIUMPHED IN THE EAST. THE CONFLICT’S UNPRECEDENTED CARNAGE SHOCKED AMERICANS EVERYWHERE.

“It is well that war is so terrible—we should grow too fond of it.”

—Confederate general Robert E. Lee, December 13, 1862

Some 23,000 were killed or injured during the Battle of Antietam. Here Confederate dead awaited burial in front of Dunker Church.

Grant Rises to Command

AFTER A SLOW START TO HIS MILITARY CAREER, GRANT SUCCEEDED AS A LEADER OF THE U.S. ARMY.

Ulysses S. Grant married Julia Dent in 1848. The two met through Dent’s brother Frederick, a friend of Grant’s from West Point. Dent, the daughter of a plantation owner from St. Louis, often traveled to visit Grant during wartime.

The couple had four children. Frederick was their oldest, followed by Ulysses Jr., Nellie, and Jesse.

On the eve of the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant was peddling firewood on a street corner in St. Louis. Anyone passing his woodpile who gave him a second glance scarcely would have imagined that the rumpled, bearded salesman would be commanding general of all U.S. armies in less than five years, and that within another five would be president of the United States.

Born in 1822 in southern Ohio, where his father operated a tannery, Hiram Ulysses Grant grew up amid the hardy roughness of the rural Midwest. Grant’s father used his connections with Ohio congressman Elihu B. Washburne to wrangle his son an appointment to West Point. Young Grant was a mediocre student—excelling only in horsemanship—but he still graduated in the class of 1843.

As a second lieutenant, Grant was posted to Jefferson Barracks outside of St. Louis, where he met and eventually married Julia Dent, the sister of his former West Point roommate and a cousin to future Confederate general James Longstreet. The Grants would have four children—and they would also come to own several slaves, most of whom were given to Julia by her father. Grant was an unenthusiastic slaveholder, and freed the one slave in his name before the war.

He distinguished himself in the Mexican-American War as a junior officer, and was commended for his courage. Afterward, Grant was assigned to various army posts, and was eventually transferred to Fort Humboldt in California. There, separated from his family, he fell into heavy drinking, and—with official censure possibly looming—he resigned from the army in 1854.

In 1843, Ulysses S. Grant graduated from West Point as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was ranked 21 in a class of 39.

Never Fearing the Enemy

In civilian life, Grant struggled to support his family and drifted from one job to another. At times, he was assisted by his father and father-in-law. He took up farming, the staple of 19th-century occupations, but failed at that too. He made ends meet by selling firewood, and pawned his gold pocket watch for cash. He was working at his father’s leather goods store in the upper Mississippi River port of Galena, Illinois, when the Civil War began. The war rescued Ulysses Grant. Experienced officers were in demand, especially West Pointers, and after commanding a regiment of Ohio troops as a colonel, Grant managed to obtain a brigadier general’s commission with the assistance of Congressman Washburne.

The War Widens

1862 brought with it a new level of bloodshed.

February 6 Fort Henry fell to Federal army-navy forces.

February 16 Fort Donelson surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant.

March 9 CSS Virginia and USS Monitor engaged in first battle of ironclad ships.

March 17 General George B. McClellan began the Union’s Peninsula Campaign.

April 6–7 The Confederates launched a surprise attack against General Ulysses S. Grant’s army at the Battle of Shiloh.

April 7 Island No. 10 surrendered to Federal forces, opening the Mississippi River to the Union navy as far as Fort Pillow.

April 25 U.S. Navy captured New Orleans cutting off the South from one of its major ports.

June 25–July 1 In the campaign known as the Seven Days’ Battles, Robert E. Lee forced the Union army to retreat away from Richmond.

August 28–30 The Confederates secured another victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

September 17 The Battle of Antietam was the first major battle to occur on Union soil.

September 22 President Lincoln announced Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in the Southern states.

December 13 The Union army sustained massive casualties in a defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Edwin M. Stanton

1814–1869

In 1862, President Lincoln appointed Edwin M. Stanton as secretary of war. The burly Stanton aggressively pushed the Northern war effort, firing generals for Lincoln and pushing him to field black troops. Although controversial and overbearing, Stanton was a key contributor to the eventual Union victory.

Major General Ulysses S. Grant with his favorite mount, Cincinnati.

The years of failure had shaped Grant’s character: He was now determined to succeed. As a troop commander in the opening days of the war, he convinced himself never to fear the enemy. “I never forgot,” he later said, “that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his.”

Grant handled himself capably with early commands, then gained attention with a successful attack on a Confederate camp in eastern Missouri. That engagement, which became known as the Battle of Belmont, positioned Grant as a bold commander who was willing to take risks to win. In the spring of 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant found himself commanding tens of thousands of Northern troops—with orders to strike deeper into the Southern heartland.

In 1864, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, the former firewood peddler, was appointed commanding general of all Northern armies.

Grant Attacks Forts Henry and Donelson

UNION FORCES TOOK THE OFFENSIVE IN TENNESSEE, AIMING TO SEIZE THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER AND SPLIT THE CONFEDERACY.

Federal gunboats provided artillery support for army operations against Forts Henry and Donelson.

By early 1862, the war was divided into three principal regions or “theaters” of operations: the Eastern Theater roughly covered the Atlantic coast to the Appalachians; the Western Theater stretched from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River; and the Trans-Mississippi Theater covered everything from the Mississippi westward.

In the Western Theater, the Union high command determined that the best way to conquer the Southern heartland was to utilize its rivers. They planned for Northern forces to advance along the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, capture Tennessee and the upper South, then seize the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy.

The first targets were a pair of Confederate defensive strongholds. Forts Henry and Donelson lay 12 miles apart in northwest Tennessee. Fort Henry overlooked the Tennessee River, and the more formidable Fort Donelson commanded a high bluff over the Cumberland River. To capture them, a joint Federal army-navy operation was launched under the command of a scruffy, obscure Northern officer with a checkered past—Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant.

Inundated by unusually high winter floodwaters and pounded by navy gunboats, Fort Henry quickly surrendered. Grant then attacked Fort Donelson. The ranking Confederate commanders fled their post, leaving Brigadier General Simon Buckner—an old army friend of Grant’s—to surrender the fort. When Buckner asked for terms, Grant famously wrote back: “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately on your front.” Buckner surrendered the fort to Grant’s forces.

I Can’t Spare This Man—He Fights.

The Federal victories at Forts Henry and Donelson broke the Confederate defensive line, ensuring that the neutral border state of Kentucky would be held by Northern forces. This led to the capture of Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, and successfully opened the Southern heartland to invasion. The first major Northern victory of the war, it earned Grant a promotion to major general and made him a national hero in the North. In Washington, Lincoln said of Grant: “I can’t spare this man—he fights.”

Then–Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant posed for a portrait early on in the war. His victories at Forts Henry and Donelson opened the South to invasion.

Located on a high ridge above the Cumberland River, Fort Donelson was a well-built and well-guarded Southern fortress.

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote, U.S.N. bombarded Fort Henry into submission.

Confederate Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner was an old army friend of Union general Ulysses S. Grant.

A Bloody Disaster for the South

ON APRIL 6, 1862 CONFEDERATE FORCES STRUCK THE UNION ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE.

An illustration depicting Federal forces attempting to turn back a Confederate assault at the Battle of Shiloh.

Flush with victory after capturing Forts Henry and Donelson, Grant moved his newly named Army of the Tennessee southward on the Tennessee River, supported by U.S. Navy gunboats. Their first stop was Savannah in southwest Tennessee, where they were joined by other Northern forces. They planned to attack nearby Corinth, Mississippi, a center on a vital rail line that extended across the upper South.

But on April 6, 1862, before Grant could act, he was caught off guard by 44,000 Confederate troops under General Albert Sidney Johnston. Many Union troops abandoned their camps in panic and ran for the rear. Fighting was fierce, and slowly the Confederates pushed Grant’s men back towards the Tennessee River. The combat was especially vicious around the white-washed Shiloh Church, which would give the battle its name, and it appeared that Grant was on the verge of defeat.

But in the midst of battle, Johnston—who was directing his troops on horseback—suddenly slumped in his saddle, and died. His frantic aides could find no wound on his body, until they pulled off the general’s thigh-high cavalry boots and discovered that he had taken a bullet in the leg. By choosing to ignore the injury, Johnston had bled to death in his boot.

His second-in-command, General P.G.T. Beauregard—of Fort Sumter and Bull Run fame—took charge, but it was not enough to turn the tide.

During the night, 25,000 fresh troops arrived to bolster the Union position and the next day, April 7, Grant launched a strong counterattack. When Southern reinforcements failed to arrive, General Beauregard reluctantly retreated.

Federal artillery batteries such as this one played a critical role in resisting the Confederate attack at Shiloh.

Attired in blue uniforms, Confederate officers from the Washington Artillery of New Orleans stood at attention outside their tent. The unit suffered serious casualties at Shiloh.

The Wild West

Northern and Southern forces waged war even in the faraway West, in fights like The Battle of Glorieta Pass in the Northern New Mexico. On March 28, 1862, Confederate troops attacked Union soldiers, with the hope of capturing Fort Union and breaking the Union army’s stronghold in the Southwest. But the Northerners, under the overall command of Brigadier General E.R.S. Canby, prevailed and prevented the Confederates from invading California.

A map of the Battle of Shiloh, the southern name for the Battle of Pittsburg landing.

Signs of a Long and Bloody War

More than 100,000 troops were engaged at Shiloh, making it the largest battle ever waged in America at the time. Its 23,000 casualties stunned both sides, and everyone realized that they faced a long and bloody war. Although both armies claimed to have won at Shiloh, the battle proved to be a major strategic victory for the North: It forced the Confederates to abandon much of Tennessee, enabled Federal forces to later capture the important Southern rail center at Corinth, opened the way to conquering the Mississippi River, and cost the Confederacy the leadership of Albert Sidney Johnston.

General P.G.T. Beauregard took charge of the Southern attack at Shiloh after Johnston was killed in action.

General Albert Sidney Johnston was considered the greatest soldier then living.

Pittsburg Landing—shown here with the USS Tycoon, right, and Tigress, second from the right, docked in 1862—was the landing site for ships carrying supplies and reinforcements for the Union army.

General Albert Sidney Johnston

1803–1862

A tall, impressive-looking Kentuckian, Johnston was the senior Confederate commander in the Western Theater. A veteran of the Mexican-American War, he had been seasoned in high-ranking posts in the prewar U.S. Army, and was viewed as America’s foremost military commander on the eve of the war. He was offered second-in-command of all Northern forces, but instead chose to side with the South. President Jefferson Davis would later call him “the greatest soldier, the ablest man, civil or military, Confederate or Federal, then living.”

A Bloodless Victory for the North

ISLAND NO. 10 FELL AND GAVE UNION FORCESA STRONGHOLD IN THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.

Federal gunboats bombarded Confederate defenses at Island No. 10.

“The Mississippi is the backbone of the Confederacy,” President Lincoln observed early in the war. “It is the key to the whole situation.”

Despite his lack of military experience, Lincoln quickly proved himself to be a natural military strategist and a superb commander in chief. He soon realized the importance of one element of General Winfield Scott’s lampooned Anaconda Plan: Capturing the Mississippi River would split the South and irreparably damage the Confederacy. Accordingly, Lincoln pressed his military commanders to prioritize conquering the waterway.

The initiative unfolded under the direction of General John Pope, who besieged Island No. 10, a powerful Confederate fortification built on an island in the Mississippi where the river coursed along Tennessee’s northwest corner.

Named for its position as the tenth island south of Cairo, Illinois, the island was key to the Confederacy’s Mississippi River defenses. In an innovative maneuver, General Pope surrounded and isolated the Confederates from the rear, with the help of naval gunboats. The Southerners gave up without a fight on April 7, 1862—the same day that Confederate forces were forced to withdraw at the Battle of Shiloh.

For the North, it was an important and largely bloodless victory: While the South surrendered more than 4,500 troops and a huge amount of heavy artillery, Federal casualties amounted to less than 30.

Brigadier General John Pope’s innovative attack on Island No. 10 secured the Mississippi stronghold for Union forces.

New Orleans Falls

NORTHERN FORCES CAME EVER CLOSER TO SEIZING THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER FROM THE CONFEDERATES.

Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, right, stood at the wheel of his flagship, the USS Hartford.

On April 25, 1862—less than three weeks after the Northern triumphs at Shiloh and Island No. 10—the vitally important Southern port city of New Orleans fell to a Northern joint army-navy expedition.

The victory, engineered by Captain David G. Farragut, illustrated the importance the North’s naval superiority played throughout the war. The attack began on April 18, when Farragut dispatched 17 warships and 21 mortar boats to batter New Orleans’ coastal defenses. Backed by a 13,000-man army under Major General Benjamin F. Butler, Farragut unleashed a barrage of artillery projectiles aimed at the city’s two heavily-armed fortifications, Fort Jackson and Fort Saint Philip, which lay below the city on opposite sides of the Mississippi River. “The work of destruction was incessant,” noted Fort Jackson’s commander Brigadier General Johnson K. Duncan.

Captain Farragut forced the surrender of the famous Crescent City. The Confederate commander at New Orleans, Major General Mansfield Lovell, ordered all military depots destroyed, and retreated. The South had lost its largest city and main Gulf Coast seaport.

Soon afterward, the river port of Memphis on the upper Mississippi suffered a similar fate, leaving only the Southern stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi as the principal Confederate defender of the Mississippi River. Northern forces were closing in.

David G. Farragut commanded the naval attack against New Orleans. He was rewarded for his success with the title of rear admiral and was the first person to hold the rank in the U.S. Navy.

Steamboats lined the levee at New Orleans in 1862.

Admiral Farragut’s Federal fleet attacked the Confederate defenses at New Orleans in this Civil War–era artwork.

Major General Benjamin F. Butler took control of the city once it was in Union hands. He acted as military governor there until December 1862, when he was removed due to controversial decisions.

Commander of the Confederate forces at New Orleans, Major General Mansfield Lovell was an unpopular choice among the locals when appointed to his position. Lovell was blamed for losing the city, and the battle ended his military career.

A Beast of a General

THE CONTROVERSIAL MILITARY LEADER BENJAMIN BUTLER TOOK CONTROL OF NEW ORLEANS ISSUING COMMANDS THAT PROVOKED SOUTHERN OUTRAGE.

Northern sailors re-coaled naval vessels on the lower Mississippi.

When New Orleans surrendered to Federal forces in 1862, it was placed under the command of perhaps the most controversial officer in the U.S. Army, Major General Benjamin F. Butler.

A middle-aged, former Massachusetts lawyer, Butler had been granted the rank of general thanks to his political connections. He was fat and balding and famously eccentric, given to wearing bedroom slippers and reciting poetry aloud while riding around at night. A critic once described him as “as helpless as a child on the field of battle and as visionary as an opium-eater.”

Butler was often erratic. In New Orleans, he ordered a man hanged for allegedly desecrating the American flag, illegally seized 1 million dollars from the French consulate, and was accused of amassing a fortune in stolen Southern silverware—a charge that earned him the nickname Spoons Butler.

His most infamous controversy, however, was the “Woman’s Order.” During the time Butler commanded New Orleans, his officers repeatedly complained of being insulted by the city’s female residents. The women reportedly forced the men off the sidewalks and insulted them with snide remarks. The last straw came when a woman leaned out an upstairs window and emptied a chamber pot on the head of Captain David Farragut, the commander of U.S. naval operations in New Orleans. In retaliation, Butler ordered any woman who insulted a Northern soldier to be arrested as a prostitute.

News of the command enraged the South: “Beast Butler” was angrily denounced in Southern newspapers, and President Davis ordered him to be shot on sight as an outlaw. Federal authorities eventually found another command post for the general. Southern crockery makers, meanwhile, boosted sales by adorning the inside of their chamber pots with images of Butler.

Major General Benjamin F. Butler, the Federal commander of occupied New Orleans, scandalized the South when he ordered any New Orleans women who insulted Northern officers to be arrested as prostitutes.

The “Stars and Stripes” flew over captive New Orleans.

Victory Rides the Rails

EFFECTIVE USE OF RAILWAYS BOOSTED NORTHERN MILITARY OPERATIONS.

Over the course of the war, more than 400 locomotives operated under the U.S. Military Railroads.

The North’s railway system, which was far superior to its Southern counterpart in scope and technology, made a major contribution to the Northern campaign. For example, when Northern forces were defeated at the 1863 Battle of Chickamauga, more than 20,000 reinforcements poured into nearby Chattanooga, Tennessee over the course of only eleven days, all via the Northern railroad.

The system was not without challenges and controversy. When Federal officials grew weary of negotiating with private railroad companies to transport Northern troops—often at inflated rates—President Lincoln pushed a law through Congress that empowered the government to seize railways and imprison their owners if deemed necessary. The U.S. secretary of war was authorized to supervise the use of all railways as needed through a newly created agency called the United States Military Railroads.

Daniel McCallum, a civilian rail executive, was put in charge of the USMRR and given the army rank of colonel. Within a relatively short period of time, his efforts earned him a promotion to brigadier general. At one point, McCallum kept railway crews working 24 hours a day to support a major Union military campaign, repairing damaged rail lines almost as quickly as Confederate raiders could wreck them.

Delivered by Rail: A Steady Flow of Troops, Equipment and Rations

McCallum was aided by a smart construction and operations manager, Herman Haupt, who came up with a way to keep the rails running with minimum government bureaucracy: Instead of using military manpower, Haupt simply installed civilians. The strategy was credited with allowing for a steady supply of Northern troops, equipment, horses, and rations into combat areas. At its peak, the USMRR shuttled more than 1,500 tons of supplies a day. The USMRR also developed wartime innovations, such as mobile rail-based artillery and rolling hospital cars. By war’s end, the USMRR oversaw 419 locomotives, 6,330 railroad cars and 2,105 miles of track.

Brigadier General Daniel McCallum, a civilian prior to the war, ran the newly created military railroad agency.

Scores of rail trestles were built by the U.S. Military Railroads crews to move troops and supplies into position quickly, an important strategy for out-manning the South.

Colonel Herman Haupt advocated for civilian manpower to run the railways.

Railway crews repaired damage done by Confederates to tracks and bridges. The crew pictured here fixed a rail bridge across the Pamunkey River, bringing key support for General George McClellan in his invasion of Richmond.

With the help of the USMRR, Federal forces were able to utilize mobile rail-based heavy artillery, such as the siege mortar pictured.

The War Changes Course at the Seven Days’ Battles

ROBERT E. LEE SURPRISED UNION TROOPS AT RICHMOND AND HUMILIATED A BRASH, YOUNG OFFICER.

McClellan and his Army of the Potomac advanced on Richmond from the East in what became known as the Peninsula Campaign.

The “Young Napoleon,” General McClellan stood in uniform.

In the spring of 1862, nine months after their defeat at the Battle of Bull Run, Union forces again launched an offensive to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. Leading the charge was George B. McClellan, a 35-year-old officer whom Lincoln installed as the army major general after the North’s humiliating defeat at Bull Run.

McClellan, who replaced General Irvin McDowell, had scored a series of small victories in the mountains of western Virginia. He had a record as a superb military organizer and was seen by some as the savior of the Union. Northern newspapers hailed him as the “Young Napoleon.” It was a point of view he seemed to share. “I seem to have become the power of the land,” he confided to his wife, Nelly.

McClellan’s spring offensive against Richmond was unusual: Instead of using the overland route and marching from the north, he put his giant 120,000-man Army of the Potomac on troop transports, ferried them to the Virginia coast, then advanced on the capital from the east. By the end of May, McClellan and his army could see Richmond’s church steeples. It appeared that the young general might capture the Southern capital, and perhaps even win the war. Then his strategy unraveled.

Robert E. Lee Takes Command

On May 31, 1862, General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Confederate forces defending Richmond, was seriously wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines. To replace him, President Jefferson Davis turned to his chief military advisor, General Robert E. Lee, who acted swiftly. Instead of waiting on McClellan’s next move, Lee attacked. In what would become known as the Seven Days’ Battles Lee launched a surprise offensive on June 25, 1862. His smaller army pummeled McClellan’s forces in a series of battles.

Stunned, McClellan hurriedly put the Army of the Potomac back on troopships and steamed northward, blaming Lincoln and the secretary of war for the defeat. “If I save this army now . . . ,” he telegraphed Washington, “I owe no thanks to you . . . .”

In just a single week, General Robert E. Lee rescued Richmond and reversed the course of the war in the East.

General Robert E. Lee took the offensive at the Seven Days’ Battles and broke Union momentum.

Savage’s Station on the Richmond & York River Railroad, pictured here on June 27, 1862, was the site of a Union hospital. On June 29, fighting broke out near the camp forcing the Union army to abandon supplies and the hospital with thousands of wounded still inside.

Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s Great Hope

THE LOYAL VIRGINIAN CHOSE TO SIDE WITH HIS HOME STATE DESPITE PERSONAL BELIEFS.

Unable to bear arms against his native state, Robert E. Lee left the Federal army to join the Confederacy after Virginia’s secession from the North in 1861.

Robert E. Lee as an officer in the prewar U.S. Army, with his son Rooney.

Robert E. Lee was a Virginian with strong ties to the young nation. His father, Colonel “Light Horse Harry” Lee, had been one of George Washington’s valued cavalry commanders during the Revolutionary War and a three-term governor of Virginia afterward.

Yet, when Lee was a toddler, his father fell deep into debt and was sent to prison. When released, Harry Lee tried to revive the family’s fortune with land speculation in the Caribbean, but failed and died before he could return home. His widow moved young Robert E. Lee from the plantation where the family had lived into the city of Alexandria, so he could attend a free school.

As Robert Lee grew into manhood, he became determined to restore the family name. He distinguished himself at West Point, graduating in 1829 without a single demerit. He married Mary Anna Custis, the daughter of George Washington’s adopted son, George Washington Parke Custis. When Mary inherited a plantation outside of Washington, D.C., the couple made a home there, eventually raising seven children together. During the Mexican-American War, he served as staff officer for General Winfield Scott, was decorated for valor, and was promoted to colonel. Afterward, Lee was appointed superintendent of West Point, which he strengthened academically. In 1855, he was made commander of the U.S. Second Cavalry in Texas.

Mary Anna Custis Lee with one of her seven children.

When the war began, Lee and his family were living in this home in Arlington, Virginia, which overlooked Washington, D.C. Federal forces confiscated the house and established a military cemetery on its grounds.

General Robert E. Lee and his favorite mount, Traveler.

I Never Desire Again to Draw My Sword.

On the eve of the Civil War, Lee was offered command of the Northern army. A devout Christian, Lee spent a long night pacing and praying over his options and then declined the position. He concluded that his first duty was to his home state of Virginia, even though he denounced secession as a “calamity” and viewed slavery as “a moral and political evil.” He resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and vowed: “Save in the defense of my native state, I never desire again to draw my sword.”

When Virginia seceded and was threatened by imminent invasion, Lee agreed to accept command of the state’s troops, and when they were transferred to the Confederacy, he became a general in the Confederate army. During the first year of the war, he held various posts, eventually serving as the chief military advisor to President Davis in Richmond.

Lee’s real military genius lay on the battlefield. An officer observed, “He will take more desperate chances, and take them quicker than any other general in this country, North or South. . . His name might be Audacity.”

General Robert E. Lee, as he appeared when commanding the Army of Northern Virginia.

Pea Ridge

Stones River

Pea Ridge, Perryville and Stones River

In 1862, Northern forces steadily pushed back Southern armies in the war’s Western Theater. In addition to victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, at the Battle of Shiloh and on the Mississippi from New Orleans to Memphis, Northern forces were successful at the battles of Pea Ridge in Arkansas and Perryville in Kentucky, and won an important strategic victory at year’s end at the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee.

Lee’s Maneuvering Produces a Major Southern Victory

SECOND BATTLE OF BULL RUN, AUGUST 28–30, 1862

The officers and troops of the 41st New York Infantry at ease in the field. At the Second Battle of Bull Run, the regiment incurred more than a hundred casualties.

General Robert E. Lee moved quickly to take advantage of his victory in the Seven Days’ Battles.

While General McClellan and his defeated army were retreating to Washington, Lee moved his troops northward and attacked a garrison under Major General John Pope that was encamped at Manassas Junction on the old Bull Run battlefield. Pope was waiting to be joined by McClellan’s army, but Lee did not intend to allow the two forces to merge. He reorganized his men into two corps, one under General Stonewall Jackson and the other under General Longstreet, and renamed the unit the Army of Northern Virginia.

On August 28, 1862, the Second Battle of Bull Run began as Lee attacked General Pope’s forces. Jackson’s men struck from the rear, while Longstreet led a devastating flank attack. Pope’s army was routed, and—as at the First Battle of Bull Run—Union troops fled to Washington. In less than 90 days, Robert E. Lee had masterminded two victories in the Eastern Theater, undermining the North’s gains in the West.

Wreckage of a bridge dammed up the Bull Run River outside of Manassas, Virginia. The Second Battle of Bull Run—just over a year after the first—was a discouraging loss for Union forces.

Demoralized Northern troops stood guard amid railroad wreckage near Manassas Junction following the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Headquarters in the Saddle

When President Lincoln summoned Major General John Pope from the Western Theater to command Federal troops in northern Virginia, the general proclaimed in a speech that his headquarters would be “in the saddle.” The statement prompted soldiers to joke that the general had confused his headquarters with his hindquarters.

Shenandoah, 1862

GENERAL STONEWALL JACKSON DELIVERED ANOTHER DECISIVE VICTORY FOR THE CONFEDERATES IN VIRGINIA.

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson distinguished himself as an artillery officer in the Mexican-American War. In 1861, he served as a professor at the Virginia Military Academy.

In 1857, Jackson married Mary Anna Morrison, whose pastor father was president of Davidson College. The couple were devout Christians.

In spring 1862, on the heels of a victory at the Battle of Bull Run, General Stonewall Jackson moved his army of men to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with a new assignment: Prevent Federal reinforcements from reaching General George McClellan, who was rapidly advancing on Richmond.

The numerical odds were certainly against Jackson, who had been promoted to major general. He had just 17,000 troops, compared to McClellan’s 52,000, and a 400-mile stretch of territory to defend.

But in a 38-day operation known as the Valley Campaign, Jackson marched his troops up and down the Shenandoah valley, fought six battles, defeated five Northern generals, and turned in victory after victory illustrating his maxim of warfare, “Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy if possible.”

In some ways, Stonewall Jackson was an unlikely Confederate military leader. Orphaned as a child, he was raised by an uncle in the mountains of northwestern Virginia. He loved learning and was able to attend West Point only after a local student gave up his appointment and the spot went to Jackson. Though Jackson was largely unprepared for the academic rigors of West Point, he was successful there and his motto became, “You may be whatever you will resolve to be.”

General Stonewall Jackson’s troops burned the bridge on the Shenandoah River, June 4, 1862.

As a young artillery lieutenant in the Mexican-American War, Jackson was cited for bravery in action three times. After the war, Jackson did garrison duty at army posts in the U.S., then joined the faculty at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia where he taught mathematics. He was a devout Christian and turned to his faith when his wife, Elinor Junkin, died giving birth to their son. A year later, Jackson remarried. His bride, Mary Anna Morrison, was the daughter of a Presbyterian clergyman, just as his first wife had been. In Lexington, Jackson flourished as a family man, college professor, church leader and Sunday school teacher for a class of slaves and black freedmen.

Following the Shenandoah Valley campaign, Jackson was summoned to a command post in Robert E. Lee’s army. There, Jackson would become Lee’s “right arm.”

In October of 1862, Jackson was promoted to lieutenant general and made a corps commander in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, where he became Lee’s “right arm.”

The War’s Bloodiest Day

THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM, SEPTEMBER 17, 1862

Northern troops advanced into combat in this illustration of the Battle of Antietam. More than 12,000 of them would be casualties by day’s end.

Despite his spectacular victories in Virginia, General Lee realized the Confederacy was steadily losing ground in the Western Theater. If the South was going to prevail, it had to win quickly, he believed: It was time for an invasion of the North.

Capitalizing on his recent victories, Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia northward into Maryland and toward Pennsylvania in September of 1862. He hoped the invasion would shake Northerners’ morale, undermine support for Lincoln’s war policies in the fall congressional elections, bolster his army with new recruits from Maryland, and threaten or capture Washington, D.C.

The invasion opened well for the South. Lee led his army northward and dispatched General Stonewall Jackson and a large portion of the army to capture a Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry—which Jackson swiftly accomplished. Lee, meanwhile, led the rest of his army across the Potomac River into Maryland, positioning his advance to move either against Washington or into Pennsylvania. The invasion spread alarm throughout the North.

In Washington, President Lincoln urged General George B. McClellan, known for his caution, to quickly deploy the Army of the Potomac and block Lee’s invasion northward.

Then fate intervened. As McClellan’s army pursued Lee through Maryland, a group of his soldiers found an envelope containing three cigars wrapped in paper lying on the ground. Examining the wrapper, the men realized it was a copy of Robert E. Lee’s official orders. It revealed both Lee’s invasion plan and his troop deployments. The prize quickly made its way up the Northern chain of command until it reached McClellan. “Here is a paper with which if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee,” he proclaimed, “I will be willing to go home.”

General Robert E. Lee’s lost Order No.191 was found by Northern troops following Lee’s route, revealing Confederate invasion plans.

When Lee realized that McClellan was bearing down on his stretched-out army, he issued orders to consolidate his forces before they could be attacked. But he was unable to fully do so by September 17, 1862, when the bulk of his men were overtaken by McClellan’s larger army near Sharpsburg, Maryland at the Battle of Antietam.

Scores of Troops Fall

It would be the bloodiest day of the Civil War.

At Antietam, General McClellan had superior numbers and a strategic advantage, but his troops foundered. They were unable to break the right flank of Lee’s army despite repeated attempts. More than 1,700 would fall in less than an hour trying to wrest a sunken wagon road, appropriately named “Bloody Lane,” from the Confederate soliders.

Throughout the day, droves of troops from both sides were slaughtered at infamous battlefield sites such as the East Woods, the West Woods, Burnside Bridge, Dunker Church, and Miller’s Cornfield. Lee lost more than 10,000 men—almost a quarter of his army—and McClellan lost more than 12,000. Six generals were killed or mortally wounded, and 12 were seriously injured.

Momentum ebbed and flowed for both sides, and late in the day, Confederate Major General A.P. Hill rushed reinforcements onto the field to relieve Lee’s exhausted men. They were able to turn back a critical Federal assault and preserve Southern troops.

Though many consider Antietam to be a draw, strategically, the battle was a victory for the North. It ended Lee’s invasion and seriously damaged his army; it also gave President Lincoln the victory he needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation which declared an end to slavery. The order would not go into effect until 1863, and it had a limited immediate effect, but it transformed the Civil War, moving the central conflict beyond preservation of the Union, into a fight for freedom.

Keeping Count

Cause Of Death: “Other”

Besides illness and battle, soldiers on both sides were killed by a variety of causes in the Civil War. U.S. Army records listed:

4,494

drowning

4,114

accidents

520

murder

391

suicide

313

sunstroke

267

execution

2,043

other causes

In spite of the arrival of thousands of more Federal troops on September 18, General McClellan did not advance on General Lee’s army at Antietam.

Northern artillery, such as this Pennsylvania battery, took a heavy toll on Lee’s Southerners. Antietam was “Artillery hell,” a Southern officer lamented.

Confederate dead lay at their battle line alongside the Hagerstown at Antietam.

This postwar lithograph dramatically depicted Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s troops attempting to cross Antietam Creek on what became known as “Burnside Bridge.”

Attempts by Northern troops to cross Antietam Creek were blocked by a small force of Southern riflemen.

Witness to War: Saturated with Blood

AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT FROM THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM

Private Ezra E. Stickley, a soldier in the 5th Virginia Infantry, was a mounted aide to Colonel Andrew J. Grigsby, a brigade commander in Lee’s army at the Battle of Antietam. Posted to the battlefield’s bloody West Woods, Private Stickley was an eyewitness to Antietam’s ferocious fighting until he was severely wounded. His account:

Soon after sunup the fearful battle began to rage. We first moved our artillery (Poague’s Battery) to the front of our line to open the ball, and did so with good effect, exchanging a few rounds and then retiring behind the line. The spectacle now presented was one of splendor and magnificence. As the enemy advanced we beheld one of the most brilliant displays of troops we had ever seen. The Federals in apparent double battle line were moving toward us at charge bayonets, common time, and the sunbeams falling on their well-polished guns and bayonets gave a glamour and a show at once fearful and entrancing. . . . Just before this serious happening the command came to the troops all along our line: “Forward! Charge bayonets! Common time! March!” The command was obeyed cheer fully and with vigor, the men charging and firing as they went. But at a short distance they were halted by the powerful battle lines in front. They met at reasonably close range, and a battle royal was on, which continued through most of the day of September 17, 1862. . . .

About this time the Rochester Artillery, Colonel Reynolds commanding, stationed diagonally across Antietam Creek from us, opened a terrific fire, fixing their aim on the center of our brigade, where they could see the staff horses. I was then in the act of mounting my horse, a fine animal I had captured at Harpers Ferry. The first shell fell about one hundred and fifty yards behind our line, the second about seventy-five yards in the rear of the line, doing no damage. The third shell struck and killed my horse and, bursting, blew him to pieces, knocked me down, of course, and tore off my right arm, except for enough flesh to hold its weight. Seeing my horse about to fall on me, I jumped up and went straight to the brigade line of battle, where I was caught by two of our men and thus prevented from falling. I was saturated with blood, my right side from the blood of my own person and my left from the blood of my horse. Now, it was clear why I had lost my glove: I had no right hand on which to wear it.

Bodies littered a Confederate defensive line known as the “Sunken Lane.”

A Federal burial detail took a break from its grim duty. At the end of fighting at Antietam, 3,650 Confederate soldiers had been killed; countless wounded died in the days and weeks following the battle.

A New Commander for the North—and a New Disaster

A STAGGERING VICTORY AT THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG ON DECEMBER 13, 1862 GAVE HOPE TO THE SOUTH.

Following the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln removed General George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, center, surrounded by his staff.

In the weeks following Antietam, General George B. McClellan hung back. He did not pursue Lee’s army and failed to launch a new offensive. President Lincoln, anxious to capitalize on the win, could barely contain his frustration. Finally, in early October, he journeyed from Washington to army headquarters in the field to confront McClellan personally. When the commander explained that the army’s horses were too fatigued to engage, Lincoln was incensed. “Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the Battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?” he asked.

It was a fateful exchange. On November 7, 1862, Lincoln replaced McClellan with Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, an army corps commander from Rhode Island who quickly put the Army of the Potomac on the march. They side-stepped General Robert E. Lee and created a new line at Fredericksburg, Virginia.

General Burnside quickly moved the Army of the Potomac to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he launched a disastrous attack on Lee’s army.

The gains were short lived, however. Burnside lost time waiting for pontoon bridges to be built across the Rappahannock River. Once the Northern troops did cross over, they went on a looting spree. Lee used the extra time to fortify his line and soon the South’s seven-mile-long line was almost impregnable. Open killing fields awaited Burnside and the men serving under him.

On December 13, 1862, a bitterly cold winter day, an unsuspecting Burnside attacked. It was a slaughter. Burnside had approximately 130,000 troops to Lee’s 78,000 and ordered 14 shoulder-to-shoulder frontal assaults up the frozen slopes, but Lee’s defensive lines were unbreakable. The Confederate infantry and artillery fire was overpowering. Watching the valiant enemy troops fall before his guns, Lee grimly remarked, “It is well that war is so terrible—we should grow too fond of it.”

It was a shocking defeat for the North, which lost more than 12,600 troops, and for the South as well, which lost almost 5,300. Burnside attempted a fumbling follow-up campaign, but that too failed, and he soon was removed from the Army of the Potomac. As the gore-filled year of 1862 ended, a wave of hope spread across the South, while gloom enveloped the North.

Federal artillery pounded Lee’s forces at Fredericksburg, but failed to prevent a bloody Northern defeat.

Working under a truce flag, Northern soldiers buried their dead within Confederate lines after the Union forces retreated.

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