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Chapter 17: Pope's campaign in Virginia.

  • Reported condition of the Army of the Potomac, 441.
  • -- the President visits the Army -- his perplexity, 442. -- the Army of Virginia under General Pope, 443. -- withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac from the Virginia Peninsula, 444. -- the Confederates plan a Grand scheme of invasion, 445. -- successful raids toward Richmond, 446. -- Pope in the field -- events near the Rapid Anna, 447. -- battle of Cedar Mountain, 448. -- the combatants re-enforced, 449. -- Pope compelled to retreat, 450. -- movements on the Rappahannock -- attempts to flank the Army of Virginia, 451. -- tardiness of re-enforcements, 452. -- position of the Army of Virginia, 453. -- Manassas Junction captured by the Confederates -- critical situation of both armies, 454. -- failure of an attempt to capture Jackson's force at Manassas, 455. -- battle near Groveton, 456. -- Jackson re-enforced by Longstreet, 457. -- battle-ground near Groveton, 458. -- condition of the two armies, 459. -- Second battle of Bull's Run, 460. -- battle near Chantilly, 461. -- relations of Generals Pope and McClellan, 462. -- dissolution of the Army of Virginia -- members of the “Confederate Congress,” so-called, 463.

Very grievous was the disappointment of the loyal people when they knew that the Grand Army of the Potomac had been driven from the front of Richmond, had abandoned the siege, and had intrenched itself in a defensive position in the malarious region of the James River, beneath the scorching sun of midsummer, where home-sickness and camp-sickness in every form were fearfully wasting it. They were perplexed by enigmas which they could not solve, and the addresses of General McClellan and of the Chief Conspirator at Richmond made these enigmas more profound; each claiming to have achieved victory, and promising abundant success to his followers.1 And most astounding to the Government was the assurance of the commander of that army on the third day after the battle of Malvern Hills, when the shattered but victorious host was lying between Berkeley and Westover, that he had not “over 50,000 men left with their colors!” 2 What has become of the remainder of the one hundred and sixty thousand men who within a hundred days have gone to the Peninsula? was a problem very important for the Government to have solved, and the President went down to the headquarters [442] at Harrison's Landing
July 8 1862.
in search of that solution. There he found: the remains of that splendid army greatly disheartened. Sadly and wearily it had waded through the mud and been pelted by a pitiless storm while marching from the field of its victory on Malvern Hills to its present humiliating position, during the night succeeding the contest. It had been covered from an attack on its march by a rear-guard of all arms under Colonel Averill, and menaced continually by Stuart and his cavalry, and columns of infantry pushed forward by Lee. These found the National army too strongly posted to make a repetition of the blunder before Malvern Hills a safe experiment, and on the 8th Lee ceased pursuit and withdrew his army to Richmond, having lost, as nearly as now can be. ascertained, since he took the command less than forty days before, about, nineteen thousand men.

The President found the Army of the Potomac “present and fit for duty” nearly forty thousand souls stronger than its commander had reported on the 3d, and his hopes were revived to the point of belief that it might speedily march against Richmond. But he was unable then to get a reply to his question, Where are the seventy-five thousand men yet missing?3 While he was there, the future movements of the Army of the Potomac was the subject of serious deliberation. It was known that the Confederates, aware of the weakness of the force left in defense of Washington, were gathering heavily in that direction; and the withdrawal of Lee's army to Richmond, on the day of the President's arrival at McClellan's Headquarters, indicated an abandonment of the pursuit, and a probable heavy movement northward. In view of the possible danger to the capital, and the fact that McClellan did not consider his army strong enough by “one hundred thousand men more, rather than less,” to take Richmond, it was thought advisable by the President, and by several of the corps commanders of the Army of the Potomac, whose sad experience before the Confederate capital had shaken their confidence in their leader, to withdraw the army from the Peninsula and concentrate it in front of Washington. To this project McClellan was opposed, and at once took measures to defeat it.

Here we will leave the army on the Peninsula for a little while, and observe events nearer the National capital, with which its movements were intimately connected. To give more efficiency to the troops covering Washington, they were formed into an organization called the Army of Virginia, and placed under the command of Major-General John Pope, who was called from the West

June 26.
for the purpose. The new army was arranged in three corps, to be commanded respectively by [443] Major-Generals Fremont, Banks, and McDowell. Pope having been Fremont's junior in Missouri, the latter was unwilling to serve under him, and

Samuel D. Sturgis.

he was permitted to relinquish his command, which was given to Major-General Sigel. In addition to those three corps was a force in process of organization at Alexandria, under Brigadier-General Sturgis; and the it troops in the forts around Washington were placed under Pope's command. His force, exclusive of the latter, numbered about fifty thousand, of which nearly forty thousand were disposable for motion. The cavalry numbered about five thousand, but were poorly mounted, and not in good condition for service. These troops were posted from Fredericksburg to Winchester and Harper's Ferry in the Shenandoah Valley; and their commander wat charged with the threefold duty of covering the National capital, guarding the Valley entrance to Maryland in the rear of Washington, and threatening Richmond from the north, as a diversion in favor of McClellan.

Pope assumed command on the 28th of June, with Colonel George D. Ruggles as his efficient Chief-of-Staff. It was his intention to concentrate his troops eastward of the Blue Ridge, press on well toward Richmond, and there unite with McClellan in the operations of the siege, or strike an independent blow at the Confederate capital, as circumstances should dictate. But while he was gathering up his scattered forces, the retreat from before Richmond began, and all chances for McClellan to be re-enforced by land were thus destroyed. There was nothing better for

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