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The Second battle of Bull Run.1

by John Pope, Major-General, U. S. A.
Early in June, 1862, I was in command of the army corps known as the “Army of the Mississippi,” which formed the left wing of the army engaged in operations against Corinth, Miss., commanded by General Halleck. A few days after Corinth was evacuated I went to St. Louis on a short leave of absence from my command, and while there I received a telegram from Mr. Stanton, Secretary of War, requesting me to come to Washington immediately. I at once communicated the fact to General Halleck by telegraph, and received a reply from him strongly objecting to my leaving the army which was under

Picketing the Rapidan.

his command. I quite concurred with him both as to his objections to my going to Washington for public reasons and as to the unadvisability of such a step on personal considerations. I was obliged, however, to go, and I went accordingly, but with great reluctance and against the urgent protests of my friends in St. Louis, and subsequently of many friends in the Army of the West.

When I reached Washington the President was absent at West Point, but I reported in person to Secretary Stanton. I had never seen him before, and his peculiar appearance and manners made a vivid impression on me. He was short and stout. His long beard, which hung over his breast, was slightly tinged with gray even at that time, and he had the appearance of a man who had lost much sleep and was tired both in body and mind. Certainly, with his large eye-glasses and rather disheveled appearance, his presence was not imposing. Although he was very kind and civil to me, his manner was abrupt and his speech short and rather dictatorial. He entered at once on the business in hand, seemingly without the least idea that any one should object to, or be reluctant to agree to, his views and purposes. He was surprised, and, it seemed to me, not well pleased, that I did not assent to his plans with effusion; but went on to unfold them in the seeming certainty that they must be submitted to. He informed me that the purpose was to unite the armies under McDowell, Fremont, and Banks, all three of whom were my seniors in rank, and to place me in general command. These armies were scattered over the northern part of Virginia, with little or no communication or concert of action with one another; Fremont and Banks being at Middletown, in the Shenandoah Valley, and McDowell's corps widely separated, King's division at Fredericksburg, and Ricketts's at and beyond Manassas Junction.

The general purpose at that time was to demonstrate with the army toward Gordonsville and Charlottesville and draw off as much as possible of the force [450] in front of General McClellan, who then occupied the line of the Chickahominy, and to distract the attention of the enemy in his front so as to reduce as far as practicable the resistance opposed to his advance on Richmond.

It became apparent to me at once that the duty to be assigned to me was in the nature of a forlorn-hope, and my position was still further embarrassed by the fact that I was called from another army and a different field of duty to command an army of which the corps commanders were all my seniors in rank. I therefore strongly urged that I be not placed in such a position, but be permitted to return to my command in the West, to which I was greatly attached and with which I had been closely identified in several successful operations on the Mississippi. It was not difficult to forecast the delicate and embarrassing position in which I should be placed, nor the almost certainly disagreeable, if not unfortunate, issue of such organization for such a purpose.

It would be tedious to relate the conversations between the President, the Secretary of War, and myself on this subject. Sufficient to say that I was finally informed that the public interests required my assignment to this command, and that it was my duty to submit cheerfully. An order from the War Department was accordingly issued organizing the Army of Virginia, to consist of the army corps of McDowell, Banks, and Fremont, and placing me in command.

One result of this order was the very natural protest of General Fremont against being placed under the command of his junior in rank, and his request to be relieved from the command of his corps.2

Outline map of the campaign.


It was equally natural that the subordinate officers and the enlisted men of those corps should have been ill-pleased at the seeming affront to their own officers, involved in calling an officer strange to them and to the country in which they were operating, and to the character of the service in which they were engaged, to supersede

View in Culpeper during the occupation by Pope. From a photograph. The building with the ball and vane is the Court House, in which Confederate prisoners were confined.

well-known and trusted officers who had been with them from the beginning, and whose reputation was so closely identified with their own. How far this feeling prevailed among them, and how it influenced their actions, if it did so at all, I am not able to tell; but it is only proper for me to say (and it is a pleasure as well as a duty to say it) that Generals McDowell and Banks never exhibited to me the slightest feeling on the subject either in their conversation or acts. Indeed, I think it would be hard to find officers more faithful to their duty or more deeply interested in the success of the army. To General McDowell especially is due my gratitude for his zeal and fidelity in what was and ought to have been considered a common cause, the success of the Union Army.

Knowing very well the difficulties and embarrassments certain to arise from all these sources, and the almost hopeless character of the service demanded of me, I, nevertheless, felt obliged, in deference to the wish of the President and Secretary of War, to submit; but I entered on this command with great reluctance and serious forebodings.

On the 27th of June, accordingly, I assumed command of the Army of Virginia, which consisted of the three corps above named, which numbered as follows: Fremont's corps, 11,500; Banks's corps, 8000, and McDowell's corps, 18,500,--in all, 38,000 men.3 The cavalry numbered about 5000, but most of it was badly organized and armed, and in poor condition for service. These forces were scattered over a wide district of country, not within supporting [452] distance of one another, and some of the brigades and divisions were badly organized and in a more or less demoralized condition. This was especially the case in the army corps of General Fremont, as shown in the report of General Sigel which was sent me when he had assumed command of it.

My first object was, therefore, to bring the three corps of the army together, or near enough together to be within supporting distance of one another, and to put them in as efficient a condition for active service as was possible with the time and means at my disposal. When I assumed this command, the troops under General Stonewall Jackson had retired from the valley of the Shenandoah to Richmond, so there was not at that time any force of the enemy of any consequence within several days' march of my command. I accordingly sent orders to General Sigel to move forward, cross the Shenandoah at Front Royal, and, pursuing the west side of the Blue Ridge to Luray, and then crossing it at Thornton's Gap, take post at Sperryville. At the same time I directed General Banks to cross the Shenandoah at Front Royal and proceed by way of Chester Gap to Little Washington. Ricketts's division of McDowell's corps, then at and beyond Manassas Junction, was ordered to move forward to Waterloo Bridge, where the turnpike from Warrenton to Sperryville crosses the Rappahannock, there known as Hedgman's River. In deference to the wishes of the Government, and much against my opinion, King's division of the same corps was kept at Fredericksburg. The wide separation of this division from the main body of the army not only deprived me of its use when, as became plain afterward, it was much needed, but left us exposed to the constant danger that the enemy might interpose between us.

The partial concentration of the corps so near to the Blue Ridge and with open communications with the Shenandoah Valley seemed to me best to fulfill the object of covering that valley from any movements from the direction of Richmond with any force less than the army under my command. The position was one also which gave most favorable facilities for the intended operations toward Gordonsville and Charlottesville.

At the date of my orders for this concentration of the army under my command,

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