150 Years Ago This Week: The ‘miscreant’ is suppressed

August/September 1862

In a letter from Gen. Robert E. Lee to Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on July 27, the commanding general, in his ire against Maj. Gen. John Pope for Pope’s harsh treatment of Southern citizens in the area of his command, called the Federal commander of the Army of Virginia a “miscreant who must be suppressed.” Now, at the end of August, on the former 1861 battlefields of Manassas and Bull Run, Gen. Jackson’s troops were doing just that. Gen. Pope underestimated the Confederate strength on Aug. 28 and 29 and fortified positions behind an unfinished railroad cut. Wave after wave of Union troops assaulted the Confederate lines, to be driven back with heavy losses.

On Aug. 30, through a series of confusing and delayed orders, Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter’s Federals attacked Gen. Jackson’s lines, unaware that Gen. Jackson’s men had been reinforced by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet’s newly arrived command. By day’s end, the Confederates had driven the Union army from the field, going across the same stone bridge over Bull Run the Federals had retreated by in July 1861. Instead of letting them go as he did the year before, Gen. Jackson moved his command to the north and then east along the Little River Turnpike in an effort to attack and destroy the Federal force before it had a chance to reach the defenses of Washington. Gen. Pope’s troops had halted around Centreville, to make an orderly retreat toward Washington.

Maj. Gen. Philip Kearney
Maj. Gen. Philip Kearney

In a blinding thunderstorm on Monday, Sept. 1, Gen. Jackson’s troops moved in to attack the right flank of the Union army. The severe fighting just west of Chantilly lasted all day, and saw Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny and Brig. Gen. Isaac Stevens killed in action. These two promising Federal officers had been excellent combat soldiers, and the one-armed Gen. Kearny had been considered for commander of the Army of the Potomac. The Confederate victory at Chantilly ended the Second Manassas Campaign as the Federals marched quickly back to the defenses of Washington. “The miscreant” had been suppressed. As was typical of the bombastic Gen. Pope, he blamed his military shortcomings and failures on someone else. Pointing the finger at Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter and that officer’s doomed attacks against Gen. Jackson’s men on Aug.30, Gen. Pope brought charges against Gen. Porter and ordered a court-martial. Gen. Porter was found guilty and cashiered from the service in Jan. 1863. He would not be exonerated until 1887.

In the west, the Confederate troops under Maj. Gen. Kirby Smith crossed into Kentucky from Tennessee and marched north. While two armies fought on the plains around Bull Run in Virginia, Gen. Smith’s troops attacked the Federals at Richmond, Ky. and after severe fighting, drove the Union troops out of the town. The incursion into Kentucky was well underway. On Tuesday, Sept. 2, Maj. Gen. George McClellan was restored to full Federal command in Virginia, and his troops were brought from Virginia to the area around Rockville, Md. Gen. Pope’s Army of Virginia was finished; his troops were merged back into the Army of the Potomac, and soon Gen. Pope received a new assignment. Realizing the futility of attacking Washington, Gen. Lee began moving the Army of Northern Virginia toward Leesburg, and on Thursday, Sept. 4, his army started across the Potomac River into Maryland, to take the war into Northern territory.

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Arthur Candenquist
About Arthur Candenquist 193 Articles
A long-time historian, researcher, lecturer and author, Arthur Candenquist serves as secretary-treasurer of the Rappahannock County Sesquicentennial Committee. He can be reached at AC9725@cs.com.