150 Years Ago This Week: Battle at Cedar Mountain

August 1862

As the week closed, Union troops under Maj. Gen. Edward Canby at Ft. Fillmore in the New Mexico Territory near the Texas border attacked and defeated Confederates moving south out of Santa Fe. At Blackburn in England, a public meeting advocated recognition of the Confederate States because “it was impossible for the North to vanquish the South.”  In Alabama, after a series of attacks on trains by Confederate guerillas, Federal authorities at Huntsville ordered ministers and leading churchmen who had been active secessionists be arrested and one each day be placed on trains to thwart further railroad attacks.

Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks’s 2nd Corps d’Armee, the leading elements of Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia, were heading south of Culpeper, Va.,  towards Orange Courthouse and the railhead at Gordonsville.  His troops numbered about 12,000 officers and men.  Moving north out of Gordonsville was Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s command, outnumbering the Union troops 2 to 1.  Incensed by Gen. Pope’s contentious orders against Southern civilians, Gen. Robert E. Lee issued a direct and succinct order to Gen. Jackson: “Gen. Pope must be suppressed.”  Saturday, Aug. 9 was one of the hottest days of 1862 in Virginia: the thermometer read 98 degrees and the humidity above 65%.  At Cedar Mountain, a few miles south of Culpeper Courthouse,  Gen. Banks’s men attacked Gen. Jackson’s troops in fierce combat, driving the Confederates back.  Reinforced by Maj. Gen. Irwin McDowell’s 3rd Corps d’Armee,  the Federals threatened to push the Confederates off the field.  

At 5 p.m., the timely arrival of Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill’s Light Division reinforced Jackson’s men and turned the tide of battle.  Gen. Jackson rode in among his troops to rally them by attempting to draw his sword.  It was rusted to the scabbard.   In the fierce hand-to-hand combat, Jackson cried out, “Jackson is with you!  Attack!  Attack!”  The Confederates  rallied and swept the Union troops from the battlefield.  Maj. Gen. Charles Winder, commanding a division in Jackson’s command, was killed when a shell exploded and eviscerated him.  

Cedar Mountain was the last battle in which Jackson moved in to personally command his troops, and the last battle in which he drew his sword.   Union losses in the battle were 2380 casualties; Confederate troops sustained 1340 casualties.  The town of Culpeper was turned into one vast hospital.  Gen. Pope withdrew his army to the north, and Gen. Lee received word that Gen. George McClellan was bringing his Union army from the Peninsula below Richmond to Washington.  It was clear that the initiative had shifted in Gen. Lee’s favor, and that the Confederate capital was saved from Federal threat.  Gen. Lee began moving the balance of the Army of Northern Virginia to the north from Richmond

In Missouri, Confederates under Col. John C. Porter had been driven from Kirksville by Federals under Col. John McNeil after a three day fight.  The Southern force had been destroyed in the fighting, and Union dominance in northeastern Missouri was maintained.   Two days later, Col. John T. Hughes and his Confederate force attacked Independence, Missouri, at dawn.  His troops included the infamous Confederate guerilla fighters William Quantrell and Jesse and Frank James.  The Confederates drove the Federals, under Col. James T. Buel, through the town to the Union camps.  There, Col. Buel requested a flag of truce with Col. George W. Thompson, who had replaced Col. Hughes when he was killed in the fighting.  Col. Buel surrendered 150 men, and the Confederate force moved towards Kansas City.

Near Washington, two steamers, the George Peabody and the West Point, collided in the Potomac River with the loss of seventy-three lives, many of them convalescing Union soldiers of Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s corps.   President Lincoln received a deputation of free black men at the White House, to which he said, “But for your race among us there could not be war.  It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated.”  He advocated colonization in Central America, and promised them help in carrying out the program.

Arthur Candenquist
About Arthur Candenquist 194 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.