Howdy folks, and welcome back to the good ol’ blog! Today’s tidbit about me is: two of my best friends are currently in California, and apparently San Diego has a much higher concentration of British cultural items than I would ever have guessed.
150 years ago today, both Union and Confederate forces were redeploying all across the Virginia countryside. In the north, soldiers were massing and repositioning themselves in preparation for a major battle. After the Battle of Cedar Mountain, General Jackson withdrew his troops back to Gordonsville while General Pope remained near the battlefield gathering his forces. In the south, General McClellan was finally retreating back down the peninsula while General Lee was moving north to reinforce Jackson. Check out this delightful illustration for an easier understanding of what was going on!
Now, one thing that’s quite interesting is how these two areas of conflict influence each other, and sort of contribute towards consolidation into only one area. Before the Battle of Cedar Mountain, the two areas – or fronts – were pretty much locked in place, with neither side able to effectively move against the other. The Confederates were heavily outnumbered on both fronts, and couldn’t really attack: they needed to wait for their Union counterparts to make either an attack or a mistake. As for the Union, Pope was spread out over a large area and McClellan was as aggressive as a Daffodil-Yellow Snuggie. But AFTER the battle of Cedar Mountain, the dynamics had changed enough to propel both sides into consolidation in a single area.
Cedar Mountain happened because Pope was spread out – Jackson, like General Johnston at Seven Pines, saw a lonely Union unit off by itself and tried to destroy it, hence the battle. Afterwards, Pope consolidated all of his strength at that battlefield. Now we have Union and Confederate troops consolidating in north-central Virginia. But what about the southern front near Richmond? Well, McClellan was about as aggressive as a Hypoallergenic Bed Pillow, which meant Lee was just counting the days until he withdrew: since McClellan had begun his withdrawal around the same time as the battle, Lee could now head north and link up with Jackson. The catch was, McClellan could now also go north and reinforce Pope, so Lee had to act fast before McClellan got into position.
McClellan was thankfully a lot faster when he was retreating, and by this day in 1862 he was loading men on transports in Hampton Roads to steam north to Fredericksburg. And when I say “he” I mean his subordinates. McClellan himself was still trying to argue with Halleck over his redeployment by way of telegraph. In a way, McClellan was somewhat justified in insisting he stay near Richmond. So long as he was there, Lee also had to be there. Now that he was gone, lee could go to Jackson. To Halleck and President Lincoln, however, it was time to put their faith in Pope: a general that could and would fight. McClellan, though useful as a paperweight keeping Lee at Richmond, was better spent giving his 90,000 men to Pope in the north.
That’s all for today, folks. Tune in next time for more Civil War coverage, and in the meantime have a good one!