Confederate Reinforcements & the Second Manassas Campaign

by Ned B. on January 23, 2015 · 0 comments

I have been reading about the Antietam campaign and a question occured to me.  It is generally acknowledged that before entering Maryland, Gen. Lee was reinforced by a column of roughly 25,000 troops consisting of the infantry divisions of DH Hill, McLaws and Walker; a cavalry brigade under Hampton; and the reserve artillery under Pendleton. If it joined Lee at the beginning of September, then during the last week of August this column must have been in motion through northern Virginia. So when was it where?

The only author I have seen who presents details on this is Joseph Harsh (Taken and the Flood).  Studying what he wrote reveals this column was closer to the action in August than I had previously thought. As a result, it seems to me that the conventional presentation of Second Manassas campaign is incomplete.  Take for example the map below, copied from a West Point atlas found on the Library of Congress website.  It shows the situation on August 26. No Confederates are shown south of R.H. Anderson, who was held along the Rappahannock as the rest of Lee’s army made its flank move around Pope.

August26

After reviewing what Harsh wrote and doing follow on research, I have come up with the following adjustments to that map in order to show the location of the reinforcements on August 26:

August26 map edit

Two brigades (Ripley & Colquitt) of DH Hill’s division had been sent forward from Richmond on the 19th to Orange Court House as a reserve for Lee.  He called them forward as he began his move around Pope and they caught up with the main army at the end of the battle on the 30th.  Walker’s division was sent by rail from Richmond on the 26th, reaching Rapidan the next day, but the rail bridge over the river had been destroyed so it was stopped there for a few days.  D.H. Hill, with the rest of the reinforcements marched from Hanover Junction on the 26th to join Lee.  In four days (the 29th) he reached Rapidan. He continued the next day, hoping to catch up with Lee, though it took another four days.  1

Just as Pope hoped that he would be reinforced before the battle, so too Lee was expecting reinforcements. On August 26 it seemed they weren’t that far behind.  But logistical breaks and Lee’s own movement kept them separated from him.  On August 29 he wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis that “I hear nothing of those behind.” On the 30th he wrote “reinforcements seem to be advancing slowly — I have heard of none on the road except Gen Ripley,” even though Hill had been pushing his command at over 15 miles a day.  Fortunately for Lee, he could beat Pope without them.  2

 

 

 

  1. See Official Records Series 1 – Volume 12 (Part III) pages  924, 945 and 948 and Series 1 – Volume 19 (Part I) page 1019
  2. Lee’s Dispatches, Unpublished Letters of General Robert E Lee CS:, Putnam 1915, pages 55 and 56

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