At the headquarters for the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee had little to do but wait. James Longstreet had gone off to prepare his wing for the late afternoon divergence against Pope’s left, and Stonewall Jackson had not faced a serious challenge from Pope. Throughout the morning Lee utilized his army’s signal system to keep in touch with both, asking for regular updates.
Jackson had concluded that Pope was not planning to attack at all, and was only moving men forward to mask a withdrawal. He told Lee so. It was one of the contingencies that Lee expected, and the divergence should be sufficient to hold him in place while Jackson slipped around. So Lee continued to wait.
At the headquarters for the Army of Virginia, John Pope was in a flurry of activity. Convinced once again that Jackson was retreating west on the Warrenton Turnpike, he had sent his staff galloping off to inform the corps commanders. McDowell, his old staff officer instincts still strong, suggested Pope write out his orders to avoid confusion. It made sense to Pope, so he had them drafted up and distributed:
The following forces will be immediately thrown forward and in pursuit of the enemy, and press him vigorously during the whole day.
Major General Porter’s corps [Fifth, Army of the Potomac] will push forward on the Warrenton Turnpike, followed by the division of Brigadier General King [of the Third Corps, Army of Virginia, under Hatch’s command] and Reynolds [also of McDowell’s Third Corps]. The division of Brigadier General Ricketts [last of the Third Corps] will pursue the Haymarket Road [no longer existent], followed by the corps of Major General Heintzelman [Third, Army of the Potomac]. The necessary cavalry will be assigned to these columns by Major General McDowell, to whom regular and frequent reports will be made. The general headquarters will be somewhere on the Warrenton Turnpike.
McDowell was now in command of well over half the army, with only Reno’s Ninth Corps divisions and Sigel’s First Corps, Army of Virginia out of his control. Pleased with this outcome, McDowell set to work issuing orders for his two columns, putting Porter in charge of the left column meant for the Turnpike (ironically, assigning him command of King’s division, which he had spent all the previous morning trying to wrest back from his control), and Heintzelman in charge of the right column.
When the order for pursuit reached James Ricketts, the division commander responded irritably. McDowell’s note told him to follow the New Market Road (an error either in the dictation process or in the official records, and Ricketts responded as if it had said Haymarket) “in pursuit of the enemy” and to join his skirmishers with Porter’s as he moved down the parallel Warrenton Turnpike.
Momentarily disregarding the order to report to Heintzelman, Ricketts sent back an acknowledgment saying “I shall prepare at once to advance my division, [but] the enemy have batteries still in our front.” He sent the reluctant skirmishers out again and within minutes they were fired on by the Confederate line again. Having confirmed his own opinion, Ricketts mounted his horse and rode for Buck Hill to tell McDowell.