Thursday, August 30, 2012

8am: Lee impatiently waits for Pope to attack, plans to seize initiative

Unfinished Railroad and Featherbed Lane

A year and a month earlier, the five regiments of the Stonewall Brigade had numbered around 2,600 men. On the morning of August 30, there were less than 800 men among them after a year of relentless fighting. Their first commander after Jackson had been Brig. General Richard Garnett, but Jackson had court-martialed him on (unsubstantiated) charges of disobedience with an implication of cowardice. Throughout the Valley Campaign and the Seven Days, they had learned to love Brig. General Charles Winder, but his left side had been split open by shrapnel while leading the division in battle at the beginning of August.

Now in command was Colonel William Baylor, formerly of the brigade’s own 5th Virginia. Baylor was Commonwealth’s Attorney from Staunton, and a grad of Washington [& Lee] College from Jackson’s hometown of Lexington, as well as University of Virginia Law. He had fought on Henry Hill with the brigade and been part of its exploits in the Valley. Ten days earlier the officers of the Stonewall Brigade, a tight-knit group thanks to the brutal mortality rate, had sent a petition to Richmond asking for Baylor to lead them permanently and the authoritarian Jackson had endorsed it. Richmond had signed off, and Jefferson Davis would send the commission to the Confederate Congress when they convened.

As Baylor and the men listened to the booming of Longstreet’s artillery harassing the Union Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac, they tried to deduce when Pope’s next attack would come. Becoming concerned as the new mass of blue soldiers settled in an unsustainable position, Baylor ordered the Stonewall Brigade forward to the railroad. The position he was occupying was a cut, and was, in fact, the deepest cut along the stretch of cuts and embankments from Sudley Road to Warrenton Turnpike. Like the Stonewall Brigade resting behind the Deep Cut, Confederate units up and down the line were warily moving to cover in anticipation of an attack.

Stuart’s Hill

Meanwhile, at the headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee was trying to anticipate no attack. He had gone to bed with the assumption that Pope would attack at dawn, but two and a half hours later no attack had occurred. He could wait, but not forever. The longer Pope had to regroup and reorganize, the more likely superior Union numbers and supplies would be decisive.

After talking it over with Jackson and Longstreet, Lee made a decision: if Pope did not attack, he would use Longstreet’s wing south of the Turnpike to attack Pope and make him shift his forces  to Chinn Ridge and Henry Hill, so that Jackson would be freed to cross Bull Run at Sudley Springs and put his force between Pope and reinforcements from Washington. Depending on Pope’s reaction, Jackson could guard the fords while Longstreet hammered him, or they could both chase an exhausted and unsupplied Pope whichever way he chose to run.

No comments:

Post a Comment