Prelude to September

A man’s character is his fate. – Heraclitus

Events in northern Virginia on and near the old Bull Run battlefield during the last week of August 1862 are instrumental in setting in motion a chain of events that will climax at Sharpsburg three weeks later. Even though he and his fellow soldiers of the 8th Connecticut are not directly involved in these events, Oliver Case’s future will be determined by what happens here.

During this week, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sends the troops of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson to attack Union’s Army of Virginia commanded by John Pope. On the 28th of August, Jackson ordered his commanders to attack Pope’s column moving along the Warrenton Turnpike. Although the Confederates have the element of surprise, there is no clear winner at the end of the day. It is the belief of Pope that he has pinned down Jackson and plans to finish him off the following day.

On the 29th, Pope concentrates his army in an attack against the Confederates who have taken positions in an unfinished railroad cut. Jackson’s troops turn back multiple attacks, but the casualties are heavy for both the Confederate and Union units. Pope seems unaware that almost 30,000 troops under General Longstreet are arriving on the field beginning at noon. Longstreet assumes positions to the right of Jackson.

On the third day of fighting, Pope again attacks Jackson with seeming disregard for the forces of Longstreet on his left. This is a serious mistake as Longstreet unleashes a massive artillery barrage against the attacking Union troops under Fitz John Porter. Longstreet follows with the largest mass assault of the war by all of his units slamming into the Union left flank driving them back across the Bull Run battlefield where they established defensive position on Henry House Hill. As darkness approaches, Pope orders an orderly retreat to Centreville. The Confederates are unable to pursue due to the darkness, fatigue and low supplies of ammunition.

 

A train wrecked by Union forces as they retreated during the Second Battle of Bull Run

 

In Fredericksburg, Burnside is put on notice to be prepared to move his army to the north in support of Pope.  On the last day of August, the 8th CVI is withdrawn from picket duty and returns to the city of Fredericksburg in anticipation of supporting future defensive operations to protect the city of Washington.

On [August 31st] the Eighth was withdrawn from picket beyond Fredericksburg, and retired through the town and across the river, greeted by the scowls and taunts of the rebel citizens, who threatened to fire upon the column from their houses.[1]

 

A view of Fredericksburg from across the Rappahannock River in 1862

 


[1] History of the Eighth Regiment C. V. Infantry, J.H.Vaill, Case, Lockwood, and Brainard Co, Hartford, 1889.

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