Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

Appearance of Robert E. Lee

How hard was the Second Battle of Bull Run?

In terms of a slogging match, it was as eventful and full of chance as any of the Peninsula Campaign battles. General John Pope was forced into the battle in that he had to protect the western approaches to Washington, D.C., but once the battle was joined, the Northern and Southern men fought with equal vim.

The key to Lee’s victory lay in the positioning of his forces. By now, Lee had become a master at the art of dividing his forces, even when in the presence of a foe with superior numbers. Because the Confederates generally mobilized faster—even on a daily basis—than the Union men, Lee could have his outriders go around his enemy’s flanks with great success. Stonewall Jackson was, of course, the exemplar of this method of maneuver, while James “Old Pete” Longstreet was Lee’s “Old War Horse,” the solid and steady man in the center. The Second Battle of Bull Run lasted for a day and a half, and the outcome was often in doubt, but once the Northern men began to retreat, it turned into a major Confederate victory. Some historians label it Lee’s masterpiece, but the Union defeat is more readily explained by a failure of McClellan, and others, to come to Pope’s assistance.


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