Lee and his generals, disappointed at the failure to destroy Pope between the Rapidan and Rappohannock Rivers, turned to other plans. On August 23rd, J.E.B. Stuart rode around Pope's flank in a cavalry intelligence raid, and on the way he raided Pope's headquarters in retribution for the Union cavalry raid which captured Stuart's headquarters the day before. He captured 300 prisoners, the army dispatch book, and Pope's hat and uniform. Stuart, having lost his hat to the Yankees, proposed an exchange of prisoners, but when he was refused he sent the hat and coat to Richmond to be displayed.
More importantly, the captured dispatches told Lee that he had to move quickly, because McClellan's army was on its way to join Pope. He had to strike before these reinforcements arrived. He also did not want to try a head on attack across the river, so instead he planned to cross upstream. Stonewall Jackson would move around Pope's right with his entire corps and cut communications with Washington, while Longstreet kept him occupied on the front. Then the two corps would reunited, crushing Pope between. It was a daring plan, as if Pope knew what was happening he could easily turn and destroy one part of the divided army. Lee knew he was violating the rules of warfare, but he had no other choice if he was going to make an offensive effort to destroy Pope.
On August 25th, Jackson set out on his dangerous march. He moved carefully, as one false step could expose the plan and give up the army to destruction. His “foot cavalry,” as they were called, marched hard and fast without luggage, the orders, "Close up men, close up," traveling up and down the line. When the troops saw Jackson, they refrained from the usual cheers to prevent disclosing their position, and instead tossed their hats high in the air. "Who could not conquer," Jackson said, "with such troops as these?
|Thoroughfare Gap via Civil War Trust|
The corps camped at night having made good time, and resumed their marching the next day. They found Thoroughfare Gap left unguarded, and continued to push on towards the railroad supply line. Jackson's tired men reached Bristoe Station in the afternoon, at the time the supply trains were coming through. They made efforts to stop the trains, but the first one got through, carrying word of Confederates on the railroad. The next one however was derailed, and it was found that it was named the President, and a Confederate bullet had gone right through a picture of Lincoln on the side. Another train was wrecked as well, but the fourth train however saw the wreck and was able to reverse the train to prevent its capture. Word of Jackson's movement was now traveling both North and South of Bristoe Station.
|The train the rebels derailed|
Confederate forces also pushed to Manassas Station, where they found a huge depot of Union supplies. They captured tons of stores, and two compete batteries. "A scene around the storehouses was not witnessed, but cannot be described" a hungry rebel later wrote:
Only those who participated can ever appreciate it. Remember, that many of those men were hurried off on the march ... with nothing to eat ... Now here are vast storehouses filled with everything to eat, and sutler's stores filled with all the delicacies, potted ham, lobster, tongue, candy, cakes, nuts, oranges, lemons, pickles, catsup, mustard, etc. It makes an old soldier's mouth water now to think of the good things captured there. A guard was placed over everything in the early part of the day. .. A package or two of each article was given to each company. ... Gen. Jackson's idea was that they could care for the stores until Gen. Lee came up, and turn the remainder over to him, hence he placed a guard over them. The enemy began to make such demonstrations that he decided he could not hold the place, therefore the houses were thrown open, and every man was told to help himself. Our kettle of soup was left to take care of itself. Men who were starving a few hours before, and did not know when they would get another mouthful, were told to help themselves. ... It was hard to decide to take, some filled their haversacks with cakes, some with candy, others oranges, lemons, canned goods, etc. I know one who took nothing but French mustard, filled his haversack and was so greedy that he put one more bottle in his pocket. This was his four day's rations, and it turned out to be the best thing taken, because he traded it for meat and bread ..."