Thursday, August 30, 2012

Battle of 2nd Manassas – Day 3

Looking Down the Deep Cut
The Deep Cut of the Unfinished Railroad, Jackson's position
The battle was renewed on August 30th. The last of Longstreets' men arrived early in the morning, and the Confederates remained in their strong position, prepared to defend against an attack. On this hill between the two corps of Jackson and Longstreet, the Confederates positioned 18 cannon under Stephen D. Lee. Here they were in a position to be able to have a clean field of fire on the Federals attacking Jackson. John Pope held a council of war at 8 am. His subordinates attempted to convince him to be more cautious than on the preceding days. The first reconnaissance in the morning told them Jackson was still in position. However, somehow later groups had failed to find Jackson. Pope decided to attack again, clinging onto the belief that the Confederate army was retreating. He hoped to catch them with Porter attacking on the left and Ricketts, Kearny, and Hooker on the right.

Throughout the morning the battlefield was calm, as the Federal troops were not prepared to attack. The Confederates began to think that there would be no battle that day, but after noon Pope's troops moved forward. It took a long time to maneuver 10,000 men into the proper position. They faced a difficult assignment. They had to march across several hundred yards of open fields, and then attack the Confederates in the unfinished railroad. Although they took heavy casualties in the advance, their attack achieved some success. Charging across the field they drove back the Confederate infantry holding the line. Troops including the Stonewall Brigade were rushed forward to stem the breech, and the fighting was very fierce around the unfinished railroad. The Confederates in several units fired all their ammunition, but they still clung to their line, throwing down stones on the Federals rather than give up their position. A soldier of the Stonewall Brigade wrote:
It was one continuous roar from right to left. My brigade was in a small cut, with a field in front sloping down about four hundred yards to a piece of wood. The enemy would form in the woods and come up the slope in three lines as regular as if on drill, and we would pour volley after volley into them as they came; but they would still advance until within a few yards of us, when they would break and fall back to the woods, where they would rally and come again.
Although they were holding for the moment, their position was far from safe. Lee sent a message to Longstreet ordering him to send a division to reinforce Jackson. Instead, Longstreet ordered that the artillery be opened. Firing into the Federal flank, they soon decimated their formations and sent them running to the rear. They day was saved. Longstreet ordered his men forward, and with a rebel yell they charged, their left guarded by Jackson's tired men. Driving through the Federal troops, they encountered stiffer resistance from McLean's brigade on Chinn Ridge. McLean had only 1200 men, but he held out against two assaults. However, on the third charge he was overpowered and his men were forced to fall back.

Although they had been forced back, Pope had been given more time to organize a defense. The Confederates continued their assaults, and were able to drive back the Federals from their positions, although at a large cost of blood and time. Lee ordered the reserve, Richard Anderson's division, in an attempt to finish off the battle. Anderson's attack created a gap in the Federal battle line, but he did not exploit it, possibly because of the coming darkness. During the night Pope ordered the Federals to fall back. Unlike First Manassas, they retreated in an orderly fashion.
Battle at the Deep Cut - Second Manassas
Lee's army had failed to achieve a complete destruction of Pope's army, but he had still won a great victory. The Confederates had defeated Pope decisively. He had been soundly out generaled by Lee. He blamed the failure on Fitz-John Porter, who was courtmarshaled and found guilty of disobedience. However, fifteen years later he was exonerated of all charges, and it was acknowledged that by his reluctance to attack he prevented an even worse defeat. Pope himself should have borne the blame for his defeat. He lost 1,716 killed, 8,215 wounded and 3,893 missing. Lee had lost 1,305 killed and 7,048 wounded.


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