Monday, August 20, 2012

Lee Moves Against Pope

This post is a few days behind our normal schedule, our apologies for the delay.
Northern Virginia Campaign

While Jackson was facing Pope north of Richmond, Lee was still facing the army of McClellan along the James River. However, 150 years ago today, Lee decided to shift his entire army to face Pope. He had guessed the Federal intentional correctly, that McClellan's forces were being shifted from the Peninsula to reinforce Pope. McClellan had protested this movement strongly. He thought that the government in Washington was abandoning a strong position. However, he had fallen out of favor since his defeat in the Seven Days campaign, and the movement would continue even over his objections. >

When Lee reunited his army in front of Pope, he called a council of war to decide on the plan of attack. Looking at a map, it was seen that Pope had gotten himself in a bad position. His men were in the peninsula formed by the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers, and if Lee could suprise him, he might be able to destroy him by driving him against the rivers. The plan was to send Stuart's cavalry to destroy the bridges over the rivers, cutting off Pope's escape route and then quickly cross with the infantry and move in to destroy him. >
Stuart, plumed hat in hand

However, it did not work out quite as the Confederates planned. Instead of Stuart launching his raid in secrecy, he himself was raided. Early on the morning of August 18th Stuart was awoken by pickets announcing that cavalry were riding towards his headquarters. Fitz Lee's rebel troopers were expected to arrive from the same direction, but when Stuart rode out to check them out, he realized they were Federals. The Yankee cavalry opened fire, and Stuart wheeled his horse around and galloped off. Jumping a fence he was able to ride to safety, but the Federals were able to capture his headquarters, securing his flamboyant hat and cape, and, more importantly, dispatches from Lee detailing the plan to cut of Pope's retreat. With this information, which corroborated reports from other spys, Pope soon ordered a retreat, and was able to cross the rivers before Lee had a chance to strike.


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