restricted access Chapter 1. Prelude: Maneuvering to Battle
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Chapter 1 Prelude: Maneuvering to Battle In May and June 1862, as Major General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac advanced up the Virginia Peninsula toward Richmond, there were additional Union forces in central and western Virginia that were available to assist him. A force of fifteen thousand troops under the command of Major General John C. Fremont was positioned west of the Shenandoah Valley; Major General Nathaniel P. Banks commanded a force of eighteen thousand in the Shenandoah Valley; and just fifty miles north of Richmond, in the vicinity of Fredericksburg, Major General Irvin McDowell commanded a force of thirty thousand. McClellan had planned for McDowell’s force to move south from Fredericksburg as his army move up the Peninsula. He envisioned that McDowell would make contact with his right flank and extend his army’s position east and northeast of Richmond to the north and northwest side of the Confederate capital. This would add a substantial number of troops to McClellan’s operation, cut Richmond’s railroad connection to the Shenandoah Valley, and stretch the defenders very thin in occupying their defensive positions. However, any plans for the use of these forces went awry when Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in mid-May unleashed his force against Banks in the 1862 Valley campaign and took his small army all the way to the Potomac River. Not sure of Jackson’s size and if he intended to continue on into Maryland or turn toward Washington, D.C., the forces of Fremont and McDowell were sent to aid Banks. This resulted Prelude 2 in McDowell’s force being sent to the west from Fredericksburg rather than south to link up with McClellan. General Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1. In late June he brought Jackson’s force to the area northeast of Richmond and with this combined force initiated a series of battles (Seven Days Battles) that drove McClellan’s army across the Peninsula to Harrison’s Landing on the James River. Lee began reorganizing his army after the Seven Days. It would eventually be divided it into two commands or wings (designated “corps” in early November 1862) under Major General James Longstreet and Major General Thomas J. Jackson. On June 26, 1862, the three separate forces of Fremont, Banks, and McDowell were organized into the Army of Virginia and placed under the command of Major General John Pope. Fremont’s force became the army’s First Corps with Major General Franz Sigel replacing Fremont. Major Generals Banks and McDowell’s forces became the army’s Second and Third Corps with both generals remaining in command. Executive Mansion Washington, D.C., June 26, 1862 Ordered, 1st. The forces under Major-Generals Fremont, Banks, and McDowell, including the troops now under Brigadier General Sturgis at Washington, shall be consolidated and form one army, to be called the Army of Virginia. 2d. The command of the Army of Virginia is specially assigned to Maj. Gen. John Pope, as commanding general. The troops of the Mountain Department, heretofore under command of General Fremont, shall constitute the First Army Corps, under the command of General Fremont; the troops of the Shenandoah Department, now under General Banks, shall constitute the Second Army Corps, and be commanded by him; the troops under the command of General McDowell, except those within the fortifications and city of Washington, shall form the Third Army Corps, and be under his command. 3d. The Army of Virginia shall operate in such manner as, while protecting Western Virginia and the national capital from danger or insult , it shall in the speediest manner attack and overcome the rebel forces Prelude 3 under Jackson and Ewell, threaten the enemy in the direction of Charlottesville , and render the most effective aid to relieve General McClellan and capture Richmond. 4th. When the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Virginia shall be in position to communicate and directly co-operate at or before Richmond the chief command, while so operating together, shall be governed, as in like cases, by the Rules and Articles of War. LINCOLN (The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies [Washington, D.C., 1880–1901], ser. 1, vol. 12, pt. 3, p. 435 [hereafter cited as OR, followed by volume number , part number, and pages].) Pope’s mission was overcome by events when Jackson’s force was secretly moved to join Lee...


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