A Truce Over the Battlefield; Jackson in Retreat?

August 11, 1862 (Monday)

Both armies still clung to their ground. Union General John Pope’s Army of Virginia stared across the field of bodies towards Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate force. Since the day of the battle, Jackson’s entire force of 21,000 had been on the field. In the days since, Pope’s concentrated force rose to more than double that.

Dead horses on battle field of Cedar Mountain. First position of the Confederate forces, from which they were dislodged.

In a late morning letter to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, Pope made no promises to attack Jackson, believing his adversary to be much stronger than he was. “From everything I can learn,” wrote Pope, “I am satisfied that one-third of the enemy’s whole force is here.” It was almost true, Jackson’s command made up about a third of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. But most, even Pope, gave Lee’s numbers much more credit than they deserved, figuring the Rebels still around Richmond to total 80,000.

Of the battlefield at hand, Pope said little aside from the report that Rebel cavalry under Jeb Stuart had arrived.1 But he needed no spies or scouts to deliver this message to him – officers of his own army had spoken with the Southern cavalier.

Pope had asked Jackson for a two-hour truce starting at noon so that each side may bury their dead. Jackson granted it and, accompanied by Stuart, rode out onto the battlefield. There, officers of both sides talked freely. They spoke of good times together as friends in the old army amidst the carnage and death they had dealt each other only two days ago. Stuart specifically sought out old comrades, and the now-enemies sat down to a long, friendly chat.2

Group, Officers of the 10th Maine on the battle field of Cedar Mountain.

By 2pm, General Nathaniel Banks, commanding one of Pope’s corps, asked for the truce to be extended until 5pm. Again Jackson agreed. Though he would still honor the truce, he used the guarantee to begin his withdraw south, back to Gordonsville. Jackson figured that when the truce was over, or perhaps the following day, Pope, with his superior numbers, would attack him. While this was exactly what Jackson wanted, he did not want it to happen at Cedar Mountain.

The retreat, if such a move can even be called that, was called, “in order to avoid being attacked by the vastly superior force in front of me, and with the hope that by thus falling back General Pope would be induced to follow me until I should be re-enforced.”3

As the end of the truce rolled around, the Rebels were quietly slipping away. When darkness fell over the ground, Jackson ordered an army of campfires to be built, hoping to trick Pope into believing that Jackson had not left the field. Come morning, believed the Rebels, Pope would be in for a surprise.4

Battle Field of Cedar Mountain.

“The enemy has been receiving re-enforcements all day,” wrote Pope to Halleck at 11pm. “Longstreet’s division now on the march from Orange Court-House. I think it almost certain that we shall be attacked in the morning, and we shall make the best fight we can.”

Perhaps Jackson’s firebugs had set too many campfires to burning, causing Pope to lose count and to lose his wits. Longstreet had not (yet) been ordered by Lee to march in support of Jackson, and was still near Richmond. Jackson had received no reinforcements.

Pope, however, was about to. In addition to the wayward division under General Rufus King that had been at Fredericksburg for months, he was looking for more.

Pope suggested to Halleck that the brigade guarding Winchester could be sent to him if troops from Harpers Ferry could take their spot.5 Realizing that the fighting in Western Virginia was devolving into minor scraps and skirmishes, he had been in communication with General Jacob Cox, commanding the Union troops in that part of the state.

When General John C. Fremont had come east to face off against Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, he had left around 10,000 troops under the command of General Cox. Since August 5th, Pope had been trying to convince Halleck that he needed Cox and at least 7,500 of his troops in northern Virginia. Since then, Pope and Cox had been debating which roads to take from Lewisburg to get to Culpeper, a distance of nearly 200 miles across the rugged Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains. This trek, believed Cox, would take at least fifteen days. His alternate idea, however, was to ship his men down the Kanawha, and up the Ohio Rivers to Parkersburg. From there, they would go by train. Though it added 400 miles to the journey, it would shave five days off the travel time.

Jacob Cox

Halleck, on this date, made the decision. Cox would send 5,000 men, roughly half his force, while remaining in Western Virginia with the other half. His route had been accepted, but he was ordered to remain.

“It is the natural wish of every soldier to serve with the largest army in the most important campaign,” wrote Cox in his memoirs. “The order to remain with a diminished command in West Virginia was a great disappointment to me, against which I made haste to protest.”

In two short days, Halleck saw the error of his ways and allowed General Cox to come east with his men.6

By the time Cox and his troops arrived, much would be changed.

  1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 12, Part 3, p560. []
  2. Make Me a Map of the Valley by Jedediah Hotchkiss, Southern Methodist University, 1973. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 12, Part 2, p185. []
  4. Stonewall Jackson by James I. Robertson, Macmillan, 1997. []
  5. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 12, Part 3, p561. []
  6. Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Volume 1 by Jacob Dolson Cox, 1900. []
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A Truce Over the Battlefield; Jackson in Retreat? by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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2 thoughts on “A Truce Over the Battlefield; Jackson in Retreat?

  1. Eric: Just got back from a vacation at Myrtle Beach. I left the I-Pad at home, so when I got back my in-box was crammed with mail. I deleted almost all of it except for the “Eric’s”. I have been home for a week and have finally caught back up with you.

    I have been following you since last November and Iam thoroughly enjoying your efforts and look forwards to reading them. -Mac

    1. Thanks, Mac! I really do appreciate it. Hope your trip to Myrtle Beach was a fine one. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the Atlantic.

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