The Marching and Fury of Jackson and Hill; Sigel “Slow and Stupid”

August 8, 1862 (Friday)

Stonewall Jackson slept little the previous night. He had tried to get some rest on a stile in the streets of Orange Court House, but then moved to the house of a local.1 At some point, possibly between the stile and the house, Jackson issued marching orders for the morning. They were to cover roughly twenty miles to Culpeper Court House.

General A.P. Hill

The orders to get them there were fairly simple. General Richard Ewell’s Division would take the lead, moving a few miles west of Orange, through the town and then north, while A.P. Hill’s Division would follow. Bringing up the rear, would be the division commanded by General Charles Winder, who was now well enough to make the march (though he personally wouldn’t catch up until later in the day). They would head north, crossing the Rapidan at Barnett’s Ford.

But then, for reasons never quite given, but probably to shorten Ewell’s route, Jackson changed his mind. Instead of reissuing written orders, he sent an aide to Ewell with verbal orders to reroute the troops and never bothered to let either Hill or Winder know of the changes. All of a sudden, Ewell was to first march west to Liberty Mills, and then northeast along the Rapidan River to Barnett’s Ford, where he’d meet the rest of Jackson’s army, purportedly taking the lead at that point.

The original stepping off time had been just after dawn. Ewell stepped off at 4am and was long gone by the time the rest of the army was awake. General Hill, having no idea that Ewell’s Division had already left, formed his troops to fall in as second in line behind Ewell. As they were readying, Hill could see a column of infantry moving out of Orange. This, he surmised, was Ewell’s troops moving north out of town. He would fall in behind them, as Jackson had originally ordered.

As the center of the long column passed, Hill discovered that these were not Ewell’s troops at all, but Winder’s. Since Winder was to fall in behind him, Hill had no idea what was going on. But soon it was discovered that Ewell had left hours ago, heading west under a mysterious change of plans. None of this made any sense at all.

Ewell, with much less hair than depicted, was the only one to receive the new orderes.

Hill could either split Winder’s column (which would create even more confusion), rush his own troop around Winder’s (which would exhaust his men), or simply fall in behind Winder. The latter was the easiest, but it was contrary to Jackson’s orders, as Winder was to bring up the rear.2

During this confusion, Jackson noticed that Hill’s troops were not moving and rode over to Hill to ask why. Around two hours had passed since Hill was supposed to be on the road and Jackson was furious. Hill, also furious, spat out only that he was waiting for Winder to pass. Jackson, believing that Hill was completely to blame since he only assumed that the troops had been Ewell’s, stormed off in a rage.

Just when Hill was about to fall in behind Winder, he was met by the wagon trains. This threw him as he believed that Jackson didn’t want any wagons to accompany the army at all. And so he remained in Orange, waiting for the long, slow wagon train to inch north out of town and marched only two miles that day.

Ewell, on the other hand, was steadily moving northeast on the western bank of the Rapidan, while Jackson’s cavalry protected his left flank. The troopers pushed aside some Federal cavalry under General John Buford, who offered little stiff resistance. The troops under Ewell reached Burnett’s Ford and turned north, crossing Robertson’s River before halting after noon to wait for the rest of Jackson’s Army as the temperatures climbed into the mid 90s.

This is sort of a crappy depiction of the marching routes of the armies.

Jackson himself took lead of Winder’s Division, crossed the Rapidan at Burnett’s Ford, and found Ewell at rest in the afternoon. There, he decided to stay. As reports of the numerous cavalry clashes filtered into headquarters, Jackson realized that his adversary, General John Pope, knew he was coming.3

Pope, heading the Union Army of Virginia, had known that Jackson was on the move before Jackson was even on the move. But just where he was going, Pope could not tell. According to cavalry reports, Jackson had split his forces, sending some towards Madison, and others towards Culpeper. Wanting to keep a connection with Fredericksburg, Pope decided that no matter where Jackson was headed, he (Pope) needed to be in Culpeper.

To assist General Baylor’s cavalry, being pushed back by the Rebels, Pope sent General Samuel Crawford’s Brigade to Cedar Mountain, a 600 foot high hill between Culpeper and Orange. He also sent orders to Generals Nathaniel Banks and Franz Sigel to converge upon Culpeper.4

While Sigel was neither slow nor stupid, he wasn't such a great general.

The Federals were having marching problems of their own. General Sigel, who had received the order to march by noon (at the very latest), was unsure of which road to take from Sperryville to Culpeper. A quick glance at a map, however, might have shown him that there was but one road between the two towns. Rather than taking it, Sigel simply decided not to move at all, but to send a message to Pope at Culpeper asking which road to take. According to one of Sigel’s colleges, the General “remained like an ass between two bundles of hay in a state of perfect rest.”

When Pope received the message (around 6:30pm), sent by a courier who had just been dispatched by Sigel down the only road to Culpeper, he was livid. In a fit of fierce anger, he tore up the message, called Sigel “slow and stupid,” and ordered him to march through the night to make up for the time. Pope also made it a point that they should be well stocked with their own rations.5

Both Pope and Jackson would resume their strange little marches the following dawn.

The armies are about to collide.

  1. Make Me a Map of the Valley by Jedediah Hotchkiss, Southern Methodist University, 1973. []
  2. Stonewall Jackson by James I. Robertson, MacMillan, 1997. []
  3. Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain by Robert K. Krick, University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Krick goes into great detail over the argument, and if you’re interested in it, it’s probably something you should read. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 12, Part 2, p24-25. []
  5. Yankee Dutchman: The Life of Franz Sigel by Stephen D. Engle, Louisiana State University, 1999. []
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The Marching and Fury of Jackson and Hill; Sigel “Slow and Stupid” by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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