The Second Battle of Bull Run: Summary & Facts

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  • 0:55 Summer of 1862
  • 2:37 Prelude to Battle
  • 3:37 August 28, 29, and 30, 1862
  • 5:52 Union Defeat
  • 6:30 Confederate Victory
  • 7:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Daniel Vermilya
Second Battle of Bull Run was fought on August 28 and 29, 1862. It was a major Confederate victory that gave Robert E. Lee the momentum necessary to push north into Northern terrritory. There were over 22,000 combined casualties during the battle.

Bull Run

In July 1861, the first major battle of the American Civil War was fought near Manassas Junction in Northern Virginia. It was named after a nearby creek, Bull Run. On July 21st, 1861, there were over 5,000 casualties at the First Battle of Bull Run. For many, this battle is among the most famous of the Civil War. Yet, in importance, size and ferocity, the First Battle of Bull Run was eclipsed by what happened in August of 1862, when Union and Confederate troops again met in battle on the same fields. The Second Battle of Bull Run stands as one of the most thorough Confederate victories of the American Civil War, and it also saw some of the fiercest combat and highest casualties of any battle during America's bloodiest war.

Summer of 1862

During the summer of 1862, Union forces, under the command of Major General George Brinton McClellan, were moving against Richmond, Virginia - the Confederate capital. McClellan had spent months in late 1861 and early 1862 preparing for his campaign. Yet, once in Virginia, McClellan's campaign hit numerous snags. In the month of June, once Federal forces were bogged down, President Abraham Lincoln decided a new army needed to be built. By July, Major General John Pope had been put in command of the Union Army of Virginia, a force which was to move south into the state of Virginia to put pressure on Confederates. By August, McClellan's army was recalled from the Virginia Peninsula, signaling that Pope's army would be the primary force in the state.

Near Richmond, Confederate forces had undergone their own changes during the summer of 1862. In June, Robert E. Lee took command of what became known as the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee proceeded to lead that army to victory, pushing back McClellan's army.

Once Richmond had been saved, Lee turned north, turning his full attention to John Pope. Upon taking command, Pope had issued a series of inflammatory orders and statements about taking the war to the enemy. These angered Lee and the other Confederates, strengthening their resolve to defeat the new Union commander. Confederates first engaged part of Pope's army at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9th, where famed Confederate General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, better known as 'Stonewall' Jackson, roundly defeated Union troops.

Prelude to Battle

Following Cedar Mountain, Jackson and the rest of Lee's army began moving toward Northern Virginia. Lee devised a plan where he would outflank his opponent. He sent half of his army (under the command of Jackson) and cavalry (under Major General Jeb Stuart) north to cut off Pope's communications with Washington. Lee hoped this move would either force Pope back to Washington or lead to a Confederate victory. It ultimately did both.

By late August, Jackson had reached Manassas Junction, capturing and destroying Federal supply trains meant for Pope's army. In response, Pope moved in on Jackson, hoping to smash the Confederate force. Jackson would once again be put to the test. Eleven months earlier, at the First Battle of Bull Run, Jackson gained his immortal nickname, 'Stonewall,' by his brave actions. Now, Bull Run - the small stream running near Manassas Junction - would once again witness a great battle of the American Civil War.

August 28, 29 and 30, 1862

On August 28th, near Brawner Farm, elements of Pope's army came into contact with Jackson's men. A fierce firefight broke out. While it didn't last very long - as it began late in the day and ended with nightfall - the clash was extremely fierce. It was a prelude for what was to come the next two days.

On August 29th, Jackson's Confederates were in a defensive position just north of the old First Bull Run battlefield. They were in a defensive line near the Sudley Church, using an old rail road cut for defense. A portion of this rail cut was forever known as the 'Deep Cut,' for the unique terrain and the ferocity of fighting that took place there. Part of Jackson's line was also on a hill known as 'Stony Ridge.' Knowing that the Confederates were still on the field, John Pope decided to attack on August 29th. By this time, portions of McClellan's army from the Virginia Peninsula had joined Pope, boosting Federal strength.

Throughout the 29th, Federals launched numerous assaults on the Confederate line. Time and again, Union soldiers attacked only to be repulsed with terrible losses. Confederates would launch occasional counterattacks against the Union lines, only to be stopped and pushed back. The fighting raged and wavered across the battlefield for many hours, seeing thousands of casualties fall. By the late afternoon, the rest of Lee's army had arrived on the battlefield. Rather than engaging, though, the recently arrived Confederates largely held back.

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