Tuesday, August 21, 2012

150 Anniversary: The Battle of Cedar Mountain, Virginia

The Battle of Cedar Mountain [Cedar Run], took place on August 9, 1862, in Culpeper CountyVirginiaUnion forces under Major General Nathaniel P. Banks attacked Rebel forces under Maj. Gen. Thomas J.  Jackson near Cedar Mountain as the Confederates marched northward toward Culpeper Court House.  Jackson's force was to deter the Federal seizure of the junction of railroads at Gordonsville.  Fought late in the day  Banks' troops nearly drove the Confederates from the field. Reinforced, the Confederates counterattacked and broke the Union lines. 
On June 26, Major General John Pope received command of the newly created Army of Virginia which were three corps that had been independent until that point.   On the western flank, under Major General Franz Sigel, was positioned at Sperryville located in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  On the eastern flank, under under Major General Irvin McDowell, was located, across from Fredericksburg,  at Falmouth on the Rappahannock River.  The center, under Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, was situated in the northern part of Culpeper County.  A brigade of Banks's corps, Brigadier General Samuel W. Crawford's brigade and Brigadier General John P. Hatch's cavalry, were stationed about 20 miles beyond the Union line, at Culpeper Court House.

General Robert E. Lee responded to Pope's dispositions by dispatching Major General T. J. Jackson with 14,000 men to Gordonsville on July 13 and  later reinforcing with another division of  10,000 men under Major General Ambrose  P.  Hill.  On the morning of August 9, Jackson's army crossed to the Rapidan River into Culpeper County with Major General Richard S. Ewell's division leading.  Brigadier General Charles S. Winder's division followed by Hill's division acting as a reserve.

At about 5pm, near the end of the initial artillery barrage by both Federals and Confederates, Confederate Brigadier General Charles S. Winder, who had been ill the entire day,  attempted to direct his troops and was struck by a shell. Winder's left arm and side were shredded. He died a few hours later.  The Stonewall Brigade had come up and was then swept aside by Crawford's troops.  As the artillery batteries were on the verge of being captured Jackson ordered them withdrawn.  Taliaferro and Early's troops were devastatingly hit by the Federal volleys and broke.

Jackson rode to that part of the field and came upon the Stonewall Brigade finally being brought up to reinforce the retreating line.  He attempted to brandish his sword but it had rusted in its scabbard. He unbuckled the sword from his belt, waved the scabbard over his head then grabbed a  flag from the retreating color guard. The Stonewall Brigade and portions of other regiments challenged by Jackson launched into the Federal troops.  As other Confederate regiments came forth and as there were no Federal troops in reserve, Jackson prevailed that day. Within three weeks, the battles of Brawner's Farm, Second Manassas and Chantilly would be fought. 

On the 150th anniversary of the battle a seminar was held at Germanna Community College and on the Cedar Mountain battlefield. Topics included the creation of the Federal Army of Virginia and its assigned task, the Stonewall Brigade, the 10th Maine Regiment, and the preservation of the battled.  National Park rangers extensively discussed the battle's action.  Their presentation was in a auditorium during the day and the battled during the evening. 

Text and Images by Civil War Librarian. The top image shows in the foreground the approximate site of the mortal wounding of Winder.  Approximately 100 to 200 yards to the rear of the wayside marker is the location of Jackson's rallying with scabbard and starry banner the troops.

No comments: