- 08 Aug 2020 14:47
August 9, Saturday
In Virginia General Stonewall Jackson’s Confederates move north, with Ewell’s division in the lead, followed by Winder’s. Hill pushes his men hard to close the gap created by the confusion yesterday. Once the three divisions link up, they form a column of 24,000 men and 1,200 wagons stretching for seven miles. The cavalry screens the march, steadily pushing back Federal cavalry scouts. It is hot even in the early morning hours. As the temperature rises to near 100 degrees, many men drop of sunstroke. Winder has been taken ill, but is carried on an ambulance alongside his men.
Shortly after noon, a courier informs Jackson that the head of the column has encountered Federals “in strong force” on the Culpeper road. Jackson rides forward to confer with Ewell. As he does so, Federal artillery opens up on Ewell’s lead brigade. This unit, under the command of Brigadier General Jubal A. Early, is currently marching along the western slope of Cedar Mountain, a low, mile-long ridge. Jackson, moving quickly to secure the dominant terrain of Cedar Mountain, orders Ewell to anchor his artillery on the northern end of the mountain. Ewell deploys Early’s brigade to face the center of the Federal line, arrayed behind a ridge to the north of Cedar Run. On the far right, at the foot of Cedar Mountain, Ewell stations his other two brigades. Next to come up is Charles Winder, who leaves his ambulance against doctor’s orders and positions his division to the left of Ewell, covering what appears to be the Federal right. In a potentially fatal oversight, two Union brigades go undetected opposite the Confederate left flank. The Federals are concealed in thick woods beyond a wheat field northwest of the Culpeper road. Since Jackson anticipates action to his right, the Confederates along the road are facing southeast—away from the unseen enemy. By midafternoon, Ewell’s and Winder’s lines stretch from the northern tip of Cedar Mountain to the woods along the Culpeper road. To the rear lies Hill’s Light Division, ready to move in any direction.
At this juncture, the Federals are greatly outnumbered by Jackson’s command. Only one complete Federal corps, Banks’s, is on hand to meet the threat. On his left, facing Ewell, Banks has three brigades. On the Federal right, across the road, are two more brigades. Brigadier General Samuel W. Crawford’s 1,700 men, concealed in the thick woods beyond the wheat field, are the closest to the enemy, with more troops to their right and rear. Though other units are coming up, the Federals have no more than 9,000 men immediately available—about 12,000 less than the Confederates. Yet in spite of that, orders were issued that lead to a Federal attack. Early this morning, General Pope had dispatched one of his aides, Colonel Louis Marshall—a nephew of Robert E. Lee—with verbal orders for Banks at his Culpeper headquarters. According to Banks, Marshall gave his instructions to “assume command of all the forces in the front, deploy his skirmishers if the enemy approaches, and attack him immediately as soon as he approaches.” Banks then left Culpeper for the field, and his artillery went into action as soon as Jackson’s vanguard came within range.
By 4:30 in the afternoon, cannon fire on both sides has intensified. Ewell’s batteries at the mountain and Winder’s on the left draw heavy and accurate fire from the ridge north of Cedar Run. Winder’s chief of artillery is hit and gravely wounded as he tries to move some smoothbores toward the front. Winder himself is standing behind one of his batteries, selecting targets for his gunners, when a bursting shell mangles his left arm and rips open his left side. As Winder’s staff officers try frantically to get him medical aid, a rider gallops through the trees with an urgent message from Early; a Federal column has been spotted on their extreme left. Winder is carried to the rear; the brave and talented Marylander will die in the evening of his wounds. Command of his division devolves upon Brigadier General William Taliaferro, who is ignorant of Jackson’s battle plan.
When Jackson is informed of Winder’s mortal wound, he hurries to Garnett’s brigade, the northernmost Confederate unit. The general warns Garnett to watch out for his exposed left flank. Taliaferro receives no warning, but he spots the Federal column to his left and makes a desperate attempt to pivot his defense line to face the threat from the northeast. Suddenly, at 5 pm, Crawford’s Federals emerge from the far woods and charge through the newly cut wheat field, dotted with neat shocks. Although Taliaferro’s brigade is not yet prepared to make a strong stand against the onrushing enemy, Garnett’s Confederates to the north manage to unleash some deadly volleys. Still, three of Crawford’s regiments cross a rail fence, charge into the woods along the road, and cave in three successive Confederate lines. Hand-to-hand fighting rages through the woods, with little quarter asked or given. Before long, all three of the brigades along the Culpeper road are routed, including the vaunted Stonewall Brigade. Confederate artillerymen limber up their guns and gallop to the rear to escape capture. The entire left flank of Jackson’s command has been outflanked and unhinged.
At almost the same time, Early’s brigade is being turned by Federals who have moved down the Culpeper road and deployed in open fields opposite the Confederate right. A rider races back to Jackson with the grim news. Alarmed, Jackson gallops to the front through heavy cannonading and past shattered regiments streaming to the rear. He jerks a battle flag from a color-bearer’s hand, waves it above his head, and shouts for the men to rally. Returning the flag to the color-bearer, he reaches down to draw his sword. As it happens, Jackson so rarely draws his sword that it has rusted into its scabbard. No matter, Jackson quickly unhooks the scabbard, waves the sheathed sword over his head, and leads his men forward.
As defeated units rally and their officers regain control, Jackson gallops back to the rear to urge A.P. Hill’s division, acting as the reserve, into the battle. He first encounters troops commanded by Brigadier General Lawrence O’Bryan Branch and orders him to push forward. Branch’s men, already in a line of battle, advance and within one hundred yards encounter the routed Stonewall Brigade. Pushing on, they soon run into some of Crawford’s Federals in hot pursuit and after a brief melee push them back through the woods along the road and into the open wheat field. By now, the rest of Hill’s 12,000-man division is reaching the front and advance into battle, brigade by brigade. Though Federal reinforcements are on the way from Culpeper, they will arrive much too late to save Crawford’s brigade. By the time the survivors disengage, it has lost nearly 50 percent of its strength—494 men killed or wounded and 373 missing. One regiment, the 28th New York, has lost 17 of its 18 officers.
Despite the terrible toll, some Federals on Banks’s crumbling right flank still beat desperately against the Confederate counterattack. Brigadier General George Bayard orders a squadron of cavalry to charge straight into Branch’s oncoming battle line. Of the 164 Federal horsemen, all but 71 are killed or wounded. But their bravery buys enough time for the infantry and artillery to fall back, rally, and resume the fight. The Union’s General Gordon advances his brigade into the wheat field to cover Crawford’s retreat. Most of Gordon’s units are driven back, but the men of the 2nd Massachusetts hold. Outnumbered 3 to 1, they put up a stiff fight until one of Hill’s brigades strikes the regiment’s right flank and they are caught in a deadly crossfire. Their heavy losses notwithstanding, the 2nd Massachusetts is one of the last Federal units to retreat this day.
Late in the afternoon, General Hill prepares to lead the final Confederate assault. He takes off his jacket, revealing the red battle shirt that identifies him to his troops. Then he draws his saber and waves his men forward all along the line from the woods north of the wheat field to the Culpeper road. The Federal line crumbles and gives way. By 6:30, after little over an hour of bloody action, the victory is complete. Jackson still is not satisfied; he orders Hill to continue the chase. But darkness and exhaustion slow the Confederates, and at last, as they advance to within seven miles of Culpeper, their drive is brought to a halt by a fresh division of Federal troops. Sometime after 11 pm, Jackson decides to hazard no more in the darkness and orders the troops to bivouac on the ground. He himself rides back through the field just fought over and now silent except for the groans of the wounded, finds a little grass plot, and falls asleep on a spread cloak.
Cedar Mountain, also known as Slaughter Mountain, Cedar Run, Cedar Run Mountain, or Southwest Mountain, is an ugly little battle, badly mismanaged on both sides. It costs Jackson 1,341 casualties of his 16,800 men. Banks suffers 314 killed, 1,445 wounded, and 622 missing for 2,381 of the 8,000 engaged—nearly 30 percent of his corps. Banks later denies that he ordered the costly premature attack. General Pope claims that he intended for Banks to remain on the defensive until General Sigel’s corps arrived. In any case, Pope has contributed heavily to the confusion by sending Colonel Marshall to Banks with verbal orders that were easily misunderstood. General Jackson has not done much better himself. His orders have been vague, and the day lost in the confused march from Gordonsville gave Banks a chance to improve his position. Once the battle was joined at Cedar Mountain, Jackson failed to anticipate the danger on his left and made a faulty disposition of his forces; his men had to fight furiously to redeem the situation against a greatly outnumbered foe.
Still, Lee’s cautious but opportunistic leadership is beginning to produce results. Though his army is still being reorganized, he has indeed taken the fight to the enemy.
In Missouri there are skirmishes at Walnut Creek, Sears’ Ford on the Chariton River, and at Salem; in Louisiana at Donaldsonville.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, Confederate General Kirby Smith begins to put his plan to invade Kentucky into effect. Ostensibly describing his implementation of the agreement he made with General Bragg during their meeting on July 31, he details his preparations for moving against Morgan. Then comes at artful qualification: “I understand General Morgan has at Cumberland Gap nearly a month’s supply of provisions. If this be true then the reduction of the place would be a matter of more time than I presume you are willing I should take. As my move direct to Lexington, Kentucky, would effectually invest Morgan and would be attended with other most brilliant results in my judgment, I suggest I be allowed to take that course.” Bragg, reluctant to countermand Kirby Smith, accedes with a minor reservation. “It would be unadvisable, I think, for you to move far into Kentucky, leaving Morgan in your rear, until I am able to fully engage Buell and his forces on your left.” With these words, Bragg loses control of his campaign before it begins.
Recruiting in the North continues at a rapid pace although there are reports of individuals mutilating themselves to avoid the proposed militia draft and others attempting to flee to Canada.
“Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.”