The Battle of Second Manassas: Brawner’s Farm

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series The Northern Virginia Campaign
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The Battle of

Second Manassas:

Brawner’s Farm

The culmination of General Robert E. Lee’s campaign against Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia took place at the Battle of Second Manassas. The Union Army named it Second Bull Run for the creek that ran through the battlefield, while the Confederates named it for the nearest town, Manassas. I have chosen to refer to it as Second Manassas, since the Confederates were the victors.

The battle was actually a series of engagements that began on August 28, 1862 and ended with Maj. Gen. James Longstreet’s 5 division assault on August 30th that crushed the Union left flank. There were approximately 62,000 Union troops and 50,000 Confederate troops engaged in this three day battle.

The action on August 28th began with Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s attack on a Union column marching east along the Warrenton Turnpike. They were just outside of Gainesville in the vicinity of the John Brawner Farm. The Union column consisted of Brig. Gen. Rufus King‘s division and included the brigades of Brig. Gens. John P. HatchJohn GibbonAbner Doubleday, and Marsena R. Patrick.

Click Map to enlarge.

Their goal was to concentrate with the rest of Pope’s army in the Centreville area. King had suffered a severe epileptic seizure earlier in the day and was traveling separately. The column was in marching order as detailed above.

Jackson was concerned that the Union troops would slip past him and link up with Union reinforcements from McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. He therefore determined to attack them. He began his attack with artillery. Patrick’s brigade at the rear of the column took cover while Gibbon’s and Doubleday’s brigades responded to the Confederate attack.

Gibbon’s response was twofold. He ordered his artillery to return fire and brought up the 2nd Wisconsin. He ordered them to proceed up Stony Ridge and disperse the artillery. They were able to disperse the Confederate skirmishers before they were engaged on their right flank by the Stonewall Brigade. Emerging from the woods, the fighting took place in John Brawner’s farm fields.

Reinforcing units began to join each side and lined up in Napoleonic-era style shoulder to shoulder. Jackson took personal command of the action,General John Gibbon adding additional units to fill in his battle line. Gibbon eventually asked Doubleday for assistance and he dispatched two of his regiments to stop the Confederate advance. Horse artillery under Captain John Pelham was ordered forward by Jackson and fired at the 19th Indiana from less than 100 yards.

The fight ended at about 9:00 PM with the Union troops slowly retreating to the edge of the woods. The fighting was inconclusive but the casualties were heavy on both sides with over 1,150 Union and 1,250 Confederate casualties. The 2nd Wisconsin lost 276 of 430 engaged while the Stonewall brigade lost 340 out of 800. Two Georgia regiments, Trimble’s 21st and Lawton’s 26th, each lost more than 70%. In all, one of every three men engaged in the fight was shot.

Jackson had achieved one of his primary strategic objectives, however. He had attracted Pope’s attention who thought that Jackson was retreating from Centreville. He issued orders to his subordinates to surround Jackson and attack him in the morning. Jackson, however, was in a good defensive position and awaited Longstreet’s advance to reinforce him.

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