The stage is set for the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, on this day when Confederate cavalry under General Fitzhugh Lee enter Manassas Junction and capture the rail center. Union General John Pope’s Army of Virginia was soon on its way, and the two armies would clash on August 29.
In August 1862, the action shifted from the James Peninsula, southeast of Richmond, to northern Virginia. The peninsula had been the scene of a major campaign in June, when Union General George McClellan and his Army of the Potomac attempted to capture Richmond, but were thwarted by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the Seven Days’ Battles.
By August, it was clear that McClellan would not make another attempt on the Confederate capital. President Abraham Lincoln began moving troops from McClellan’s force to General John Pope’s Army of Virginia in the northern part of the state. Lee sent one of his corps, commanded by General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, to keep an eye on the growing Federal presence.
Pope’s army was scattered around the area east of Washington, D.C., from Manassas to the Shenandoah Valley. Approaching the area with the intent of driving Pope away, Jackson and his force captured Bristoe Station southwest of Manassas. On August 26, the Confederates captured Manassas and began looting and destroying Pope’s huge supply depot located there. Pope was surprised by the large Rebel force operating in his rear, but he also realized that Jackson was detached from the rest of Lee’s army and so he began gathering his forces around Manassas.
But Pope soon had a new problem: He could not find Jackson. From August 26 until the beginning of Second Bull Run on August 29, Pope’s men searched for Jackson, who had hidden his army in the trees along Bull Run. On August 29, Jackson surprised Pope and the battle was on. The rest of Lee’s army showed up, and the result was a major victory for the Confederacy.