Thursday, February 3, 2011

Missed It By That Much

Manassas National Battlefield Picture 51

2nd Manassas is a somewhat overlooked battle in the American Civil War. That is a shame, because it provides a compelling drama in the brilliance of General Lee’s leadership, contrasted sharply with the utter incompetence of General Pope on the Union Side. This richly detailed account gets deep into the weeds of regimental level troop movements, but does so in a way that maintains a focus on the fact that these are real live people fighting and dying on the battlefield.

I never really understood 2nd Manassas prior to the book. It doesn’t have that one majestic battle that is associated with the more famous Civil War events. Instead, it is comprised of clashes set over several days. Lee just misses the chance to destroy the Union Army here. It is amazing how often the survival of either the Union or CSA armies in this war came down to a matter of just a few minutes. Both sides missed numerous chances to end this war years before the final surrender at Appomattox. A delay of less than 1 hour by Jackson on the final day may have cost Lee a chance to pin the Union Army in, and destroy it. Who knows what the US would be like today if that had happened.

Even though this campaign is a resounding victory for Lee, it is a victory at a steep cost. The losses and attrition resulting from the battle, and the march through Manassas to Maryland, would severely impact Lee’s ability to achieve victory at Antietam later in the fall.

Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of 2nd Manassas