The Democratic Banner had predicted that a major clash was coming between forces commanded by Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson and the new Union Army of Virginia under Gen. John Pope.
In the Aug. 19 issue, the Banner reported on a clash at Cedar Mountain, about eight miles south of Culpeper Court House, between forces under Jackson and a portion of Pope’s army under Gen. Nathaniel Banks. It was not the big showdown that had been predicted, but it was a sharp fight in which Jackson was almost defeated by a force half the size of his own.
Pope had spread his forces out along the Rapidan River and Jackson was looking for a way to take on a portion of them, when his infantry encountered Union cavalry near Cedar Mountain, also known as Slaughter Mountain.
An artillery duel ensued until about 5 p.m. when Banks, outnumbered 22,000 to 12,000, launched two attacks, one of which shattered Jackson’s left wing. Jackson’s personal efforts to rally his troops, plus the timely arrival of A.P. Hill’s Division, shoved Banks’ troops back.
The result of the day was indecisive, but the fight was noteworthy for a couple items: The beginning of the stormy relationship between Stonewall Jackson and Gen. A.P. Hill, and the image of Jackson, waving his sword to rally his troops, with the sword still in the scabbard because it had rusted.
Hill had practically reached the point of a duel with Gen. James Longstreet, so Gen. Lee transferred Hill’s unit to Jackson’s corps. The Hill-Jackson relationship was almost as stormy, although Hill and his “Light Division” (actually the largest in the Confederate Army) served with Jackson until Jackson’s death in May of 1863.
Of course, the readers of the Banner didn’t know that. They couldn’t Google “Cedar Mountain” and read the concise summary by the National Park Service.
What they had was a long report by a Philadelphia newspaper reporter and Gen. Pope’s after-action report.
The Banner’s summary of the clash was only a paragraph long: “The most important event of the past week was the great battle near Culpepper Court House, Va., between Pope and Jackson. ... The first report that reached us respecting this battle looked as though the Federal forces had the worst of the engagement, but subsequent advices showed that the rebels fell back toward Richmond, hotly pursued by our troops. The loss was heavy on both sides.”
For the rest of the story
The rest of this article is available to Mount Vernon News subscribers. To continue reading, please log in or purchase a subscription. Click here for the August 28, 2012 e-edition. The article will only be available for thirty (30) days.