JEB Stuart & the 2nd Manassas Prequel
Opening a new campaign in August of 1862, the Army of Northern Virginia began shifting columns of butternut northwest of the Peninsula to tend to a completely new threat marching boldly out of Washington City. Major General John Pope had just been brought in from the Western Theatre and now commanded the new Army of Virginia, determined to strike the capital at Richmond from the north.
The cavalry division under Major General James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart set out one week following the engagement at Slaughter Mountain for Raccoon Ford on the Rappahannock River, the brigade of Fitzhugh Lee crossing the river ahead of Stuart.
The cavalry commander repaired to Verdierville having received instructions to attack General Pope's line of communications, and quietly passed the night upon the porch of a house along the rode he expected to hear from Lee on. Awoken early in the morning by the sounds of wagons and horses, he was startled at the site of two of his officers in flight towards him, being pursued by the blue coats. With no time to dress, General Stuart, Major Von Borcke and Lieutenant Dabney of his staff mounted and leaped the fence in the yard making a rapid escape. Captured instead were the plumed hat and overcoat of the Confederate Cavalry Commander.
The rebel horse soldiers would continue to probe and clash with elements of Pope's Army and in forcing a passage at Freeman's Ford on the Rappahannock River, once again hit the rear guard at mid morning on the 22nd of August. Later that evening, a negro had recognized General Stuart and directed him on the position of Major General Pope's headquarters tent.
Colonel W. H. F. Lee was selected to launch a mounted raid against the headquarters capturing both staff officers and select items of the major general's personal baggage. As the day dawned on the 23rd, Major Goulding of Pope's staff was captured along with horses, some chests of money, the general's uniforms and personal baggage, but yet the greatest importance became that of the commanding general's dispatch book. The information found within gave the Army of Northern Virginia the understanding of both the strength and movements of his army.
The intelligence was key in setting up the Army of Virginia's ultimate demise, which would spark the beginning of the Second Battle of Manassas as the Confederate Second Army Corps drew Pope into battle along the Warrenton Turnpike at a place called Brawner Farm on August 28th.
In one short week in August 1862, Stuart and Pope exchanged gifts among each other, both of which were highly prized by the captor. When the final chapter of the great campaign was written however, the cloak and hat symbolized nothing more than a leader caught off guard, while the dispatches battered a defeated army and extinguished two more dazzling stars in the eastern theatre forever.
Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at email@example.com