August 9, 1862
The Battle of Cedar Mountain also called Slaughters Mountain and Cedar Run, was fought on August 9, 1862. Although not an extremely well known battle in the Civil War itself, the battle proved to the Union Commanders that Confederate leader Thomas Stonewall Jackson was a force to be dealt with.
The style of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, new to the Union regimented lines and adherence to discipline on the battlefield, meant that there would be high Union losses from guerrilla-style warfare. What the Union General Pope did in response to this was lure the Confederate troops into the open field which made up the eventual Battle of Cedar Mountain. This tactic worked for a little while until a new fighting style was introduced.
As the battle began the Union almost routed the Confederate line, decimating almost 50% of the Rebel troops and pushing Stonewall Jackson to the brink of retreat. Things looked bleak for the Confederates as the Union disposition was one of utter victory. The turn around came when General Stonewall Jackson personally rode in front of his men shouting for them to rally around him.
This inspired confidence in his men and they were able to reform their lines and counterattack. Startled and surprised the Union troops fought as well as they could but were eventually beaten back into retreat off the field of Cedar Mountain. The tide had turned towards the Confederates and the North was left wondering if they would even be able to run a defensive position.
This was the first battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign for General Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The goal of the Confederates was to free the entire Valley of the Shenadoah, thus paving the way for General Lee’s main army, the Army of Northern Virginia, to rage into Maryland and bring the Civil War to a sudden end.
One of the main stays of the Civil War was that the Union Army always had the upper hand, at this point in the war, and the year being 1862, victory was in question for the Union troops.
Eventually the Confederates would take up defensive positions in and around the Culpeper Courthouse and eventually fall back to the more protected town of Gordonsville. The two sides would eyeball each other for the next two weeks. The tide of the war had changed a bit; it seemed as if the Confederates were gaining the advantage.