The Civil War – General Lee heads North

Submitted by C.J. Johnson

In Central Tennessee and Kentucky, Confederate forces were working to push Union troops out the area. About 19,000 Rebel troops under the command of General Edmund Kirby Smith were headed toward Lexington, Kentucky, gathering supplies along the way. They came up Union troops, under the command of General Mahlon D. Manson, on high ground along the Kentucky River, just outside Richmond, Kentucky. This would be the first battle in the Confederate Kentucky campaign of 1862.

The Battle of Richmond Association states that the Battle of Richmond “was the second largest Civil War battle in Kentucky, and was the most overwhelming Confederate victory in the entire Civil War.”

Manson’s force didn’t get the orders to fall back to the river with the rest of the Federal troops. On the morning of August 30, Rebels met Manson’s 6,500 troops, which included a large number of new, untested men. The Yankees were initially routed; they fell back and counterattacked, but were pushed back again. Confederates pursued and defeated Union troops at Richmond, capturing more than 4,300 of the 6,500 troops including Manson and his staff.

Rebel casualties were minimal. Smith would continue moving north. Two days later, Lexington was captured by the Confederates.

Back in Virginia, on August 30 (the third day of the 2nd Battle of Bull Run) defeated Union troops retreated to Centreville. Lee ordered his army to pursue the Federal forces, wanting to have the Union troops falling back into Washington, D. C. On the 31st, Lee ordered Stonewall Jackson to pursue and engage part of the retreating force, before they arrived at the defensive positions of Washington.

Union General Pope’s men abandoned their position at Centerville, when Jackson’s forces moved north of the city. In the middle of a driving, late summer afternoon thunderstorm, a Union division engaged Jackson’s forces near Chantilly, Virginia. After an initial attack, two Union leaders were killed. Casualties were 700 Union and 500 Confederate.

However, Lee’s forces were unable to flank the Union army. Instead of pursuing further, Lee sent his Army of Northern Virginia toward Maryland, a slave-holding state still in the Union. While Federal leadership was still stinging from defeat at Bull Run, Lee wanted to take the fighting northward and claim a victory on Union soil. He was headed north.