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Northern Virginia Campaign

 

By the middle of July 1862 Ewell’s Division was camped at Gordonsville Virginia, a town where the Virginia Central and the Orange and Alexandria Railroads converge. The troops would spend their time drilling and getting much needed rest. On August 5, the confederates captured at Front Royal would be exchanged at Aiken’s Landing, Virginia, but they would not rejoin the regiment for weeks. Among the prisoners exchanged was Lt. James Brown, the son of Captain William F. Brown.

 

On Thursday August 7, General Ewell’s Division crossed the Rapidan River at Liberty Mills and started for Madison Courthouse. At this time Early’s Brigade consisted of the 12th Georgia, 13th, 25th, 31st, 52nd, and 58th Virginia.

 

On August 9, Jackson’s three divisions encountered Major General John Pope, commanding the Corps of Banks and McDowell at Cedar Run, on the northwest slope of Cedar Mountain. Early’s Brigade was the first on the field, placed on the right flank, they were ordered forward to drive the Federals from the crest of a hill. The Confederate artillery had been placed in advance of their line and was in danger of being captured. Early’s Brigade advanced at the double-quick to prevent their capture. As the battle raged, a brigade launched by Federal General S. W. Crawford on the Confederate left flank caused much confusion to Taliaferro’s, and parts of Early’s Brigade. The 12th Georgia and parts of the 52nd and 58th Virginia, along with Thomas’s Georgia Brigade found themselves in an isolated position. They used the crest of a hill to their advantage. One Georgian would later write ”this was the best position we had in any fight, by falling back only ten steps we could load our guns without the enemy’s bullets having any effect on us”. Using this tactic they slowed Crawford advance, allowing other regiments to join the battle and push them back. The Confederates did not waver, with little or no ammunition they were told to “use the bayonet.” The Federals were driven from the field. This battle produced 2,405 Federal, and 1,418 Confederate casualties, with the 12th Georgia suffering a total of 40.

 

In his official report on the Battle of Cedar Mountain General Early stated, “The conduct of the 12th Georgia Regiment, with which I was more than any other, elicited my special approbation. It is a gallant, fighting regiment, and I have had occasion before to notice its good conduct. Its commander in this action, Captain William F. Brown, who is over sixty years of age, displayed great courage. . . .” In fact, Capt Brown was born in 1814 making him only forty-eight at the time.

 

On the morning of August 26, the 12th Georgia marched through Thoroughfare Gap in the direction of Gainesville, as part of Jackson’s army. They arrived at Gainesville in late afternoon, turned south, and struck the Orange & Alexandria Railroad at Bristoe Station, only four miles west of the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. During the night, Jackson captured the massive supply depot at Manassas Junction. The surprise assault on the Union supply depot forced General Pope to retreat from his defensive position along the Rappahannock River. On August 27, the 12th Georgia was transferred to Trimble’s Brigade. They would join the 21st Georgia, 21st North Carolina, 1st North Carolina Battalion, and the 15th Alabama.

 

With Pope’s army approaching from the west, Jackson decided to destroy the remaining supplies at Manassas Junction and withdraw northward during the night to where the Battle of First Manassas was fought the year before. After being provisioned with the captured Union supplies, Ewell’s Division marched down the Warrenton Turnpike in the direction of Centreville. General Ewell led Lawton’s and Trimble’s Brigades in the advance. The Confederates attacked the exposed left flank of a Federal column, near the Brawner Farm on the turnpike. The losses to these two brigades were very heavy. General Ewell while leading one of the regiments received a serious wound to his knee, which would cost him his leg. He fell wounded very close to Company G of the 12th Georgia Regiment. The Confederates halted along an unfinished railroad grade, as it had become so dark it was impossible to distinguish friend from foe. Lawton’s, Trimble’s, and Early’s Brigades laid on their arms throughout the night only a short distance from where the fight had occurred. During this battle the 12th Georgia lost 45 men from its ranks.

 

The next day, August 29, the Battle of Groveton opened with Brigadier-General Lawton in command of Ewell’s Division. Pope, believing that he had Jackson trapped, launched a series of assaults against the Confederates. Each assault was repulsed, but with heavy losses on both sides. Pope did not know that Longstreet had arrived and took up position on Jackson’s right flank. During the fight, General Trimble was seriously wounded and Captain William Fredrick Brown of Company F, 12th Georgia Regiment, was placed in command of the brigade. 

 

On the morning of August 30, a battle line was drawn up along the excavation of an unfinished railroad line. Trimble’s Brigade was on the right, Lawton’s Brigade on Trimble’s left, and three regiments of Early’s Brigade on Lawton’s left. Hay’s Brigade went to the rear for ammunition, but failed to return. General Pope renewed his attacks. The Confederate artillery devastated the Union attacks. When General Longstreet made his advance that evening, Lawton’s, Trimble’s and Early’s Brigade were ordered forward. This was the largest simultaneous mass assault of the war, consisting of over 28, 000 men. The Union left was crushed and the Federals were driven from the field in disorder. Pope retreated toward Centreville on his way back to the fortifications of Washington. The Battle of Second Manassas was the decisive battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign. The Northern casualties were 13,830, while the South suffered 7,244. Pope’s army although beaten was still intact, however, and Lee hoped to stop the Union retreat and destroy Pope’s army by encircling them and blocking their escape.

 

Lee’s strategy was to have Jackson’s Division move around the north side of the Union Army in a long, flanking movement. General Longstreet’s was to stay visibly behind the retreating Federals to divert their attention away from Jackson. As Jackson’s men were moving around the Union Army, General Pope realized that the Confederates were trying to flank his army. Pope sent General Isaac Stevens with a force of 4,000 to halt the Confederates flanking attack. Jackson’s Division arrived at Chantilly on September 1, and was surprised by Stevens at Ox Hill. The fighting began around 4:30 PM, about the same time a severe thunderstorm was rolling in. Trimble’s and Hay’s Brigade was positioned on the right side of the Little River Turnpike. Lawton’s and Early’s Brigade was on the left, and the artillery was centered on the turnpike itself. Jackson ordered his divisions forward against the Federal divisions of General Stevens, and General Kearny who had arrived with reinforcements. The Battle of Ox Hill, sometimes called Chantilly, raged with awful intensity for several hours. Federal Generals Kearney and Stevens were both killed in front of Thomas’ Brigade. Captain William F. Brown of the 12th Georgia, who was in command of Trimble’s Brigade, was also killed during the battle. The Confederates even though caught off-guard, was driving the Federals back. A relentless thunderstorm drove a sharp cold rain directly into the faces of the Southerners. The heavy rain made dry black powder cartridges scarce, and muskets misfired so often that the battle erupted into bayonet charges. After two hours of hand to hand fighting, the Confederate advance had to be stopped due to extremely poor visibility. Before the carnage stopped, there were approximately 2,100 casualties, 1,300 Federal and 800 Confederate. General Pope continued his retreated back to Washington. This battle is the only major battle that was fought during a severe storm.