A Union General Minimizes His Defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run
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General John Pope sends a highly-fictionalized report of the battle in a letter to his commander. CIVIL WAR. JOHN POPE.
Broadside. Janesville Daily Gazette, Janesville, Wisconsin, August 30, 1862. 1 p., 4½ x 6 in.
“We fought a terrific battle here yesterday with the combined forces of the enemy which lasted with continued fury from daylight until after dark, by which time the enemy was driven from the field, which we now occupy....The enemy is still in our front, but badly used up.
We have lost not less than 8,000 men, killed and wounded, and from the appearance of the field the enemy has lost two to our one....The enemy stood strictly on the defensive, and every assault was made by ourselves. Our troops have behaved splendidly. The battle was fought on the identical battle field of Bull Run, which greatly increased the enthusiasm of our men.
The news has just reached me from the front that the enemy is retreating towards the mountain. I go forward at once to see.”
Written on the final day of the Second Battle of Bull Run , this unrecorded Civil War news dispatch “Extra” issue broadside prints Union Major General John Pope’s report to Commanding General Henry Halleck. Pope grossly exaggerates almost every aspect of the battle. Having underestimated the Confederate force, Pope either ignored or was unaware of the arrival of Confederate General James Longstreet’s forces. When Union troops attacked Stonewall Jackson’s troops on August 30, Confederate artillery crushed General Fitz John Porter’s corps and then Longstreet’s five divisions decimated the remainder of the Union force. Pope’s army was driven from the field in defeat. Moreover, Union casualties topped 10,000 while the Confederates lost 1,300 with 7,000 wounded.
Pope lost his command two weeks later and blamed Porter, who was arrested, court martialed, and dismissed. He was exonerated by special commission in 1878.
John Pope (1822 – 1892) is most famous for his defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run even though he had a long military career. An 1842 West Point graduate, he served in the Mexican-American War, and had early success in Missouri at the outset of the Civil War. Lincoln sent him east to join the Army of Virginia, where his poor strategy earned him a defeat, demotion, and banishment to the frontier. He was Reconstruction Governor of the Third Military District centered around Atlanta, and later fought against the Apache in the Indian Wars.