Portrait of Robert E. Lee

Commanded by General Robert E. Lee, the Army of Northern Virginia was the principal military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War. [Wikimedia Commons]

Army of Northern Virginia (CSA) Facts

June 1, 1862–April 12, 1865

Key facts about the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

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Formation Date

  • June 10, 1861 (organized as Army of the Potomac)
  • June 1, 1862 (named Army of Northern Virginia)

Dissolution Date

  • April 12, 1865

Commanders

Significance

  • The Army of Northern Virginia was formed when the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Shenandoah merged in 1861.
  • On July 20, 1861, Joseph E. Johnston assumed command of the merged Armies of the Potomac and the Shenandoah, which would later become known as the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • Although not yet known as the Army of Northern Virginia, the force participated in the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.
  • In 1861, Joseph E. Johnston reorganized his force, which would become the Army of Northern Virginia, into four wings commanded by Major General D.H. Hill (Left Wing), Major General James Longstreet (Center Wing), Major General John B. Magruder (Right Wing), and Major General G.W. Smith (Reserve Wing).
  • After Joseph E. Johnston was seriously wounded during the Battle of Seven Pines (May 31-June 1, 1862), Confederate President Jefferson Davis named his chief military advisor, General Robert E. Lee, to command the forces that would become known as the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • On June 1, 1862, Robert E. Lee issued Special Orders, No. 22, announcing that he was assuming command of the Joseph E. Johnston’s forces, which he referred to officially for the first time as the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • During the Seven Days Battles (June 25 – July 1, 1862), the Army of Northern Virginia drove the Army of the Potomac away from Richmond, bringing to an end to the Peninsula Campaign.
  • The Army of Northern Virginia defeated the Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28 – 30, 1862) during the Northern Virginia Campaign.
  • After his victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Robert E. Lee marched the Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland, on September 4, 1862, launching the Maryland Campaign.
  • The Army of Northern Virginia engaged the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single battle of the Civil War.
  • The Army of Northern Virginia defeated the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11 – 15, 1862), during the Fredericksburg Campaign.
  • The Army of Northern Virginia defeated the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of during the Chancellorsville (April 30-May 6, 1863), during the Chancellorsville Campaign.
  • The Army of Northern Virginia suffered a crushing blow during the Battle of Chancellorsville when General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was mortally wounded by friendly fire on May 2, 1863.
  • On June 3, 1863, the Army of Northern Virginia launched an invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania known as the Gettysburg Campaign.
  • The Army of the Potomac defeated the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 3, 1863) during the Gettysburg Campaign.
  • The Army of the Potomac defeated the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Bristoe Station (October 14, 1863) during the Bristoe Campaign (October 13–November 7, 1863).
  • The Army of Northern Virginia engaged the Army of the Potomac at the inclusive Battle of Mine Run (November 27 – December 2, 1863) bringing an end to the Mine Run Campaign (November 26 – December 2, 1863).
  • The Army of Northern Virginia engaged the Army of the Potomac in numerous battles during the Overland Campaign (May 5-June 24, 1864).
  • The Army of Northern Virginia engaged the Army of the Potomac at the inclusive Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7, 1864) during the Overland Campaign (May 5-June 24, 1864).
  • The Army of Northern Virginia defeated the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of the Cold Harbor (May 31 – June 12, 1864) during the Overland Campaign (May 5-June 24, 1864).
  • The Army of Northern Virginia engaged the Army of the Potomac in numerous battles during the Petersburg Campaign (June 1864 – March 1865).
  • The Army of the Potomac defeated the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Five Forks (April 1, 1865), opening the way for the occupation of Petersburg.
  • The Army of the Potomac forced the Army of Northern Virginia to abandon Petersburg on April 2, 1865.
  • The Army of the Potomac defeated the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek (April 6), forcing the surrender of nearly one-fourth of the Confederate army.
  • On April 7, 1865, Ulysses S. Grant initiated communications with Robert E. Lee regarding the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee met with Ulysses S. Grant at the home of Wilmer McLean at Appomattox Court House, Virginia to negotiate the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • On April 10, 1865, Robert E. Lee delivered his farewell address to the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
  • On April 12, 1865, the Army of Northern Virginia stacked arms before the Army of the Potomac and ceased to exist.
  • During the three years of its existence, the Army of Northern Virginia usually numbered between 50,000 and 70,000 soldiers.
  • During the Peninsula Campaign, the number of soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia reached its maximum at about 90,000.
  • By the time Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House in April 1865, the size of the Army of Northern Virginia had diminished to roughly 30, 000 soldiers due to death, disease, captivity, and desertion.
  • Over the course of its existence, roughly 200,000 soldiers served with the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • Most of the soldiers who served with the Army of Northern Virginia hailed from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, but men from all of the southern states passed through its ranks.
  • It is estimated that more than 30,000 soldiers who served with the Army of Northern Virginia were killed in action and that seventy-five percent of the infantrymen were casualties of war (killed, died of disease, wounded, or captured).
  • On November 6, 1862, just prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg, Robert E. Lee restructured the Army of Northern Virginia into two corps (led by James Longstreet and Thomas J. Jackson), a cavalry division commanded by J.E. B. Stuart, and an artillery unit led by William N. Pendleton.
  • In the spring of 1863, James Longstreet and much of the 1st Corps were on detached duty in southeast Virginia, so Lee personally commanded the remnants of the 1st Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
  • On May 30, 1863, about a month after Thomas J. Jackson was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee reorganized the Army of Northern Virginia into three corps, commanded by James Longstreet, Richard S. Ewell, and A.P. Hill.
  • On October 19, 1863, Robert E. Lee added a fourth corps, commanded by Richard H. Anderson, to the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • On April 8, 1865, following the mass surrender at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek Robert E. Lee merged the remnants of the 4th Corps into the 2nd Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • At the time Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, the Army of Virginia consisted of three infantry corps commanded by James Longstreet, John B. Gordon, and A.P. Hill, plus a cavalry corps commanded by Fitzhugh Lee.
  • Notable officers who served with the Army of Northern Virginia included Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, James Longstreet, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, A. P. Hill, D. H. Hill, Richard S. Ewell, John B. Gordon, J.E.B. Stuart, Richard H. Anderson, Jubal Early, Fitzhugh Lee, Wade Hampton, Henry Heth. John Bell Hood, John D. Imboden, Bushrod R. Johnson, Joseph B. Kershaw, William Mahone, Lafayette McLaws, Thomas T. Munford, George E. Pickett, William B. Taliaferro, John G. Walker, and Cadmus M. Wilcox.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Army of Northern Virginia (CSA) Facts
  • Coverage June 1, 1862–April 12, 1865
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 28, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 2, 2021
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