Portrait of P.G.T. Beauregard.

On May 31, 1861, Robert E. Lee issued Special Orders, No. 149, assigning Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard “to the command of the troops in the Alexandria line.” After Beauregard assumed command, he issued General Orders, No. 20, organizing his troops into six brigades that he referred to as the “First Corps, Army of the Potomac.” [Wikimedia Commons]

Army of the Potomac (CSA) Facts

June 20, 1861–June 1, 1862

Key facts about the Confederate Army of the Potomac.

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Formation Date

  • June 20, 1861

Dissolution Date

  • June 1, 1862

Commanders

Significance

  • Virginia Governor John Letcher appointed Robert E. Lee as commander of all of the state’s military and naval forces on April 22, 1861.
  • On April 24, 1861, Robert E. Lee placed Philip St. George Cocke, brigadier general of Virginia forces, in charge of all state troops along the Potomac River.
  • On May 6, 1861, Robert E. Lee instructed Philip St. George Cocke “to post at Manassas Gap Junction a force sufficient to defend that point against an attack likely to be made against it by troops from Washington.” Cocke’s defensive line would become known as the Alexandria Line.
  • On May 21, 1861, Brigadier General Milledge Luke Bonham temporarily superseded Philip St. George Cocke as commander of Confederate troops on the Alexandria Line.
  • On May 31, 1861, Confederate President Jefferson Davis informed Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard, the hero of the occupation of Fort Sumter, that he would replace Brigadier General Milledge Luke Bonham as commander of Confederate troops on the Alexandria Line.
  • On May 31, 1861, Robert E. Lee issued Special Orders, No. 149, assigning Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard “to the command of the troops in the Alexandria line.”
  • Brigadier-General P. G. T. Beauregard assumed command of the troops in the Alexandria Line on June 2, 1861.
  • On June 20, 1861, Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard issued General Orders, No. 20, organizing troops under his command into six brigades that he referred to as the “First Corps, Army of the Potomac,” marking the inception of the designation “Army of the Potomac.”
  • In anticipation of the impending Battle of Bull Run I, the Confederate government made plans to rush Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah by rail to Manassas to reinforce the Army of the Potomac in July 1861.
  • Although Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston was senior in rank to Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard, he deferred command of the forces in the field and approved Beauregard’s plans for the impending First Battle of Bull Run.
  • On July 21, 1861, the Confederate Army of the Potomac, reinforced by the Army of the Shenandoah, defeated the Union Army of Northeastern Virginia at the Battle of Bull Run I.
  • After the Confederate victory at the First Battle of Bull Run, Joseph E. Johnston assumed command of the combined Army of the Potomac and Army of the Shenandoah, under the name “Army of the Potomac.”
  • On September 25, 1861, Joseph E. Johnston issued General Orders, No. 31 (AOP/CSA) establishing the 2nd Corps of the Army of the Potomac under the command of Major General Gustavus W. Smith.
  • General Orders, No. 31 (AOP/CSA) directed that the troops of the 2nd Corps would “consist of the troops of this army not heretofore assigned to the First Corps.” meaning the Army of the Shenandoah.
  • On October 22, 1861, Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin issued General Orders, No. 15, announcing the establishment of the Department of Northern Virginia commanded by Joseph E. Johnston.
  • Soon after the formation of the Department of Northern Virginia, Confederate officials began referring to the troops in the new department as the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • By May 1862, Joseph E. Johnston was referring to his command as the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • After Johnston was seriously injured on May 31, 1862, during the Battle of Seven Pines (May 31–June 1, 1862), Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed Lee, to replace Johnston in the field.
  • On June 1, 1862, Robert E. Lee issued Special Orders, No. 22, announcing that he was assuming command of Johnston’s forces, which he referred to officially as the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • References to the Confederate Army of the Potomac ceased to occur after Robert E. Lee issued Special Orders, No. 22 on June 1, 1862.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Army of the Potomac (CSA) Facts
  • Coverage June 20, 1861–June 1, 1862
  • Author
  • Keywords army of the potomac
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date August 2, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 2, 2021
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