Battle of Cedar Mountain Summary
The Battle of Cedar Mountain took place on August 9, 1862, in Culpeper County, Virginia, and was fought between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America. It was the opening battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign. The Union Army of Virginia, commanded by Major General Nathaniel Banks, and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, led by Major General Stonewall Jackson engaged each other in Culpeper County, Virginia. The Confederates, who were outnumbered, held off Union attacks and won the battle. Casualties were high for both sides, with the Union losing around 2,350 soldiers and the Confederacy losing approximately 1,340. Although the outcome of the battle was a Confederate victory, Union forces came close to inflicting a critical defeat on the Confederates. The battle was a prelude to the Second Battle of Bull Run, where the Union suffered a disastrous defeat two weeks later.
Battle of Cedar Mountain Facts
- Also Known As: The Battle of Cedar Mountain is also known as the Battle of Slaughter’s Mountain and the Battle of Cedar Run.
- Date Started: It started on August 9, 1862.
- Date Ended: The battle ended on August 9, 1862.
- Location: Culpeper County, Virginia.
- Outcome: The Confederate States of America won the Battle of Cedar Mountain.
- Campaign: The Battle of Cedar Mountain was part of the Northern Virginia Campaign.
Prelude to the Cedar Mountain Battle
In 1862, Union leaders attempted to bring a quick end to the American Civil War by capturing the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. On March 17, Major General George McClellan began moving the 50,000 men of the Army of the Potomac toward Richmond during the Peninsula Campaign. By June, McClellan reached the outskirts of the Confederate capital but, ultimately, retreated after losing a series of encounters, collectively known as the Seven Days Battles, to General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
Lee Pursues Pope
As Lee forced McClellan to withdraw from the peninsula, President Lincoln appointed Major General John Pope to command the newly created Army of Virginia. Sensing that McClellan now posed little threat to Richmond, Lee took the offensive, before Pope could unite his army with McClellan’s retreating forces. On July 13, Lee dispatched 14,000 Confederate troops under the command of Major General Stonewall Jackson to secure Confederate railroad links with the Shenandoah Valley. Later that month, Lee sent 12,000 more men, commanded by Major General A. P. Hill, to support Jackson.
On August 6, Pope marched south into Culpeper County, intent on capturing the rail junction at Gordonsville, where the Orange and Alexandria Railroad crosses the Virginia Central Railroad. As Pope approached Culpeper Court House, Lee ordered Jackson to Gordonsville, instructing him that “I want Pope to be suppressed.”
Cedar Mountain Battle
The Battle of Cedar Mountain Starts
Before Pope could gather his forces, Jackson launched an offensive against the center of Pope’s army, commanded by Major General Nathaniel Banks. On August 9, Jackson marched his army up the main road toward Culpeper Court House in the oppressive heat. When the Confederates encountered Union artillery near Cedar Run, Brigadier General Jubal A. Early hastily formed a line perpendicular to the road, anchored on the shoulder of Cedar (or Slaughter’s) Mountain. The Confederates then began an artillery barrage on Banks’ soldiers from the mountain, from a small wooded knoll known afterward as the Cedars, and from a gate where the Crittenden House lane met the main road. Banks responded by bringing up his own big guns, and the two sides engaged in an artillery duel throughout the afternoon.
Confederates Turn Back Union Assaults
At approximately 5:00 p.m., Banks launched two attacks against the Confederates. The Confederate artillery at the Cedars and the Gate, along with their supporting infantry, began fleeing from the field. Early hastened to the front from Cedar Mountain and halted the Union advance on the Confederate right. Jackson, meanwhile, galloped into the center of the assault, brandishing his sword — with the scabbard rusted to it — along with a battle flag, and rallied the rest of the troops. A. P. Hill arrived shortly afterward with reinforcements that repulsed the Union attacks.
The Battle of Cedar Mountain Ends
The Confederates pursued the retreating Union Army until after dark. When Jackson learned that Major General Irvin McDowell and reinforcements had arrived, he called off the pursuit.
Battle of Cedar Mountain Significance
The Battle of Cedar Mountain was a Confederate victory, but Banks and his 12,000 Union troops came remarkably close to inflicting a critical defeat on Jackson’s 22,000 Confederates. Casualties were high for both sides. The Union lost roughly 2,350 soldiers (314 killed, 1,445 wounded, and 594 missing) The Confederacy lost approximately 1,340 men (231 killed and 1,107 wounded). As Pope merged his army at Culpeper Court House, Jackson withdrew to Gordonsville on August 12, where he was reinforced by Major General James Longstreet and 55,000 soldiers. Two weeks later, Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet inflicted a disastrous defeat on Pope’s army at the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28–30, 1862).
3 Important Facts About the Battle of Cedar Mountain
- The Battle of Cedar Mountain was the opening battle in the Northern Virginia Campaign.
- Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, performed her first field duty at the Battle of Cedar Mountain.
- The Battle of Cedar Mountain was the only recorded time in the Civil War that “Stonewall” Jackson drew his sword during battle.
Battle of Cedar Mountain Interesting Facts
Principal Union Commanders
- Major General Nathaniel P. Banks
Principal Confederate Commanders
- Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
Union Forces Engaged
- Army of Virginia
Confederate Forces Engaged
- Army of Northern Virginia
Number of Union Soldiers Engaged
- Roughly 12,000
Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged
Estimated Union Casualties
- 2,353 (314 killed, 1,445 wounded and 594 missing/captured)
Estimated Confederate Casualties
- 1,338 (231 killed, and 1,107 wounded)
Who Won the Battle of Cedar Mountain?
The outcome of the Battle of Cedar Mountain was a Confederate victory.
Timeline of the Battle of Cedar Mountain
These are the main battles and events that led to and followed the Battle of Cedar Mountain, in chronological order.