The First Battle of Rappahannock Station, 1862

August 22–25, 1862

The 1st Battle of Rappahannock Station took place from August 22–25, 1862, during the Civil War. Although the outcome of the battle was inconclusive, Union forces were distracted, allowing Stonewall Jackson to execute a flanking maneuver, which set up the Second Battle of Bull Run.

JEB Stuart, Civil War General

JEB Stuart. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

First Battle of Rappahannock Station Summary

The First Battle of Rappahannock Station was fought from August 22 to August 25, 1862, between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America. It was a series of minor skirmishes that took place along the Rappahannock River at several locations, producing casualties totaling around 225 for both sides. The most significant consequence of the engagements was that they occupied the attention of Union General Pope, while Confederate General Stonewall Jackson marched through Thoroughfare Gap, flanking Pope and his army and setting the stage for the Confederate victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

First Battle of Rappahannock Station Facts

  • Also Known As: The First Battle of Rappahannock Station is also known as the Battle of Waterloo Bridge, the Battle of White Sulphur Springs, the Battle of Lee Springs, and the Battle of Freeman’s Ford.
  • Date Started: It started on August 22, 1862.
  • Date Ended: The battle ended on August 25, 1862.
  • Location: Culpeper County and Fauquier County, Virginia.
  • Outcome: The result of the battle was inconclusive.

Prelude to the First Rappahannock Station Battle

Confederate Prospects Dim

Despite their stunning victory at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, Confederate prospects had dimmed less than one year later. In the West, Ulysses S. Grant was having his way with Rebel defenders of vital river systems. In the East, George B. McClellan was inching his way up the Virginia Peninsula, threatening the Confederate capital at Richmond with the largest army ever assembled in North America. In addition, three Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley prepared to move south through the valley to support McClellan’s invasion and hopefully to bring the American Civil War to a quick conclusion.

Stonewall Jackson Holds Three Union Armies at Bay

The main obstacle preventing the three Union armies in the Shenandoah Valley from marching south to support McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign was a small detachment of soldiers from the Valley District, Department of Northern Virginia, commanded by Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In a classic exhibition of generalship, Jackson held the three Union armies at bay throughout the first half of 1862. By June, President Abraham Lincoln lost patience with the uncoordinated Union setbacks in the Shenandoah Valley. On June 26, 1862, the President ordered the consolidation of forces in eastern Virginia to form the Army of Virginia. Lincoln appointed Major General John Pope to command the new army.

Thomas Stonewall Jackson, Illustration
Stonewall Jackson. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Confederate Fortunes Change for the Better

By June, the fortunes of war had changed. As McClellan approached the outskirts of Richmond, Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia forced a federal retreat down the peninsula. With McClellan on the run, Lee turned his attention to Pope’s Army of Virginia.

“I want Pope to be suppressed”

On August 6, Pope marched his Army of Virginia south into Culpeper County, intent on capturing the rail junction at Gordonsville, where the Orange and Alexandria Railroad intersects the Virginia Central Railroad. As Pope approached Culpeper Court House, Lee ordered Jackson to Gordonsville, instructing him that “I want Pope to be suppressed.”

Rebels Consolidate

On August 9, 1862, Jackson rallied his troops and inflicted a major defeat on Pope’s troops at the Battle of Cedar Mountain. Following the Rebel victory, Pope consolidated his battered army at Culpeper Court House. Jackson withdrew to Gordonsville on August 12, where Major General James Longstreet and his command of 55,000 soldiers reinforced him. On August 15, 1862, General Lee arrived to take control of the entire force. When Longstreet and Lee arrived, Pope evacuated Culpepper Court House and established a new line along the Rappahannock River on August 21.

August 22–25, 1862 — First Rappahannock Station Battle

From August 22 to 25, 1862, the two armies engaged in a series of minor skirmishes collectively known as the First Battle of Rappahannock Station. The action started on the night of August 22–23, when J. E. B. Stuart led nearly 1,500 cavalrymen on a daring raid against the Union supply depot at Catlett’s Station to Pope’s rear. Meeting little resistance during the sortie, Stuart captured some Union supplies and took a few prisoners.

During the next three days, small conflicts erupted along the Rappahannock River at several locations, including Waterloo Bridge, Lee Springs, Freeman’s Ford, and White Sulphur Springs. These inconclusive encounters produced casualties that totaled approximately 225 for both sides.

First Battle of Rappahannock Station Significance

The most significant consequence of these engagements was that Lee occupied Pope’s attention, while Stonewall Jackson marched the left wing of the Army of Northern Virginia through Thoroughfare Gap, flanking Pope’s army and setting the stage for the resounding Confederate victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28–30, 1862).

First Battle of Rappahannock Station Interesting Facts

Campaign

Principal Union Commanders

Principal Confederate Commanders

Union Forces Engaged

  • Army of Virginia

Confederate Forces Engaged

  • Army of Northern Virginia

Number of Union Soldiers Engaged

  • Undetermined

Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged

  • Undetermined

Estimated Combined Casualties

  • 225 (killed, wounded, missing/captured)

Who Won the First Battle of Rappahannock Station?

The outcome of the First Battle of Rappahannock Station was inconclusive, however, it led to the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Timeline of the First Battle of Rappahannock Station

These are the main battles and events that led to and followed the First Battle of Rappahannock Station, in chronological order.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title The First Battle of Rappahannock Station, 1862
  • Date August 22–25, 1862
  • Author
  • Keywords First Battle of Rappahannock Station, Battle of Waterloo Bridge, Battle of White Sulphur Springs, Battle of Lee Springs, Battle of Freeman’s Ford, John Pope, JEB Stuart, Robert E. Lee, 1st Battle of Rappahannock Station Date, 1st Battle of Rappahannock Station Outcome, 1st Battle of Rappahannock Station Timeline
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 27, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 17, 2024

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