Could Pope Have Won at 2nd Manassas?

Andy Cardinal

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This verges into the realm of what if, of which I am typically suspicious. However, I also see the value of exploring "counterfactual" history. So, in that spirit, two questions:

1. In what way could Pope have won the battle at Second Manassas? I believe the opportunity to win the battle was there; historically Pope fixated exclusively on Jackson and lost track and/or ignored Longstreet. However, the opportunity to defeat Lee's army in detail was there for a time, and better generalship would have made the Union army better prepared for Longstreet's arrival with possible good results.

2. If Pope had won the battle, how would that have impacted the war? There are 3 obvious results of Union victory at 2nd Manassas that come immediately to mind -- 1. Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation a few weeks earlier; 2. Lee does not invade Maryland in September; and 3. Pope is the ascendant commander in the East, which more than likely spells the end of McClellan's role in the war as of September 1.

I am hoping for an interesting discussion based on the questions posed above.
 
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Quaama

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Hard to see how he could have won being opposed by Lee, Jackson and Longstreet. He was simply out-generalled.

1. I think you are correct regarding Jackson/Longstreet. He would have been better off forming a defensive line opposite Jackson on the hills and ridges while the bulk of his forces attempted to destroy Longstreet then move on Jackson's right flank.

2. I think it would have had a significant impact. The Confederates would have had to fall back towards Richmond.
2.1 I'm unsure about any Emancipation proclamation being made. That was mostly made as a punitive statement against southern landholders and wasn't hugely popular in the north when it was made. Perhaps a win at 2nd Manassas would have meant there was no imperative for such a thing.
2.2 Yes, I think a Confederate defeat meant any move north was out of the question as they would probably be falling back towards Richmond. If a Confederate defeat at 2nd Manassas was of significant magnitude, Richmond may have fallen although the approaching winter may have forestalled such an event.
2.3 Depending upon the magnitude of any victory, Pope would definitely been the ascendant commander given McClellan's inability to achieve anything conclusive in his campaigns.
 

BillO

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This verges into the realm of what if, of which I am typically suspicious. However, I also see the value of exploring "counterfactual" history. So, in that spirit, two questions:

1. In what way could Pope have won the battle at Second Manassas? I believe the opportunity to win the battle was there; historically Pope fixated exclusively on Jackson and lost track and/or ignored Longstreet. However, the opportunity to defeat Lee's army in detail was there for a time, and better generalship would have made the Union army better prepared for Longstreet's arrival with possible good results.

2. If Pope had won the battle, how would that have impacted the war? There are 3 obvious results of Union victory at 2nd Manassas that come immediately to mind -- 1. Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation a few weeks earlier; 2. Lee does not invade Maryland in September; and 3. Pope is the ascendant commander in the East, which more than likely spells the end of McClellan's role in the war as of September 1.

I am hoping for an interesting discussion based on the questions posed above.
In what way could Pope have won the battle of 2nd Manassas? Well by not being Pope. He had put himself into a very stupid place before and had managed to get back out of it by accident. He should have beaten Jackson before Lee got Longstreet in place.
For Pope to have won the battle after Lee's army was up would have taken divine intervention and as My Mom always said God helps those who help themselves poor old Pope was toast.
 

Andy Cardinal

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In what way could Pope have won the battle of 2nd Manassas? Well by not being Pope. He had put himself into a very stupid place before and had managed to get back out of it by accident. He should have beaten Jackson before Lee got Longstreet in place.
For Pope to have won the battle after Lee's army was up would have taken divine intervention and as My Mom always said God helps those who help themselves poor old Pope was toast.
Of course thats true, but assuming more a more competent performance by Pope or by a different commander if you prefer.
 

Pete Longstreet

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Longstreet thought Second Manassas was Lee's and the Army of Northern Virginia's greatest tactical victory during the war. If this is true... it's hard to imagine Pope defeating Lee at his best tactically. In defense of Pope, McClellan resisted sending troops to his aide and thus held them in Washington.

Pope lost track of the battle. He made incorrect assessments regarding Jackson's intentions. If Pope sent in larger forces instead of a series of small assaults, it might have been devastating for Jackson.

If Pope was able to "bag the whole crowd" at Second Manassas... he might have been Lincoln's man for a while, and McClellan would have been gone for good. It would have been a significant setback for Lee's army... and may have delayed or changed his plans regarding his invasion of the north.
 

Andy Cardinal

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The 2 potential scenarios I see bit require a leap of imagination considering the historical animosity between McClellan & Pope.

First is that Pope effectively blocks Thoroughfare Gap & keeps Longstreet from reaching the battlefield in time which leaves Jackson isolated. Jackson probably retreats in that case.

Second.would be that the 2nd and 6th corps reached the front on August 30, which was possible (at least for the infantry). Of course that would depend on Pope using the 2 corps effectively -- or imagining a different commander than Pope.
 

Saphroneth

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My understanding is that there's basically some possibilities, as such:

1) Blocking off Thoroughfare Gap.
This would probably involve the commitment of multiple divisions to block off not just the gap itself but also the alternative gaps. Given positions I would expect this to involve much of McDowell's Corps.
The question here is whether Jackson has a good line of retreat, and just as importantly whether Jackson would have access to different information in this timeline compared to what happened historically. If Jackson doesn't know that Longstreet has been blocked off then he wouldn't have a reason to retreat.
What I'll do I think is plot out the positions of the troops on that date. I think there's some possibilities here.

2) Getting more troops to Pope.
This I think involves the Union having a better sense of the positions of hostile forces (specifically their knowing that the forces on the road have withdrawn - their last news is that a brigade got smashed by AP Hill) and that means having cavalry. There doesn't seem to have been much if any available in Washington so it specifically means cavalry from Pope's army.

3) Pope being a better general.
There are some definite prospects here. It's a little harder but Pope was basically outright delusional for much of this, and if you take that away then there's the prospect for him to use the troops actually on the field in an effective way.


For example, leaving Porter where he was has potential - Porter with a small chunk of the army was pinning about half the Confederate army in place (or at any rate stopping them from significantly getting involved) and if the actions of the rest of Pope's army had been managed effectively then it means a large number of Union troops get to fight Jackson without Longstreet getting involved in a significant way.
 

bayonet

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Pope didn't know his #%& from his elbow. Typical of early on incompetent Union Leadership that led to the War lasting so long and all the deaths to go along with it.
 

Saphroneth

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Pope didn't know his #%& from his elbow. Typical of early on incompetent Union Leadership that led to the War lasting so long and all the deaths to go along with it.
I mean, Pope specifically was kind of delusional, but not everyone in the Union leadership was. A big part of the problem in this period is I think the reluctance to make a full commitment to a large, expensive army and a war that wouldn't be over in weeks - this lack of commitment greatly prolonged the war.
 
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Pat Answer

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“Pope lost track of the battle.” —Pete Longstreet (post #9)

^This is the heart of the matter in this case. Of course fog-of-war - enhanced by a general lack of effective use of cavalry as Saphroneth points out - contributed to this... but fog-of-war always does so Pope’s unfortunate eagerness to ‘see’ what he wanted to see ended up being the fatal straw.
The Pope who extricated himself from Lee’s trap at Culpeper earlier in the campaign was more in command of the location of his own and the probable course of action of nearby enemy units than the one convinced he had Jackson in a bag on Aug 29 and 30.
 

Saphroneth

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Okay, here's a possible manoeuvre structure for the 28th. It assumes Pope is capable.


On the night of the 27th these are the positions:

2BR.jpg



Banks not shown (assumed to be occupied guarding trains), and I've used the later number for 1st and 11th because otherwise it gets even more confusing.


Proposed logic for Pope:

Jackson is at Manassas Junction and destroying the stores. It's too late to stop him.
I know however that there are Union forces meant to be arriving in Washington, who I want to join me ASAP.

Jackson is either moving northwest (towards Groveton), northeast (towards Washington), or north (to Centreville), or he's staying in position. If he's staying in position then I can hammer him, but I do not necessarily expect he will do this.

I want to block Manassas Gap and prevent the union of Jackson and Longstreet.

Consequently:
1st Corps is responsible for blocking the line of the Bull Run mountains - all three divisions. One of these divisions (Reynolds) is to go towards Aldie, one to block Manassas Gap itself (Ricketts), and one to reinforce wherever needed plus provide insurance against Jackson turning on 1st Corps (King).
11th Corps is to move in the early morning to Groveton.
9th Corps is to follow 11th to Groveton.
Hooker is to march on Manassas Junction, and then move to Centreville.
Kearny is to march on Manassas Junction, and then move to Centreville.
5th Corps is to move to Manassas Junction.
I will send my available cavalry forwards to Manassas Junction, and then in all three directions that Jackson could have gone:
- One third is to head towards Groveton. If Jackson or most of Jackson is heading in that direction then he will be bringing on an engagement with 9th and 11th Corps, and I will have Kearny redirect accordingly to instead hit Jackson from the southeast. Porter will also be redirected in a similar way; Hooker will move to Centreville before being redirected.
- One third is to head towards Centreville. If Jackson or most of Jackson is heading in that direction then I will have 9th and 11th Corps move towards the Stone Bridge and Sudley Springs, ready to follow up if Jackson is planning on moving northwest from there.
- One third is to head towards Washington. If Jackson or most of Jackson is heading in that direction then I will have 9th and 11th Corps move towards the Stone Bridge and Sudley Springs, and turn Kearny/Hooker east from Centreville. In addition however if Jackson is not heading towards Washington then this brigade is to guide in all available Union troops in Washington. They are to march towards Chantilly.


Given Jackson's actual movement plans then I believe the following would result:

1619182686640.png



Effective strengths (historical Aug 29 strengths based on a 2BR ORBAT showing effective strengths for both sides)
Jackson inclusive of cavalry: 26600

9th and 11th Corps: 19000 (+ Kanawha detachments 2900)
Kearny and Porter: 15700 (+ Piatt 900)
Hooker: 7700
6th Corps (having marched into the evening to Annandale, which was how far they marched historically on the 29th but they could have gone further if they'd had good scouting on that day): 11200
Reynolds: 6500

I think it's reasonable to assume that 9th and 11th Corps combined (about 22,000 men) could at least hold Jackson in play, and with another 16,600 men coming at them from the rear then Jackson is at least being put into a sticky situation. Reynolds could also be turned to come down from the north or otherwise intercept Jackson's route of retirement, and that with Hooker means the total force converging on Jackson is about 50,000 effectives.

Meanwhile McDowell's 17,800 are holding off Longstreet.



If Jackson moves faster and is able to get entirely past the turnpike before 9th and 11th Corps can even collide with him, then obviously things turn out a bit differently but all Pope has to do is have Reynolds keep marching to block Aldie's Gap.
 

Lubliner

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Okay, here's a possible manoeuvre structure for the 28th. It assumes Pope is capable.


On the night of the 27th these are the positions:

View attachment 398700


Banks not shown (assumed to be occupied guarding trains), and I've used the later number for 1st and 11th because otherwise it gets even more confusing.


Proposed logic for Pope:

Jackson is at Manassas Junction and destroying the stores. It's too late to stop him.
I know however that there are Union forces meant to be arriving in Washington, who I want to join me ASAP.

Jackson is either moving northwest (towards Groveton), northeast (towards Washington), or north (to Centreville), or he's staying in position. If he's staying in position then I can hammer him, but I do not necessarily expect he will do this.

I want to block Manassas Gap and prevent the union of Jackson and Longstreet.

Consequently:
1st Corps is responsible for blocking the line of the Bull Run mountains - all three divisions. One of these divisions (Reynolds) is to go towards Aldie, one to block Manassas Gap itself (Ricketts), and one to reinforce wherever needed plus provide insurance against Jackson turning on 1st Corps (King).
11th Corps is to move in the early morning to Groveton.
9th Corps is to follow 11th to Groveton.
Hooker is to march on Manassas Junction, and then move to Centreville.
Kearny is to march on Manassas Junction, and then move to Centreville.
5th Corps is to move to Manassas Junction.
I will send my available cavalry forwards to Manassas Junction, and then in all three directions that Jackson could have gone:
- One third is to head towards Groveton. If Jackson or most of Jackson is heading in that direction then he will be bringing on an engagement with 9th and 11th Corps, and I will have Kearny redirect accordingly to instead hit Jackson from the southeast. Porter will also be redirected in a similar way; Hooker will move to Centreville before being redirected.
- One third is to head towards Centreville. If Jackson or most of Jackson is heading in that direction then I will have 9th and 11th Corps move towards the Stone Bridge and Sudley Springs, ready to follow up if Jackson is planning on moving northwest from there.
- One third is to head towards Washington. If Jackson or most of Jackson is heading in that direction then I will have 9th and 11th Corps move towards the Stone Bridge and Sudley Springs, and turn Kearny/Hooker east from Centreville. In addition however if Jackson is not heading towards Washington then this brigade is to guide in all available Union troops in Washington. They are to march towards Chantilly.


Given Jackson's actual movement plans then I believe the following would result:

View attachment 398702


Effective strengths (historical Aug 29 strengths based on a 2BR ORBAT showing effective strengths for both sides)
Jackson inclusive of cavalry: 26600

9th and 11th Corps: 19000 (+ Kanawha detachments 2900)
Kearny and Porter: 15700 (+ Piatt 900)
Hooker: 7700
6th Corps (having marched into the evening to Annandale, which was how far they marched historically on the 29th but they could have gone further if they'd had good scouting on that day): 11200
Reynolds: 6500

I think it's reasonable to assume that 9th and 11th Corps combined (about 22,000 men) could at least hold Jackson in play, and with another 16,600 men coming at them from the rear then Jackson is at least being put into a sticky situation. Reynolds could also be turned to come down from the north or otherwise intercept Jackson's route of retirement, and that with Hooker means the total force converging on Jackson is about 50,000 effectives.

Meanwhile McDowell's 17,800 are holding off Longstreet.



If Jackson moves faster and is able to get entirely past the turnpike before 9th and 11th Corps can even collide with him, then obviously things turn out a bit differently but all Pope has to do is have Reynolds keep marching to block Aldie's Gap.
I like how you displayed that, but one premise gives me a question; Could McDowell with 17,800 hold off Longstreet's forces at the gaps in the Manassas mountain range?
Lubliner.
 

Jamieva

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I like how you displayed that, but one premise gives me a question; Could McDowell with 17,800 hold off Longstreet's forces at the gaps in the Manassas mountain range?
Lubliner.

The ANV held off a much larger force for most of the day at South Mountain a few weeks later in a similar position. Forcing a mountain pass is extremely difficult because it creates a choke point and greatly favors the defender (another great example later in the war is Wapping Heights). The attacking force cannot deploy their full force in their effort to break through.

I agree with previous posters, Pope has to plug the gap and hold Longstreet in the Valley and beat Jackson before Longstreet gets through the gap.
 

Saphroneth

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I like how you displayed that, but one premise gives me a question; Could McDowell with 17,800 hold off Longstreet's forces at the gaps in the Manassas mountain range?
Lubliner.
Almost certainly, yes. Ricketts held Longstreet for a couple of hours during the actual campaign with only roughly one brigade engaged, and that was after getting to the gap late.
 

Saphroneth

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I do think that Jackson was on the ropes a bit and better coordination on August 29 might have made a slight difference.

Also, the biggest blunder was ordering Porter to attack on August 30. This opened the door for Longstreet. If Porter had stayed in place, Longstreet's attack would have looked very different.
It's one of them, but not the only one. I think there's a definite argument that if Porter had stayed in place (threatening and preventing Longstreet from safely attacking) and some cavalry had verified the route of march for 2nd and 6th Corps was clear, then you could have had 6th Corps reaching Fairfax (at least) on the afternoon of the 29th while having enough time to hook in north of Sudley Springs on the afternoon of the 30th (historically they reached the Cub Run by the time Pope's broken forces were retreating past that point).
 
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