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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Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
The interesting thing about 2BR is that there's a real opportunity there, because of the rate of forces arriving. In effectives, and assuming all relevant troops are fully available, it goes like this:

Before troops from the Peninsula etc. arrive, Pope has the advantage.
When Longstreet arrives, this gives a big injection of troops to the Confederates, but when the PA Reserves arrive they plus Burnside redress the balance. And the arrival of 3rd Corps troops and 5th Corps troops means that by the actual date of the 2BR fighting itself (Aug 28-30) there's about 86,500 with Pope (counting Kanawha det. etc) versus 58,500 with Lee, and 2nd and 6th Corps combined represent something like another 24,000. (All numbers here effectives.)
It's not until DH Hill's column arrives from Richmond that Lee gets another injection of troops, and that means that at 2BR he is exposing himself to the possibility of a fight at a disadvantage. Especially by being able to keep Longstreet and Jackson apart there is significant opportunity there.
 

cwbuff

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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.
Rewording a famous Antietam quote: "Pope brought his magnificent army to 2nd Manassas, but he also brought himself."
 

Saphroneth

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Rewording a famous Antietam quote: "Pope brought his magnificent army to 2nd Manassas, but he also brought himself."
Probably more true for this one than for Antietam, honestly. But more to the point I think 2nd Manassas/2nd Bull Run can be viewed as partly explaining what happens at Antietam on both sides.

On the Union side, what happened is that Pope brought a large army to the conflict and acted according to what he thought would work without reference to Lee's plans. What then promptly happened was that (despite a significant numerical advantage) he got utterly outmanoeuvred and routed from the field.
This shapes what the Union does at Antietam and in the Maryland campaign more broadly.
On the Confederate side, what happened is that Lee divided his army and threw part of it into a situation where (as we can see) that detached section of his army could have been placed into severe peril if his enemy had been operationally capable and merely thought through what the possible Confederate actions could have been. What then happened was a famous victory as a result of complete Union operational failure.
This shapes what Lee risks in the Maryland campaign.
 

Saphroneth

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So something interesting to think about with regards to Second Bull Run is the shifting force ratios.


The total strength of all units going into the campaign (post Cedar Mountain) in effectives, including the Union 2nd and 6th Corps and the Confederate column under DH Hill, was:

Confederates 84,100
Union 97,500 + 6th Corps (which was ~13900 effectives before Bull Run Bridge based on July 10 reports) so 111,400 all told, or about 133% of Lee's force.

This means that at any point where Pope's total disposable force is greater than 4/3 of Lee's total disposable force, he should have more of an advantage than he would have had if Lee had waited until DH Hill arrived from Richmond and McClellan's whole force arrived from the Peninsula. (I am assuming here that all of 4th Corps was to be left on the Peninsula.)

Jackson plus Longstreet etc. was about 58,500.
This means that at any point where Pope has more than 78,000 effectives is a period when Pope has more of an advantage than he could have reasonably expected. This situation is the one that applies the moment 3rd and 5th Corps have arrived from the Peninsula, and includes the period of main fighting.

Pope of course suffered such heavy casualties that after Chantilly the complete Union force had only 123% of the complete Confederate force, and at that it had low morale as a result of the rout.
 

neyankee61

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How about if McClellan didn't dawdled on sending that AoP north from Harrison Landing. I known some will claim all kinds of excellent reasons for the delay but the bottom line line is McClellan threw a tantrum and sulked, hoping that Pope could get out of the scape himself or worse.
Besides with the bulk of the ANV north of Fredericksburg what was the cause of McClellan not bestrirring himself and his army?
 

Saphroneth

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How about if McClellan didn't dawdled on sending that AoP north from Harrison Landing. I known some will claim all kinds of excellent reasons for the delay but the bottom line line is McClellan threw a tantrum and sulked, hoping that Pope could get out of the scape himself or worse.
Besides with the bulk of the ANV north of Fredericksburg what was the cause of McClellan not bestrirring himself and his army?
So there are two questions here.


The first bit (about "dawdling"), the simple truth is that McClellan did not. McClellan was to (1) ship his sick off and (2) then get the rest of his army moving - which is what his orders were, and which makes military sense anyway - and McClellan warned how long it would take him to get all his sick off and let him get the rest of his army moving.

Evacuating the sick took a long time because his sick needed to be evacuated by the relatively few vessels that could reach that far up the James, and because sick take up a lot of room on ships. McClellan warned Halleck that it would take a certain amount of time, supported by his logistics officer, and despite extra requirements being piled on top of him (sending cavalry and artillery to Burnside from Harrisons Landing, which also took up the ships that could reach that far up the James) he met that deadline.

After the sick were off, McClellan marched down to Yorktown and Fort Monroe to embark safely and quickly onto the much larger number of ships that could actually dock there safely. Half of McClellan's army reached Pope before the fighting at Second Bull Run, and the other half (2nd and 6th Corps) could not have done so safely (at least, not in a way McClellan could affect).


The second bit (about the bulk of the ANV north of Fredericksburg and McClellan not bestirring himself) is actually interesting, because McClellan asked Halleck for permission to launch an attack on Richmond during the period he was sending his sick off. He had advanced on Richmond before being ordered off (then pulled back to Harrisons to ship off his sick) and detected when Longstreet left pretty much immediately - but Halleck refused.


In order to get the whole of McClellan's army to Northern Virginia sooner, you need one of these four things.

1) McClellan can send off his sick faster.
This would require more shallow water shipping, as that was the limiting factor. McClellan warned how long it would take early in the process, provided supporting documents from his quartermaster, and was substantially correct.
2) McClellan marches away from Harrisons Landing, abandoning his sick etc.
This would have been cruel but possible, but Halleck ordered McClellan to send his sick etc. off first.
3) McClellan starts the process of shipping off his sick sooner.
This would mean it would have to begin before he was ordered to do so.
4) McClellan loads infantry to send north first, before loading his sick.
This would mean some infantry reached Pope sooner, but would delay the complete movement as it would delay the point at which McClellan could march away from Harrisons Landing. It would also be against his orders.

There is also the option of Longstreet being more delayed by McClellan presenting a continued threat, but for this to happen Halleck would have to approve the threatening move (which he did not, even when asked).



The basic problem with the movement from Harrisons Landing to Northern Virginia is that Halleck didn't understand the logistical constraints on it. He based his sense of how quickly it would happen on how quickly Burnside could move around, when Burnside's force consisted entirely of infantry (no cavalry or heavy artillery, which is why McClellan was ordered to send some for Burnside) and there were enough ships to move the whole force at once. Thus Burnside was a single-lift job.
McClellan on the other hand has a complete army with infantry, cavalry, artillery and trains (wagons) and he is explicitly ordered not to abandon either his sick or his wagons. This means it takes a lot longer.
 

Saphroneth

Major
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Something that's also worth thinking about is this.

Effective strength of the units which the commanders on the Rapidan already had before McClellan began shipping off his sick:

45,200 (Pope), 26,700 (Jackson). 1.7:1 to the Union. (this is post Cedar Mountain)

Total strengths of all units which the commanders brought to the campaign, cutoff at September 2nd but undoing all casualties:

111,300 (Union), 94,600 (Confederate). 1.3:1 to the Union.

Total strengths of units which were available to fight at Second Bull Run (i.e. not 2nd or 6th Corps, not DH Hill's reinforcement column):
88,900 (Union), 61,300 (Confederate). 1.45:1 to the Union.


This means that McClellan got enough troops to Pope that he was facing a better force ratio than he would have been if all of both armies had assembled. Pope was facing a fight which should have been eminently winnable; what he actually did was engage in a few days of fighting that cost those troops something like 15,000 casualties while inflicting about 8,000 to 8,500.
 

Andy Cardinal

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How about if McClellan didn't dawdled on sending that AoP north from Harrison Landing. I known some will claim all kinds of excellent reasons for the delay but the bottom line line is McClellan threw a tantrum and sulked, hoping that Pope could get out of the scape himself or worse.
Besides with the bulk of the ANV north of Fredericksburg what was the cause of McClellan not bestrirring himself and his army?
There is no doubt that if Sumner and Franklin had reached the field a day or two earlier it would have made a big difference in how the battle was fought.
 

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
There is no doubt that if Sumner and Franklin had reached the field a day or two earlier it would have made a big difference in how the battle was fought.
And how this could have happened is definitely an interesting question.

They could have done this by train or by foot movement.

Train movement is kind of out, because of the events of the battle of Bull Run Bridge. As far as anyone in Washington knows after that there is an arbitrarily large Confederate force astride the rail line, and so it has to be a foot advance (and it is an advance, not a route march).

Historically speaking 6th Corps got moving on the 29th and got as far as Annadale, but 2nd Corps didn't get going until the 30th. The limiting factors were (1) provision of wagon supply, as there was nothing to be had in Alexandria, and (2) scouting cavalry to make sure they didn't march headlong into an ambush, plus for 2nd Corps they had to be moved up from Aquia where they had originally been sent.

In order for a corps to get into the fighting on Bull Run you need them to depart on the 28th at the latest. They would then be reaching Cub Run late on the 29th (instead of on the 30th) and could take part in the fighting on the 30th. Note that this is an advance of 25-30 miles in ~2 days, so it's very hard marching.

Historically McClellan spent a lot of the 28th chasing down the missing division and corps commanders for 6th Corps and getting hold of wagons plus a few squadrons of cavalry (this took from 1AM to about 3PM for several people, minus however much of that McClellan spent asleep). This is in addition to his spending the 27th trying to sort 6th Corps out. (Halleck wasn't bothering to do this, and indeed wasn't replying to some enquiries McClellan made so McClellan had to go and get him out of bed for it).

So to get 6th Corps set off on the 28th, you need all this sorting out that happened on the 27th and 28th to happen on the 27th only. This is just about possible, but not easy.

To get 2nd Corps to do it as well? Probably not possible.


Of course, if Halleck was more on the ball about the logistics of the movement he was suggesting and where Pope was going, things probably could have been managed better (like having 3rd and 5th Corps take fewer wagons to leave enough for 2nd and 6th, or having 2nd Corps land at Alexandria as well).
 

Lubliner

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@Saphroneth you are making some really interesting points, and with all being related about McClellan being able to do as much as possible, within certain limitations; it sounds as though Halleck was keeping him on a short rope by this time. Why wasn't McClellan given any discretion to move upon his own prerogative without orders from Washington's command? It sounds like every small detail has to be passed above before it can be initiated on the field.
Lubliner.
 

Saphroneth

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@Saphroneth you are making some really interesting points, and with all being related about McClellan being able to do as much as possible, within certain limitations; it sounds as though Halleck was keeping him on a short rope by this time. Why wasn't McClellan given any discretion to move upon his own prerogative without orders from Washington's command? It sounds like every small detail has to be passed above before it can be initiated on the field.
A lot of what I glossed over above is that Halleck was issuing a lot of orders to Franklin and Sumner (or Franklin's corps, for example) and since Halleck was GiC McClellan couldn't overrule those orders. So for example:

- On the 24th, Halleck told Franklin to go into camp and not go forward until he had transport.
- On the afternoon of the 26th, Franklin was ordered to advance on the 27th, but less than an hour later Halleck countermanded the order and said that Franklin should wait until he had transport. (The corps still had only 16 horses on the end of the 27th).
- Halleck had authority over the wagons and transport that was in Washington.
- After McClellan had sorted out some of the mess, at 4PM on the 28th Halleck ordered that Sumner's corps and Taylor's brigade should go into the defences. (No mention was made of the other five brigades of 6th Corps, so McClellan decided to push them forward the next morning.)

McClellan is asking Halleck a lot of questions in this period, but they're questions about what McClellan should be doing with the forces at Alexandria and they need to be answered at least in broad strokes - if Halleck wants the forces to defend Alexandria then that is different from if Halleck wants the forces to be pushed forward to Pope. McClellan doesn't want to go against what Halleck wants, but he also wants forces pushed forward to Pope so he wants either confirmation that that is okay or for Halleck to give him an unambiguous "no, don't".
He also needs Halleck to release transportation, because the alternative is waiting until the wagons are shipped back from Fort Monroe which will take ages.
 

neyankee61

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Could that problems between Halleck and McClellan be more of a failure in communication and mistrust. McClellan unable or unwilling tell Halleck his ideas and Halleck seeing a general who has no plans. Some of McClellan's questions at this time border on the tedious.
When Sherman reached Savannah, Grant ordered him to put most of his men on ships and send them to him. Sherman wrote back explaining his thoughts why it was a bad idea, not once but numerous times. Sherman and Grant could work together Sherman didn't fall back on the excuse that Grant was GIC.
 

Saphroneth

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Could that problems between Halleck and McClellan be more of a failure in communication and mistrust. McClellan unable or unwilling tell Halleck his ideas and Halleck seeing a general who has no plans. Some of McClellan's questions at this time border on the tedious.
So I should note here that the time delay in messages going on before McClellan leaves Harrisons is:
A message from Harrisons to Washington would take ten hours to get to Jamestown Island (by dispatch boat), then would be transmitted to Washington on an eight-plus step communication wire (Jamestown Island to Yorktown to Newport News to Fort Monroe to Cape Charles/Cherrystone Inlet to Lewes to Dover to Wilmington to Washington). These lines were (I believe) boosted enough that they were a single circuit, but it still meant that a ~500 word message took half an hour to transmit.
This means that if McClellan and Halleck are having a conversation from their respective HQs then the turnaround time (assuming that both are awake when the message for them arrives and they can quickly compose their reply) is about a day.
If those lines were places where an operator had to re-key out the message, it would be considerably longer.



Up until the July 26 meeting, McClellan is constantly being told that there are reinforcements en route, and he is trying to find out when they will arrive. (That's Burnside.) On at least one occasion he is given an expected time, but the expected time expires without explanation.

At the July 26 meeting (with Halleck in person), McClellan agrees to advance once Burnside arrives. He will be advancing straight towards Richmond, because the pontoons required to go after Petersburg have not been forthcoming (McClellan asked for them 3-4 weeks ago.)

In a message sent afterwards, McClellan confirms that he will be advancing, and adds that extra troops would be helpful but does not make them a precondition of advancing.

July 27, Lee sends AP Hill to Madison Court House, with orders to be ready to return if needed.
July 30, Halleck tells McClellan to check if the force in Richmond is small. (McClellan gets this August 1st.) Halleck also tells McClellan to send off his sick.
July 31, Halleck sends McClellan a rumour that the enemy is evacuating Richmond. This also reaches McClellan on August 1st.
(Note that at this time most of Lee's force was still at Richmond.)
August 1, Halleck orders Burnside to Aquia (reneging on the reinforcement deal).
August 2, McClellan orders Hooker to retake Malvern Hill overnight. This fails owing to the guides getting lost.
Halleck telegrams again about the sending off of the sick, wanting an answer about when they will be out of the way.
August 3: McClellan occupies Coggins Point, both as a possible debouche and to prevent further bombardment raids.
He also replies to Halleck about how long it will take to get off the sick, giving the numbers - he can embark 1,200 at a time, and has 12,500, though 4,000 are "walking wounded" who can make easy marches. His estimate for the amount of time it would take is "from seven to ten days".

August 4:
McClellan recieves an order from Halleck to withdraw the army to Aquia, to which he strongly protests. Halleck's order complains that McClellan hasn't answered his questions or done a recce towards Richmond (which is because of the telegraph delay - McClellan has answered the question, but Halleck hasn't allowed time for the message to reach McClellan, McClellan to reply and the reply to reach Halleck), and tells McClellan "your material and transportation should be removed first" (i.e. don't abandon a bonanza of supplies for the Confederates, or destroy them en masse).

McClellan protests against the order, first arguing that there are reinforcements available (Burnside's force, just for starters) and in general trying to get across that his position is a good one for attacking Richmond.

Hooker moves overnight for the seond time, and this time he's successful, gaining Malvern Hill overnight. McClellan reports this on the morning of the 5th.

August 5: Cavalry recces reach past White Oak Swamp bridge. McClellan is definitively advancing towards Richmond. (This causes Lee severe worry, and he pulls together everything he has near Richmond to respond.)

August 6: Further orders from Halleck arrive, telling McClellan that "I have no reinforcements to give you" and also asking him to give up some cavalry and artillery to go to Burnside at Aquia Creek (this will be reiterated a day or two later).
Based on this and on the order to move to Aquia, McClellan cancels his movement against Richmond and pulls Hooker back.



The morning of the 9th is when the batteries for Burnside leave. It's also the date at which Lee decides to send Longstreet to Gordonsville, ordering Longstreet's 6-brigade division there.

On the 9th, Halleck complains that McClellan must send reinforcements "instantly" to Aquia, and says that with all the transports available the delay is not satisfactory.

McClellan on the morning of the 10th replies by saying that the sick are still being loaded, and that he's just got enough transport (after sending the batteries off) to load one regiment of cavalry for Burnside.
Recall that back when he was asked McClellan said on the 3rd that it would take seven to ten days to get all the sick sent off; since then he's had the shipping for five batteries and one cavalry regiment diverted from that purpose.


Late on the 10th another telegram arrives, in which Halleck says that the delay in McClellan's movements is "entirely unexpected, and must be satisfactorily explained". McClellan replies before midnight, pointing out the issue of transport that he's raised more than once, and that he's run out of transports before running out of sick.

On the 11th McClellan reports that he's almost finished loading the cavalry and one brigade of infantry (the reinforcements he was asked to send to Aquia) and that he's still loading sick; there are 4,000 to go.

From the 9th to the 11th, Longstreet's wing departs Richmond for Gordonsville.


On the 12th Lee gets a report to the effect that McClellan is advancing via Malvern Hill. This seems to be the result of a recce by Pleasonton,and on this day McClellan manages to correctly detect that a large Confederate force has been sent to Gordonsville, leaving Richmond weak north of the James (as much of what's left around Richmond is south of the James either around Petersburg or around Drewry's Bluff - also correct). McClellan suggests the idea of an offensive movement to Halleck's consideration, but says that under his current orders he can't unilaterially advance.

McClellan goes down to the telegraph office on the 13th (actually all the way to the Eastern Shore, a journey of well over seventy miles, as there's a problem with the undersea cable across the Chesapeake) to try and talk with Halleck directly over the telegraph, but Halleck refuses to do so - he simply says there's no change in plans and leaves the office.




After McClellan reaches Alexandria, what he wants is for Halleck to give direction. Either Halleck wants 2nd and 6th Corps to defend Alexandria, or he wants them to be properly equipped and then march out, or he wants them to head out immediately.
What McClellan is doing in this period is trying to get the authorization to properly equip 2nd and 6th Corps, or alternatively to get the instruction that he shouldn't be bothering to properly equip 2nd and 6th Corps, or possibly an order to march 2nd and 6th Corps out immediately. But McClellan needs to know which it is.
At the time Halleck's instructions were to equip and then move out, and McClellan is trying to do that, but he does not have authority over Banks' wagon trains which are left in Washington and which are the only realistic source of wagon equipment. He needs authorization from Halleck because he is specifically not the commander of those assets (they are part of Pope's army).

What sort of thing are you thinking of as being "tedious"?


When Sherman reached Savannah, Grant ordered him to put most of his men on ships and send them to him. Sherman wrote back explaining his thoughts why it was a bad idea, not once but numerous times. Sherman and Grant could work together Sherman didn't fall back on the excuse that Grant was GIC.

Are you advocating that McClellan should have disobeyed the legally constituted orders of his superior?
 

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
No I'm not. Are you suggesting Sherman did when he didn't send his troops by ship to Virginia? That he was wrong to discuss his ideas before he obeyed the order?
I'm saying that if a legally constituted superior has given an order, and then after discussion has either (1) not withdrawn the order or (2) reiterated the order, then that order is to be obeyed.

If Sherman was able to persuade Grant to rescind his order, then that's fine. But if Grant had not rescinded the order, then Sherman would have been disobeying legal orders to not follow them.

What happened with McClellan was that he explained to Halleck why there would be a delay, and Halleck ignored that (and then complained that the delay was inexplicable); McClellan said that he felt the order was mistaken, and explained why, and Halleck reiterated the orders.


Now, as it happens during the time when that discussion was taking place McClellan was making preparations to conduct the movement (i.e. sending off his sick). If McClellan had waited until he had had that order confirmed for a second time before starting to send off his sick that would have been a delay of a few days; if he'd kept arguing about the order then the delay would have got longer and longer.

Would this not actually qualify as McClellan causing unnecessary delay in following orders? Isn't that exactly what you criticize here?

How about if McClellan didn't dawdled on sending that AoP north from Harrison Landing.
 

neyankee61

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Oct 30, 2018
I want to correct my previous statement. Sherman DID obey Grant's order. He contacted the Navy and began to gather transport ships. While doing this he carefully and diplomatically wrote to Grant explaining his plan to march into NC. The level of trust and communication is clear between the two. Again something that McClellan was unable or unwilling to do with his superiors whether it be with Halleck, Stanton or Lincoln.
 

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
I want to correct my previous statement. Sherman DID obey Grant's order. He contacted the Navy and began to gather transport ships. While doing this he carefully and diplomatically wrote to Grant explaining his plan to march into NC. The level of trust and communication is clear between the two. Again something that McClellan was unable or unwilling to do with his superiors whether it be with Halleck, Stanton or Lincoln.
But McClellan did the same thing. He began shipping off his troops* (thus avoiding any delay during the discussion) while also explaining to Halleck the flaws in Halleck's idea.

The difference is that Halleck was not persuaded by McClellan, while Grant was persuaded by Sherman. This is at most only partly McClellan's fault, and at least partly Halleck's.


Out of interest, at what point did Grant countermand the movement? As in, how many days after the order reached Sherman?


* strictly his sick first, as ordered, but he fulfilled other priority shipping as needed
 

Joshism

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In what way could Pope have won the battle at Second Manassas?

1. Larger, more concentrated attacks instead of the small as disjointed attacks he actually conducted.

2. Believe Porter's report of Confederates (Longstreet). Scout it with cavalry. React accordingly.

As I recall, Porter and Longstreet agreed postwar that Porter's corps was positioned (by chance) to prevent Longstreet's attack because the Confederate flank would have been exposed to Porter's counterattack.

3 Jackson had a strong defensive work from the railroad cut. The right flank ended on a wooded area and the left was anchored on Bull Run.

Some Confederate cavalry screened the north side of the river. Bull Run is notable in that in most places the north bank are higher than the south. It would probably require a roundabout move due to roads, but a Union infantry division or two could disperse the Confederates cavalry and guard the ford while artillery enfiladed Jackson's line.

The best way to win Second Manassas in Ultimate Civil War General is to make a demonstration in front of the Confederate lines while a large portion of your army performs a left hook. Can be done in-game on the first day, before Longstreet arrives. Obviously it's a game so it would have been much more difficult in real life. However, Pope made no effort to find and turn Jackson's right in real life, instead launching headlong attacks at his center.
 
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