The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – August 27 to September 2, 1862

Here is a belated look at events of the Civil War 150 years ago this week at the end of August and beginning of September 1862.

Kossuth historic marker.

Kossuth historic marker. (Source)

“The Spirit of Our Age”

Yes, this week was the battle of Manassas/Second Manassas (and much activity in East Tennessee and Kentucky!), but the small town of Kossuth, Mississippi, is in the news this week and is interesting for more than the single skirmish that happened there.

This town was originally established as New Hope, but they changed the name to honor Lajos Kossuth, “the father of Hungarian democracy.” I don’t know why they did that, but many Americans thought well of him. Mr. Kossuth visited the United States in 1851-52 and became only the second foreigner, after Lafayette, to address a joint session on Congress.

Kossuth as saint

Lajos Kossuth: “One of the people’s saints for the calendar of liberty 1852.” (Library of Congress)

In February 1852, while speaking to the Ohio State Legislature, he said

All for the people and all by the people. Nothing about the people without the people. That is Democracy, and that is the ruling tendency of the spirit of our age.

Perhaps there is an intentional echo of that in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that his listeners back then understood, though it might be missed by our modern ears. If so, it’s especially poignant that a small town in Mississippi, the home of a Confederate general, also thought so much of the Hungarian freedom fighter that they renamed their town to honor him.

August 27

Military events: Western theater: Skirmish near Kossuth, Mississippi. (19)

Confederate Heartland Offensive: General Buell is trying to keep track of the two Confederate armies that are in motion, as well as the cavalries of generals Forrest and Morgan. He dispatches General Lovell Harrison Rousseau to assume command at Nashville and moves Colonel Miller and a light brigade south to Murfreesboro to guard the southern approaches to Tennessee’s capital and guard against Forrest and Morgan. Under his orders, the rest of the Army of the Ohio is converging on Nashville, despite ongoing resistance from US General George Thomas, who thinks McMinnville will be a better concentration point. Relations between the two generals are strained, as are those between Buell and Tennessee’s military governor Andrew Johnson. (2, 18) Indeed, CS General Forrest’s cavalry has been active around McMinnville, capturing pickets and destroying bridges and otherwise destroying the railroads up to within 10 miles of town. However, Forrest hears of the strong Federal presence now in McMinnville and decides to head up into the mountains to await General Bragg as previously arranged at Altamont near a pass in the Cumberlands. (4)

Retreat of Union army

“Retreat of the Army of the Rappahannock (Gen. Pope) to Groveton, Manassas Junction,” Edwin Forbes, August 28, 1862 (Library of Congress)

August 28

Battles: The battle of Manassas/Second Manassas begins. (10, 14) It’s sometimes called the Battle of Groveton, while the Confederate Stonewall Brigade meets the Union Iron Brigade at Brawner’s Farm. (6)

Military events: Western theater: Skirmish near Corinth, Mississippi. (19)

Confederate Heartland Offensive: CS General Bragg and his almost 28,000-man army head north to unite with General Kirby Smith’s 12,000 troops. Bragg has realized that Smith has changed their agreement – instead of taking Cumberland Gap as he was supposed to, Smith has placed it under guard and continued on toward Richmond, Kentucky. The battleground, then, is going to be in Kentucky, not Tennessee, but Bragg has been assured many Kentuckians will rally to the cause once the Confederate armies arrive to liberate them. By this time, many units of the US Army of the Ohio are in motion, while General Buell himself, 50 miles from Chattanooga by now, turns north, both to pursue Bragg and also to pick up reinforcements at the Union base at Louisville, on the Ohio River. (18 – note: the exact dates here aren’t clear.)

August 29

Battles: Manassas/Second Manassas: CS General Jackson holds against US General Pope’s attacks. (10, 14)

Military events: Confederate Heartland Offensive: CS General Forrest’s cavalry arrives at Altamont and is almost surrounded by Federal forces. The Confederates manage to sneak through enemy forces without any major engagements, and Forrest heads for Sparta. (4)

Cleburne's flag

“Flag of Genl Cleburne’s Division,” A. R. Waud, between 1862 and 1864 (Library of Congress)

Battles: Confederate Heartland Offensive: The battle of Richmond, Kentucky, begins when advance elements of CS General Kirby Smith’s army, led by General Patrick Cleburne and supported by Colonel John Scott’s cavalry, encounter Union troops on the road from Big Hill to Richmond, Kentucky, and start skirmishing.

August 30

Battles: Manassas/Second Manassas: Pope commits his last reserve against Jackson, and CS General Longstreet launches a massive assault, driving the Federals off the field. (10, 14)

Confederate Heartland Offensive: The battle of Richmond, Kentucky, ends in a Confederate victory.

Western Theater: Confederate cavalry under General Frank C. Armstrong skirmish with Union forces near Bolivar, Tennessee. (8)

Other: From Decherd, Tennessee, General Buell writes a letter explaining his decisions and current movements to the state’s military governor, Andrew Johnson, with whom he has tangled in the past.

August 31

Military Events: Manassas/Second Manassas followup: Although General Lee has been victorious, he orders General Jackson to march behind the Federal right flank while Longstreet pins Pope in Centreville, even though Pope has been reinforced by all four corps of McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. President Lincoln, upon hearing the news, tells his secretary, “Well John we are whipped again, I am afraid. The enemy reinforced on [General John] Pope and drove back his left wing and he has retired to Centerville [Virginia] where he says he will be able to hold his men. I don’t like that expression. I don’t like to hear him admit that his men need holding.” (5, 14)

Confederate Heartland Offensive: General Kirby Smith allows his men to rest for a day and then heads for Lexington. (18)

Western Theater: Confederate guerrillas capture the steamboat W. B. Terry on the Tennessee River after it runs aground. Drought has lowered all river levels. (8, 13)

Kearney's charge

“General Kearney’s gallant charge, at the Battle of Chantilly, Va., 1st of September 1862,” A. Tholey (Library of Congress)

September 1

Battles: Western Theater: The Battle of Britton’s Lane. General Armstrong concludes his skirmish with Union forces near Bolivar, Tennessee. (6, 8)

Manassas/Second Manassas followup: The battle of Chantilly/Ox Hill.

Military Events: Manassas/Second Manassas followup: Pope manages to stop Jackson’s advance at Chantilly but falls back to Washington. (14)

September 2

Military Events: General Pope is relieved of command (note: some say this happened on September 6th – see next week’s timeline), replaced by General Burnside. General McClellan assumes command of all forces around Washington, including the Army of Virginia. Meanwhile, General Lee has concluded that an attack on Washington will not succeed and that campaign ends. (10, 14) “Although Lee had gained another victory, it was unclear as to the best way to press his advantage. His forces could not stay in this area of northern Virginia, but to fall back would be to negate the advantages of his recent victory. His decision, therefore, was to invade Maryland. He hoped to gain support from the local populace of the state, and he also saw an opportunity to sway foreign opinion if he could win another victory on Northern soil. Washington, D.C. itself Lee knew was too strong to attack, but he hoped to be able to capture the 12,000 man Federal garrison at Harper’s Ferry during his advance. To do so, he would have to take the risk to divide his army in enemy territory, but he felt that the Army of the Potomac was still demoralized from its recent defeats and McClellan, if remaining true to form, would react with all the speed of a tortoise. The Army of the Potomac however, was not demoralized; it was to the contrary, still full of fight. Maryland did not welcome the Confederates with open arms, as had been hoped, and worst of all, . . . McClellan was capable of moving fairly quickly.” (10)

Confederate Heartland Offensive: CS General Kirby Smith occupies an undefended Lexington to the cheers of its residents, prompting him to telegraph President Davis: “”They have proven to us that the heart of Kentucky is with the South in this struggle.” Smith then sends General Harry Heth (not a misspelling) to demonstrate against Cincinnati with more than half a division, while Colonel John Scott’s cavalry pursues Union troops who are retreating toward Louisville. (18) Meanwhile, CS General John Hunt Morgan’s 2nd Kentucky Cavalry Brigade gets a new regiment, the 7th Kentucky, commanded by Colonel R. M. Gano.

Western Theater: General Halleck orders General Grant to send a division commanded by General Gordon Granger to Louisville, Kentucky. General Grant orders General Stephen Hurlbut’s division from Memphis to Bolivar. (8)

Second day of Second Manassas battle

“Second day of the second battle of Bull Run, fought Saturday, August 30–the National forces commanded by Major General Pope, and the rebel troops by General Lee, Jackson and Longstreet,” Edwin Forbes (Library of Congress)


(1)  The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

(2)  Morgan’s Raiders and The L&N Railroad in the Civil War, by Dan Lee.

(3)  Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson

(4) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor

(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.

(6) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(7) Henry Halleck’s War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln’s Controversial General-In-Chief, by Curt Anders

(8) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(9)”The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.

(10) Civil War Home’s “The Eastern Theater: 2nd Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg.

(11)  The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, by William Allan (1892)

(12)  Conquest of the Lower Mississippi.

(13) Civil War Interactive.

(14) Chronology of the Second Manassas Campaign.

(15) A Year of Glory, August 1862, part 2.

(16) The Strategy of Robert E. Lee, by J. J. Bowen (1914).

(17) Campaigns of the Civil War.

(18) Confederate Invasion of Kentucky, Late 1862 and The Battle of Perryville.

Categories: American Civil War

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