After the concluding debacle of the Peninsula Campaign, Lincoln drafted General John Pope to command a new Army of Virginia. Pope was commanded to link up with McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, but he had been appointed as an antidote to McClellan’s discredited ultra-caution, and he resolved to demonstrate the requisite aggression. After an initial inconclusive clash at Cedar Mountain (9 August), the Confederate commander, General Lee, learned McClellan’s Army was moving east, and went for the jugular. On 25 August, he sent ‘Stonewall’ Jackson on a whirlwind flanking manoeuvre via Salem to the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction, which he looted and destroyed. Surprised, Pope wheeled round from his defensive position along the Rappahannock River to confront the aggressor. Despite fierce Union assaults, the Confederates held their ground while General Longstreet followed the Manassas Gap railroad to complete Lee’s masterplan for the forthcoming battle.
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