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South Defeats North Again at Manassas

Prayer in Stonewall Jackson camp
Prayer in Stonewall Jackson camp
South Defeats North Again at Manassas
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From VOA Learning English, this is The Making of a Nation. I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

And I’m Christopher Cruise.

The American Civil War started in the spring of 1861. By the summer of 1862, Union forces had not yet won a major battle against the Confederate South in the state of Virginia.

So President Abraham Lincoln and his chief general created a new northern force called the Army of Virginia. They wanted to join the Army of Virginia with the Army of the Potomac and seize the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.

But Southern generals were determined to prevent that from happening.

Civil War Confederate Officers
Civil War Confederate Officers

Robert E. Lee, a Confederate commander, sent General Stonewall Jackson to block the Army of Virginia in central Virginia.

Jackson and his men marched more than 80 kilometers in two days. They seized a huge northern supply center at the town of Manassas. Then they moved a few kilometers away to a long, low hill northwest of the Bull Run battleground. Confederate forces had defeated a northern army at Bull Run just a year before.

Jackson hid his troops in woods and waited for General Lee to arrive with more southern troops.

But before Lee could get there, thousands of Union troops from the Army of Virginia marched down the road below Jackson. Jackson decided to attack.

The fighting was furious. Neither side broke. At the end of the day, Jackson's men moved back to their positions on higher ground.

From his headquarters on the hill, Jackson watched the northern forces prepare to battle again. The Army of Virginia was large. But it was poorly organized. The men had been deployed in a hurry. The order to attack was given before all the troops were ready, and Jackson’s men were able to fight them off.

But then, more and more northern soldiers joined the fight. The two sides struggled for hours in the hot summer sun. Jackson's men almost broke. Men prayed for the long day to end. The sun seemed to stand still.

General John Pope
General John Pope

Finally, the battlefield again became dark. The leader of the Army of Virginia, General John Pope, knew that Jackson's army had taken a terrible beating. He was sure that Jackson would try to withdraw the next day, to retreat to the west.

So that night Pope divided his forces. He left thousands in front of Jackson's lines. He moved the others to block Jackson's retreat.

Pope made a terrible mistake. Jackson was not planning to go anywhere. He was waiting with Lee to smash the northern army. And that is what happened the next day.

The Battle of Second Manassas created bitter anger among the people of the north -- anger against their military leaders. People felt that a year of fighting had been wasted, that thousands had died for no real purpose.

As the facts of the battle became known, cries of anger became even louder. Why did the Army of the Potomac move so slowly to join the Army of Virginia? Why did Pope let Jackson get behind him? Why were 14,000 Union soldiers lost in battle?

While northerners protested, and Lincoln’s government debated about how to react, the Union army began to rebuild. General Robert E. Lee, however, would not wait. He decided to carry the war to the North.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

And I’m Kelly Jean Kelly. This is The Making of a Nation from VOA Learning English.

*Frank Beardsley wrote this report. Kelly Jean Kelly and George Grow were the editors.

Words in This Story

determined - adj. having a strong feeling you are going to do something and you will not let anything stop you

furious - adj. very powerful or violent

wasted - adj. not used in a good or effective way