Book Review: Never Such a Campaign: The Battle of Second Manassas, August 28-August 30, 1862


by Dan Welch and Kevin Pawlak

El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beatie, 2023. Pp. xx, 172. Illus., maps, notes, appends, biblio. $16.95 paper. ISBN: 1611216419

The Second Bull Run Campaign

In this new volume in the Savas Beatie “Emerging Civil War” series, authors Welch and Pawlak offer some interesting insights into the Second Manassas Campaign, one in which, under Robert E. Lee’s leadership, the Army of Northern Virginia demonstrated superb flexibility and coordination to inflict a devastating defeat on the Union.

The authors open with some background on the campaign. The failure of George McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign during the “Seven Days’ Battles,” and his withdrawal from Richmond, coupled with Lincoln’s loss of confidence in the man, who ignored the President’s counsel and his unwillingness to fight a “hard war,” a seeming desire to wage war without suffering, caused Lincoln to create a new “Army of Virginia.” Rather hastily assembled under John Pope, who had gained some success in the Mississippi Valley, the army lacked cohesion. In addition, when over-confident Pope advanced south from Washington, he expected that McClellan’s forces would be acting in support. That support was not forthcoming.

Lee brilliantly outmaneuvers Pope. As “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps faked a retreat, as the authors put it, Pope, believing that Jackson was retreating and . . . that he was close to defeating Jackson’s forces, “made command mistakes in ordering McDowell to pursue Jackson.” As he did so, his army was hit in the flank with a devastating blow by James Longstreet’s corps on August 30th.

Then, in the aftermath of this victory “Jackson’s 24,000 men marched fifty miles, to cut Pope’s supply lines in two places, and stood in Pope’s rear between him and Washington,” leading to the recovery of much of northeastern Virginia from the Union's control.

The authors are very critical of Pope, who clearly was ill-prepared to command so large an army, and certainly not in a fight against Lee’s army. In addition to his failure to realize that Jackson’s retreat was a ruse, Pope believed FitzJohn Porter's corps would be arriving to support him, which did not prove to be the case, through no fault on Porter’s part, though he had to fight for decades to clear his name of misconduct. The author’s also assert that Pope was nothing more than a political pawn of the Lincoln administration, which may perhaps be questioned.

Never Such a Campaign is a readable, thought-provoking account based on primary sources and building on the work of earlier scholars, is highly recommended.


Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. His previous reviews here include Navigating Liberty: Black Refugees and Antislavery Reformers in the Civil War South, Gettysburg In Color, Vol 1, "The Bullets Flew Like Hail", John Brown's Raid, Searching For Irvin McDowell, A House Built by Slaves, They Came Only To Die, General Grant and the Verdict of History, Gettysburg In Color, Vol 2, Man of Fire, To the Last Extremity, Hood's Defeat Near Fox's Gap, "If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania", Vol. 2, Outwitting Forrest, All That Can Be Expected, Force of a Cyclone, Lincoln and Native Americans, Detour to Disaster, Lincoln in Lists, A Wilderness of Destruction, Twelve Days, The Civil War Memoirs of Captain William J. Seymour, Stay and Fight it Out, Calamity at Frederick, John T. Wilder, The Sergeant: The Incredible Life of Nicholas Said, Contrasts in Command: The Battle of Fair Oaks, Brigades of Antietam, Lee Invades the North, From Antietam to Appomattox with Upton’s Regulars, and Our Flag Was Still There



Note: Never Such a Campaign is also available in e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: David Marshall   

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