Today is the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Chantilly. It was the final engagement of the Second Bull Run Campaign – and a very costly battle for the Federal forces. While not considered a Union defeat, it is considered a strategic victory for the Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee.
After suffering a terrible defeat after the Second Battle of Bull Run, US Major General John Pope pulled his Army of Virginia back towards Centreville. His army was spread out to protect the approaches to Washington City, where the majority of US Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac was garrisoned. Lee wanted to inflict more damage on the Union army before they had a chance to join up with McClellan. He devised a flanking movement that would send CSA Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s Left Army Wing around Pope’s right flank. They would be preceded by Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry Division which would scout the approach and provide warning to Jackson of the enemy’s dispositions. Meanwhile, US Army General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck had ordered Pope to attack Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Unfortunately for Pope, Lee attacked first.
By 3:00 p.m., Jackson had reached Ox Hill near the junction of the Warrenton Turnpike and Little River Turnpike. US Brigadier General Issac I. Stevens’ IX Corps Division was situated east of the hill. Severely outnumbered, Stevens decided to attack before the III Corps Division of Major General Philip Kearny, Jr. was on the battlefield. While initially successful, Stevens’ attack, during a driving rainstorm, was doomed. The topography was not in his favor – nor was his battle strength. Marching uphill, he ran directly into the center of the Confederate line and the division of CSA Brigadier General Alexander Lawton. Stevens led from the front and would be killed by a bullet wound to his head. It was 5:00 p.m.
Federal reinforcements were at hand, with the arrival of General Phil Kearny’s III Corps Division. Arriving about the time of Stevens’ death, he deployed Brigadier General David B. Birney’s brigade on the left of Stevens’ demoralized troops. Running headlong into CSA Major General A.P. Hill’s Division, the fighting devolved into a hand-to-hand struggle. Kearny would accidently ride into the Confederate lines and would also be killed. With the arrival of the remainder of the Kearny’s brigades, Birney pulled back and the fighting ended.
While a small battle compared to Second Bull Run, it was still costly. Federal losses were 1,300 combined casualties of all types, including the deaths of Stevens and Kearny. Confederate losses were 800 combined casualties of all types. During the overnight hours the Union forces would pull back to the area of Fairfax Court House and combine with McClellan’s forces. Lee, concerned that he could not successively attack the forces at Washington City, decided the the time for bold action was at hand. On September 4, 1862 he would cross the Potomac River into Maryland. New battlefields awaited him which would be covered with the blood of both armies.
To see my photo essay on the Chantilly Battlefield click HERE.