Battling for the Rocky Knoll is a part of the Second Battle of Manassas or Second Bull Run. In the two-day battle on August 29-30th 1862, this was a battle during the Civil War between Union forces, led by General John Pope and Confederate forces, led by General Stonewall Jackson. Brigadier General Maxcy Gregg, on August 29th, 1862, withheld six separate attacks from the Union by setting his 1,200 troops atop a rocky knoll behind a railroad grade. Although his Brigade nearly collapsed, General Gregg rallied his troops and held his defensive line for the Confederates.
President Lincoln and Henry Helleck decided to recall the
Army of the Potomac and unite it with the newly formed Army of Virginia, then
under the command of General John Pope, this new army would then make a
combined offensive towards Richmond. Knowing General McClellan’s army was on
its way to join Pope, which would create an overwhelming numerical advantage for
Union troops, Confederate General Robert E. Lee decided to attack Pope’s forces
before the two could meet. General Lee decided to divide his Army of Northern
between Generals Jackson and Longstreet. Although Jackson’s troops were
detected by Union scouts, their movement was misjudged and within two days Jackson’s
troops had struck the Federal supply base at Manassas Junction.
General Pope’s troops turned to face General Jackson but was
unable to locate his forces initially, until Pope’s cavalry engaged in a small
skirmish at dusk on the 28th. Pope began to prepare his army for an
attack on Jackson the next morning, assuming that General Jackson would be
retreating in order to join back with the rest of the Confederate army.
Unbeknown to General Pope, Jackson had actually taken up defensive positions
and General Longstreet was moving to join Jackson’s forces against Pope.
On the 29th, Pope found Jackson’s forces posted
on an unfinished railroad grade and prepared for a defensive. Although in some
places the Confederate line was broken throughout the day, Union forces were
quickly pushed back again. During so, General Gregg withheld heavy attacks upon
his rocky knoll and rallying his troops by brandishing his grandfather’s Revolutionary
War sword and saying, Let us die here, my men, let us die here!.
Notably John Fitz Porter defied an order from Pope in fear that General
Longstreet’s troops had already arrived and that his forces would be
outnumbered. This assumption has safe as Longstreet did in fact arrive by noon,
unknown to Pope and overlapped the Union’s left flank. General Lee urged
Longstreet to advance but General Longstreet refused and maintained defensive
On August 30th, General Pope had yet again
misjudged a Confederate retreat with the adjustment of defensive positioning
the previous night and urged another assault on Confederate positions. General
Pope sent word to Washington of an imminent victory and of his plans to pursue
the retreating Confederate’s prior to his troop movement. General Pope’s troops
were turned back by Confederate artillery and then adjust to the right to
attack Jackson’s right flank. General Longstreet took advantage of this and
ordered and aggressive counterattack on the Union’s left flank. These attacks
forced the Union to fall back and inevitably lead to their retreat.
Although 75,000 Union troops outnumbered 55,000 total
Confederate troops, the Confederates maintained their defensive lines and
pushed away Pope’s advances. Out of the 22,000 casualties of the battle, 13,000
of those belonged to Union forces.