The Civil War in the East

The Army of Northern Virginia
June 1862 - April 1865

 

On June 1, 1862 General Robert E. Lee took over the army defending Richmond from the wounded Joseph Johnston and the incapacitated Gustavus Smith. From the time Lee took over it would be known as the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee would command the army almost without pause for just short of three years, through some of the bloodiest battles in American history.

 

Note: This section is still being developed. There will be revisions and additions, and you may find links to even unfinished (or missing) sections.


General
Robert E. Lee

Organizing a Collection of Divisions

Order of Battle of the Army of Northern Virginia from June to October 1862

Lee took over an army that was a loose collection of divisions. Unlike the North, the Confederacy did not have legal authorization for army corps. But Lee quickly organized his divisions under two senior generals, James Longstreet and Thomas Jackson, and soon had created a corps structure in all but name. The organization confusion of the Seven Days turned into the victory of the Second Battle of Manassas (or Bull Run) and the close draw of the Maryland Campaign.

Lee's One Two Punch

Order of Battle of the Army of Northern Virginia from November 1862 to May 1863

When the Confederate Congreess authorized the creation of army corps and the corresponding rank of lieutenant general in the fall of 1862 Lee was quick to put it into place. He creatied the First and Second Corps under Longstreet and Jackson. The structure worked well at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

Lee Adds a Corps but Loses His Right Arm

Order of Battle of the Army of Northern Virginia from June to September 1863

The death of Jackson after Chancellorsville drove a reorganization of the army. Lee felt no one man could take Jackson's place, so Richard Ewell took over a reduced the Second Corps while a Third Corps was created under A.P. Hill from parts of the exisiting corps. The new organization showed strain at Gettysburg, a sign that the loss of Jackson and other irreplacable leaders was beginning to have an effect.

Lee's Winter Without His Warhorse

Order of Battle of the Army of Northern Virginia from October 1863 to March 1864

The transfer of Longstreet's First Corps to the Western Theater left Lee with a much reduced army and the loss of his two favorite subordinates. The disapointing Bristoe and Mine Run campaigns were warning signs of the declining efficiency of Lee's army.

Savage Spring

Order of Battle of the Army of Northern Virginia from April to June 1864

Longstreet and his First Corps returned barely in time to be swept into a series of brutal battles that slashed the manpower and leadership of the army and pushed it into the trenches around Richmond and Petersburg.

Tight Corners and Desperate Gambles

Order of Battle of the Army of Northern Virginia from July to November 1864

As Grant tighened the noose around the Petersburg defences Lee hazarded another gamble by detaching the Second Corps under Jubal Early to the Shenandoah Valley (see the Army of the Valley 1864) to try to deflect Union manpower and attention. He succeeded, delaying the end of the war until 1865.

The Last Ditch

Order of Battle of the Army of Northern Virginia from December 1864 to April 1865

The sadly thinned survivors of the Second Corps under John Gordon returned to an army which had largely run out of options. By 1865 the delay of the final collapse of the Confederate defences was as much due to the weather as to their hungry, sick, worn out defenders.




 
About the Author • ©2015 Steve Hawks