On June 1, 1862 General Robert E. Lee took over the Confederate 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.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee

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. Army of Northern Virginia – June 1862
Army of Northern Virginia – July 1862
Army of Northern Virginia – August 1862
Army of Northern Virginia – September 1862
Army of Northern Virginia – October 1862

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. Army of Northern Virginia – November 1862
Army of Northern Virginia – December 1862
Army of Northern Virginia – January 1863
Army of Northern Virginia – February 1863
Army of Northern Virginia – March 1863
Army of Northern Virginia – April 1863
Army of Northern Virginia – May 1863

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. Army of Northern Virginia – June 1863
Army of Northern Virginia – July 1863
Army of Northern Virginia – August 1863
Army of Northern Virginia – September 1863

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. Army of Northern Virginia – October 1863
Army of Northern Virginia – November 1863
Army of Northern Virginia – December 1863
Army of Northern Virginia – January 1864
Army of Northern Virginia – February 1864
Army of Northern Virginia – March 1864

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. Army of Northern Virginia – April 1864
Army of Northern Virginia – May 1864
Army of Northern Virginia – June 1864

Tight Corners and Desperate Gambles

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

As Grant tightened the noose around the Petersburg defenses 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. Army of Northern Virginia – July 1864
Army of Northern Virginia – August 1864
Army of Northern Virginia – September 1864
Army of Northern Virginia – October 1864
Army of Northern Virginia – November 1864

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. Army of Northern Virginia – December 1864
Army of Northern Virginia – January 1865
Army of Northern Virginia – February 1865
Army of Northern Virginia – March 1865
Army of Northern Virginia – April 1865