On October 22 the Department of Northern Virginia was established, made up of three districts: Potomac, Valley, and Aquia.
The Army of the Potomac commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston was concentrated in Northern Virginia around Manassas, although elements were stationed as far forward as the Potomac River. On October 24 a small action was fought at Ball’s Bluff, on the Potomac River outside Leesburg. It was a Union disaster with relatively small casualties but long-ranging results on the Union war effort.
The Army of the Valley District, commanded by Major General Thomas J. Jackson. Confederate authorities were concerned about a possible threat up the Shenandoah Valley towards Winchester, which was guarded only by militia units. On October 22, 1861 it was decided to create the Valley District, which would “embrace the section of country between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghany Mountains.” Major General Thomas J. Jackson was given command and made his headquarters at Winchester.
The Aquia District, commanded by Major General Theophilus H. Holmes, Commanded troops along the Potomac near Aquia Landing, including the strategic city of Fredericksburg.
The Department of Norfolk under the command of Major General Benjamin Huger was responsible for the defence of North Carolina and Southern Virginia.