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Battle flag of the US Confederacy

Confederate battle flag.

First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
Active May 1861 – April 10, 1865
Country Confederate States of America
Branch Confederate States Army
Type Army Corps
Role infantry tactics
trench warfare
Part of Army of Northern Virginia
Engagements American Civil War
Commanders
Notable
commanders
P.G.T. Beauregard
James Longstreet
Richard Anderson

The First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia was a military unit fighting for the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. It was formed in early 1861 and served until the spring of 1865, mostly in the Eastern Theater. The corps was commanded by James Longstreet for much of its existence, as well as P.G.T. Beauregard early on.

In part or as a whole, the corps fought in nearly all of the major battles in the Eastern Theater, such as Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and the Siege of Petersburg. The corps also fought in Tennessee and performed important forage service in Suffolk, Virginia. It was disbanded shortly following Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender to Union forces April 9, 1865.

OriginsEdit

The First Corps was originally the Confederate Army of the Potomac, under the command of Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. It fought under this name at the First Battle of Manassas, then merged with Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate Army of the Shenandoah and the entire force was called the Army of the Potomac. This army was composed of two wings, or commands; the first commanded by Beauregard, and the second commanded by Maj. Gen. Gustavus W. Smith, with Johnston in overall command.

On June 1, 1862, Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of the Potomac following Johnston's wounding during Battle of Seven Pines, and shortly afterwards this army would be known as the Army of Northern Virginia.[1] Lee re-organized the army as two "wings" (corps were not legally allowed by the Confederate Congress until September 18),[2] with Longstreet in charge of the first wing and Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in charge of the second. This arrangement would continue until the mortal wounding of Jackson at Chancellorsville and Lee splitting the Second Corps. A Third Corps was created from about half of the Second combined with a division from the First. Longstreet would be in charge of First Corps up to the Overland Campaign in May 1864, when he was severely wounded in The Wilderness. Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson took the First Corps until Longstreet's return in October 1864, and he would then command it for the rest of its campaigns.

Civil War service, 1861Edit

First Bull RunEdit

Pgt beauregard

P. G. T. Beauregard

Note: see First Bull Run order of battle for the command structure of the Army of the Potomac at this time.

Fought on July 21, 1861, near Manassas, Virginia, the First Battle of Bull Run (referred to as First Manassas throughout the South) was the first major battle of the war.[3] Generals Beauregard and Johnston with their 32,500 Confederates engaged Union Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell's force of about 35,000 men. Despite early Union successes and the extremely untrained nature of both armies, the result was a Confederate victory and a rout of much of McDowell's men.

Beauregard's army consisted of six infantry brigades, along with various militia and artillery from what was previously known as the Department of Alexandria. It was collected near Manassas Junction directly confronting McDowell's force, while Johnston's Army of the Shenandoah was in the valley watching Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson's 18,000 or so men. Most of Beauregard's force was initially kept on the Confederate right, both to prevent a Union attack across that portion of Bull Run River and to allow for a Confederate attack on the Union left.

Civil War service, 1862Edit

Corps officially createdEdit

The First Corps was officially created in the Army of Northern Virginia on March 14, with Longstreet, then in charge of the army's Second Division, its first commander.[4]

Seven PinesEdit

Note: see Seven Pines order of battle for the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia at this time.

The Battle of Seven Pines (known as the Battle of Fair Oaks in the South) was fought on May 31 to June 1, 1862, near Fair Oaks Station in Henrico County, Virginia, as part of the Peninsula Campaign. Roughly equal numbers of northern and southern soldiers were engaged in this battle, with Johnston's army fighting Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac. The conflict is usually referred to as inconclusive, and noted mainly for its casualties, as the largest battle in the east up to that point, and the wounding of Johnston coupled with the possible mental breakdown of Maj. Gen. Smith, which led to Robert E. Lee taking over the Army of Northern Virginia for the rest of the war.

The Seven DaysEdit

James Longstreet

James Longstreet

Note: see Seven Days order of battle for the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia at this time.

The Seven Days Battles is the name given to six major battles from June 25 to July 1, 1862, near the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Union General McClellan with some 104,000 men fought Lee's 92,000, the largest size the Army of Northern Virginia would ever reach. The primary results of these battles on the Virginia Peninsula were McClellan's army eventually being pushed away from Richmond and hotly followed to the James River, where the Federals gained some protection due to their naval presence on that river.

Second Bull RunEdit

Note: see Second Bull Run order of battle for the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia at this time.

The Second Battle of Bull Run, also known as Second Manassas,[5] was fought from August 28–30, 1862, very near the ground used in the first battle there in July 1861. It was part of the Northern Virginia Campaign, and casualties were around 10,000 for each participant. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia (about 50,000 strong) was against the hastily gathered Federal Army of Virginia (roughly 62,000) led by Maj. Gen. John Pope. A Confederate victory, the fight had widespread consequences on both side of the conflict; Pope was sent west for the duration of the war and Union corps commander Porter was court-martialed for this defeat, and the Army of Virginia was disbanded and absorbed into McClellan's forces.

Prelude and the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap

Pope's movements and the weather had changed Lee's plans. While Jackson's wing was moving to intercept and spar with any part of the Army of Virginia it could, Lee with Longstreet's wing of five divisions followed Jackson's path of march to concentrate and defeat Pope. Jackson reached Culpeper on August 7, and Lee sent Longstreet to join him on August 13, leaving two brigades to watch McClellan begin to withdraw north away from Richmond.

28 August
29 August
30 August

AntietamEdit

Note: see Antietam order of battle for the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia at this time.

The Battle of Antietam was fought September 17, 1862, near the Maryland town of Sharpsburg, along the Antietam Creek.[6] It would be the last time Lee and his army (45,000 soldiers) would fight the Army of the Potomac (87,000 men) with McClellan as its leader. This battle would register the highest casualties for a day's fighting in the Civil War, as well as any other battle by U.S. forces to date, with combined losses of around 23,000 men.[7] Regarded as a draw tactically despite vicious fighting (the Confederates would ultimately hold their defensive lines), future events such as Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation made the battle a Union strategic win.

FredericksburgEdit

Note: see Fredericksburg order of battle for the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia at this time.

The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, starting on December 11 and concluding December 15, 1862, between Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and the Federal Army of the Potomac, now commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside. Remembered as one of the worst defeats of the Union Army, the battle resulted in very high casualties for the Federals and began an increase (on both sides) in the use and heightened fear of attacking prepared, entrenched positions.

The First Corps in this battle reached Marye's Heights on November 21 and deployed there to contest a possible pontoon crossing of the Union army at Fredericksburg, with the Second Corps following quickly once Lee was more certain of Burnside's intentions. Until Lee was convinced, the First Corps did not deeply entrench until a couple of weeks before the actions on December 12. Once completed on the terrain and making use of a four foot high stone wall, a network of trenches, abatis, and other fieldworks (combined with the artillery) made for a most stout defensive position.

Winter quarters 1862–63Edit

First Corps spent this winter

Civil War service, 1863Edit

Suffolk operationsEdit

Longstreet and part of the First Corps (With Ransom, Hood and Pickett's divisions) were detached from the Army of Northern Virginia on February 26 and sent to Suffolk, Virginia, to contend with the Federal pressure there from Burnside's Union forces, as well as allow supplies in the region to be collected by Confederate authorities.[4] This appointment came about through Longstreet's political connections as well as direct contact with Southern President Davis, but would cause the corps to miss the Battle of Chancellorsville early that May. Ransom's heavy division did not return however, and was left under D. H. Hill's care. Though the division never re-joined the Corps the units re-joined other units over time, Cooke and his brigade joined the III corps, and the rest joined Anderson's IV corps.

GettysburgEdit

Note: see Gettysburg order of battle for the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia at this time.

At the Battle of Gettysburg (lasting from July 1–3, 1863), Longstreet and his First Corps (as well as other Southern commanders) gave an often studied and controversial performance. The choice of the ground the battle was to be fought on was partly a result of decisions made by generals on both sides, but also a natural impulse given the radial-like design of the several roads and rail lines out of Gettysburg, plus the surrounding hills suitable for defense. The battle would result in a Union victory, the highest casualties of the war over its three days, Lee's retreat back to Virginia, and numerous other effects both home and abroad.

Positions June 30, Army of Northern Virginia: (approximate distance from Gettysburg)
  • First Corps - Chambersburg ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} miles (Template:Convert/km)); part at Greenwood (16 mi)
  • Second Corps & Jenkins' cavalry - Heidlersburg (10 mi); Johnson's division & trains, near Green Village (23 mi)
  • Third Corps - from Greenwood (16 mi) to Cashtown (8 mi)
  • Stuart's cavalry - circling between York and Carlisle (out of sight)
  • Robertson's cavalry - in Virginia (beyond reach); Imboden's cavalry - at Hancock (out of sight)
  • Headquarters at Greenwood[8]
Positions June 30, Army of the Potomac: (approximate distance from Gettysburg)
  • I Corps - Marsh Run ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} miles (Template:Convert/km)); II Corps - Uniontown (22 mi)
  • III Corps - Bridgeport (12 mi); V Corps - Union Mills (15 mi)
  • VI Corps & Gregg's cavalry - Manchester (22 mi)
  • XI Corps - Emmitsburg (12 mi); XII Corps - Littletown (9 mi)
  • Kilpatrick's cavalry - Hanover (13 mi); Buford's cavalry - in Gettysburg
  • Headquarters & Hunt's Reserve Artillery - Taneytown (14 mi.)[9]

Note: these positions put the Confederate forces about {{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} miles (Template:Convert/km) from the battlefield used, Union forces {{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} miles (Template:Convert/km) closer.[10]

Prelude and July 1

Nearing the end of June 1863 the Army of Northern Virginia had passed up the Shenandoah Valley, crossed through Maryland and entered Pennsylvania, using the Blue Ridge Mountains to hide their movements from Union cavalry patrols. Hooker's army followed cautiously, keeping in mind Lincoln's requirement that both Washington and Baltimore be covered by any move the Federal army made. Lead elements of Ewell's Second Corps had passed through Gettysburg and reached as far as York County, with the newly created Third Corps of A.P. Hill close behind them. On June 29 Lee learned the Army of the Potomac was pursuing and had crossed its namesake river, with a new commander, George Meade. Lee sent out orders for his army to consolidate near Cashtown, about eight miles from Gettysburg.

The First Corps divisions of Hood and McLaws were far from Cashtown and would not arrive in time to partake in the first day's fighting on July 1, while Pickett's division was even further back, being left to guard the lines of communication through Chambersburg, and would not rejoin the army until late on July 2. Meanwhile throughout this first day of battle units of the Second and Third Corps (about a third of Lee's army) pushed both Union I and XI Corps (about a fourth of Meade's) back through Gettysburg, despite stubborn resistance by the Federal cavalry and initially the infantry as well. As the rest of the Union army came up it joined these two battered corps on the defensive line being constructed along much of Cemetery Ridge.

2 July
3 July

ChickamaugaEdit

Note: see Chickamauga order of battle for the command structure of the Army of Tennessee at this time.

On September 9 the First Corps was transferred to the Department of Tennessee, except for Pickett's division and the brigade of "Tige" Anderson.[11] The Tennessee rail hub at Chattanooga was the primary goal of both armies in the West, these being the Army of the Cumberland under Union Maj. Gen. Rosecrans and numbering nearly 60,000 men, and the Army of Tennessee led by Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg and with the First Corps combined with the division of Maj. Gen. Hiram T. Walker would grow to about 70,000. The Battle of Chickamauga began on September 19 and the First Corps arrived in time to take part on September 20.[6] This fight is considered the most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater, with total casualties on both sides exceeding 34,000.

File:CHICKAMAUGA PHASE 2.svg

To get to and reinforce Bragg's army, the First Corps would use 16 railroads on a nearly 800-mile (1,350 km) route through the North and South Carolina to reach the Army of Tennessee, stationed in northern Georgia. This round-about route was necessary due to the different gauges of the surviving Southern rail system between the forces, and would take three weeks to complete. Reporting to Bragg on September 17, Longstreet was given command of the left units of the army consisting of the divisions of Hood, McLaws, Johnson, Stewart, Preston, Hindman, his own and Robertson's artillery, and the cavalry under Wheeler and Forrest.[4] The right of the army was given to Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk, and these commands were chosen based on where units were then.

ChattanoogaEdit

Lookout Valley
Wauhatchie

Battle of Wauhatchie October 28–29, 1863.

Knoxville CampaignEdit

Campbell's Station
Fort Sanders

Winter quarters 1863–64Edit

Civil War service, 1864Edit

The WildernessEdit

Note: see Wilderness order of battle for the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia at this time.

The Battle of the Wilderness was fought on May 5–6, 1864, west of the battlefield used in the Chancellorsville fight a year earlier. Regarded as inconclusive tactically, the results were about 18,000 Union and roughly 11,000 Confederate casualties, and the continuation of Grant's offensive campaign to destroy Lee's army.

The First Corps was 25 miles (40 km) away guarding rail lines at Gordonsville when the rest of Lee's army engaged the Meade's Army of the Potomac. Grant and Meade did not want battle within Spotsylvania's dense forestry (called the "Wilderness") as it would negate the Federal advantage of numbers and artillery, and Lee wished a fight there for those very reasons to even up the long odds his force would face. Throughout May 5 the Second Corps went after the Union V Corps to the left and fought to a standstill, while the Third Corps started against the Union II Corps on the right and was pushed back in very heavy fighting. By mid-day on May 6 the Third Corps was in danger of being swamped over by the II Corps and numerous reinforcements when the First Corps arrived to fill in the gap created by the fight. Longstreet put in his men directly against the now-worn out II Corps and regained almost all of the ground lost in the battle so far, then pushed the II Corps a mile (1.6 km) further. An unfinished railroad cut between the Union wings was now used to get at more of the II Corps, however Longstreet did not have enough soldiers to complete the victory and most fighting petered out as the sun was setting. Shortly afterwards the general was seriously hit in his neck by friendly fire and the First Corps was now commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard Anderson (6-7 May the corps was temporarily commanded by Maj. Gen. Field)[11] until Longstreet's recuperation and return despite an arm paralyzed in October 1864.[6]

Spotsylvania Court HouseEdit

File:Richard H. Anderson.jpg

Note: see Spotsylvania order of battle for the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia at this time.

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House was fought May 8–21, along a trench line four miles long, in and around Spotsylvania, about 10 miles southeast of the Wilderness battlefields.

On the evening of May 7, Lee ordered Maj. Gen. Richard Anderson to move his corps to Spotsylvania Court House, believing that Grant was headed to the same place. He told Anderson to have his men on the move by three in the morning, but Anderson decided to move at ten that evening, a decision that would prove to help the Army of Northern Virginia considerably. At the same time Lee put Anderson in motion, Grant decided to move his army to the same location in hopes of drawing Lee out into the open and get between Lee and Richmond.

The First Corps had just arrived to Block House Bridge when Anderson was informed that Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was holding off Grant’s infantry (elements of Warren’s V Corps) on Brock Road and needed reinforcements. He sent the brigades of Henegan and Humphreys to his aid, and upon their arrival, Stuart deployed them along the crest of Laurel Hill, where they successfully held off the Federal advance. No sooner had Anderson sent his first two brigades off when he was approached by a courier from Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, who was engaged with Federal cavalry units of Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson, who had just broken through to the Court House. Anderson immediately sent the brigades of Bryan and Wofford, who are able to help Lee fend off the cavalrymen.

The First Corps would spend the majority of the battle defending against repeated assaults of Laurel Hill made by both V Corps infantry as well as units from Hancock’s II Corps, and was not heavily involved in the fighting in and around the “Bloody Angle.”

Cold HarborEdit

Note: see Cold Harbor order of battle for the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia at this time.

The first corps in this battle

Siege of PetersburgEdit

The first corps in this battle

Civil War service, 1865Edit

Siege continuesEdit

Five Forks and AppomattoxEdit

Following Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill's death at Petersberg, the Third Corps was merged with the First on April 2.[11]

Surrender and paroleEdit

Major battlesEdit

Here is a listing of significant battles in which the First Corps participated.

1862
Dates Battle name[12] Alternate name[13]
May 31June 1, 1862 Battle of Seven Pines Battle of Fair Oaks
June 27, 1862 Battle of Gaines' Mill First Battle of Cold Harbor
July 1, 1862 Battle of Malvern Hill Battle of Poindexter's Farm
August 2830, 1862 Second Battle of Bull Run Second Manassas
September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam Battle of Sharpsburg
December 1215, 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg none
1863
Dates Battle name[14] Alternate name[15]
April 11May 4, 1863 Siege of Suffolk none
July 13, 1863 Battle of Gettysburg none
September 1820, 1863 Battle of Chickamauga none
1864
Dates Battle name[16] Alternate name[17]
May 56, 1864 Battle of the Wilderness none
May 821, 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania Court House Battle of Spotsylvania
May 31June 12, 1864 Battle of Cold Harbor none
June 15, 1864March 25, 1865 Siege of Petersburg none
1865
Dates Battle name[18] Alternate name[19]
June 15, 1864March 25, 1865 Siege of Petersburg none
April 1, 1865 Battle of Five Forks none

LegacyEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

  • [1] National Park Service (NPS) link

NotesEdit

  1. Eicher, p. 344.
  2. Eicher, p. 25.
  3. The National Park Service of the U.S. government also formally refers to the conflict as the First Battle of Manassas.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Eicher, p. 353.
  5. The National Park Service of the U.S. government also formally refers to the conflict as the Second Battle of Manassas.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Dupuy, p. 452
  7. McPherson, p. 3.
  8. Longstreet, p. 349.
  9. Longstreet, pp. 349-50
  10. Longstreet, p. 350.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Eicher, p. 889.
  12. battle names used by National Park Service, except for the Bull Run battles.
  13. next most widely known and/or used battle names, if any
  14. battle names used by National Park Service, except for the Bull Run battles.
  15. next most widely known and/or used battle names, if any
  16. battle names used by National Park Service, except for the Bull Run battles.
  17. next most widely known and/or used battle names, if any
  18. battle names used by National Park Service, except for the Bull Run battles.
  19. next most widely known and/or used battle names, if any

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