Only two months separated the slaughter of Malvern Hill from the next great action of the Army of Northern Virginia. That was the battle of Second Manassas, fought in late August, 1862.
After Lee had defeated McClellan before Richmond, President Lincoln ordered the Union army of 90,000 on the James River to sail back to Washington. In the meantime, Lincoln combined the three Union armies in Western Virginia into one force of 47,000.
Over this army Lincoln placed General John Pope. In July 1962, Pope issued an address to his troops:
I come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies; from an army whose business it has been to seek the adversary and beat him when he was found . . . .
Lee decided to crush Pope before McClellan could unite with him at Washington. United the two Union armies would contain 130,000 men in Northern Virginia. Lee’s army counted only 55,000.
So after some inconclusive fights, Major General Stonewall Jackson marched his wing of the army 50 miles to strike at the rear of Pope’s army in Manassas, Virginia.
Jackson took a strong position in an unfinished railroad cut north of Manassas. On August 28, Jackson ambushed one of Pope’s detachments marching across his front. On August 29, Pope assaulted Jackson’s lines over and over – suffering terrible casualties – but the Confederates held their ground.
Late that afternoon, Lee arrived with the wing of the army commanded by General James Longstreet. The next morning, August 30, 1862, Pope attacked again in the belief that the Confederates were retreating. The memoir of General E. Porter Alexander tells the story:
[W]hen . . . the triple [Confederate] lines of battle revealed themselves, there happened something for which Pope was not prepared. Not only did every Confederate gun open a rapid fire, but above their roar could be heard the infantry bugles of Jackson’s corps, and from the woods a wave of bayonets swept down to the unfinished railroad, and now Jackson and Longstreet were united and Pope, with a force only 30 percent superior, was committed to the attack.
E. Alexander, Military Memoirs of a Confederate 213 (New York 1993). Longstreet opened an enfilading fire on the Union assault waves and then rolled up the Union flank. By September 2, the Union army had retreated to Washington, D. C.
The 4th Georgia did not fight at Second Manassas. The regiment formed part of Ripley’s Brigade, D. H. Hill’s Division, which consisted of the 4th and 44th Georgia regiments and the 1st and 3rd North Carolina. These units formed part of the Confederate reinforcing column.
W. C. Cherry described their march:
We now rested around Richmond about a month when we were ordered to Northern Virginia near Manassas, where Gen’l Stonewall Jackson was then fighting the enemy Gen’l Pope. We arrived there after some terribly hot, dusty marches, and arrived two days after the battle. It was a most ghastly sight. The dead artillery horses were lying on all hands, the trees were mowed down by the fire of the artillery, and worst of all, the enemy had to retreat without burying their dead. We had to march right through them two days after the battle. You can imagine the scene.
The 4th Georgia reported 463 men on September 2nd. Much worse was to come for them: General Lee was preparing to lead the Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland.