American History Stories—Volume IV - Mara L. Pratt

The Virginia Army

Now Gen. Pope was ordered to take command of an army of about 50,000, called the "Virginia Army." Very soon it was plain to see that Lee was planning to attack Washington. It was bad enough that our army had not succeeded in taking the Confederate capital; but to have them take Washington!—"No, indeed," said Gen. Pope. "No, indeed," echoed the soldiers.

The two armies met at Cedar Mountain. Here followed one of the most ghastly, most bloody battles of the whole war. Both sides lost great numbers of men, and neither side can be said to have gained much over the other.

Soon more battles were fought, among them another at Bull Run. Bull Run seemed an unlucky place for the Unionists. A second time they were defeated there, but this time there was no shameful running away. At last, Pope's army, called the "Army of Virginia," was ordered to Washington. They were as broken-spirited as McClellan's army had been.

It seemed as if the Fates were against the Union forces. Gen. Pope had been a hero in the West, fighting fiercely, full of hope and daring, a terror to the enemy. Now all seemed changed. Every attack had been a failure.

Now the two armies, the "Army of the Potomac" and the "Army of Virginia" were united—what there was left of them—and Gen. McClellan was again put in command.

Gen. McClellan had been a great favorite among his men, and when he was again put in command, it is said his men received him with shouts of joy; cheers for "Little Mac," as they called him, filled the air.

Gen. Lee meantime was on his way northward. First, he meant to stir up Maryland, and find men there to join his army. Maryland, you remember, had not seceded. Still, Lee knew there were many there who in heart were "secessionists."

So into that State he marched to the old southern tune, "Maryland, My Maryland." It was a beautiful old song, and was often played in the Confederate lines, as "Rally Round the Flag, Boys" was played in our lines.

Some way the Maryland people could not be aroused, not even by Lee. They refused to have anything whatever to do with the war. I think Lee's army at this time would hardly have inspired any one with a very great desire to join it. Successful though they had been, they were a wretched looking company. Ragged, hungry, hatless and coatless, often shoeless. "Stonewall Jackson" himself, it is said, was so shabby and worn, that he looked quite as bad as his troops.

Such brave men as these were, never shrinking from any hardship, ready to do and to die, doesn't it seem a pity they were fighting in such a wretched cause—fighting to save a government, which as they had said, should have the buying and selling of slaves as the corner-stone?