First Battle of Rappahannock Station

Coordinates: 38°31′38″N 77°49′49″W / 38.5272°N 77.8302°W / 38.5272; -77.8302
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First Battle of Rappahannock Station
Part of the American Civil War

Skirmish at Freeman's Ford, by Davenport.
DateAugust 22, 1862 (1862-08-22) – August 25, 1862 (1862-08-25)
Result Confederate Victory
United States United States (Union) Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
John Pope James Longstreet
Brigades[1] Brigades[1]
Casualties and losses
225 [1]

The First Battle of Rappahannock Station, (also known as Waterloo Bridge, White Sulphur Springs, Lee Springs, and Freeman's Ford) as took place on August 23, 1862, at present-day Remington, Virginia, as part of the Northern Virginia Campaign of the American Civil War.[1][2][3]

Union pickets at Rappahannock Station, Virginia photographed here in August 1862 will be driven away by Confederates under James Longstreet


In early August, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee determined that Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's army was being withdrawn from the Virginia Peninsula to reinforce Maj. Gen. John Pope. He sent Maj. Gen. James Longstreet's wing from Richmond to join Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's wing of the army near Gordonsville and arrived to take command himself on August 15. On August 20 and 21, Pope withdrew to the line of the Rappahannock River.


Union troops crossing the Rappahannock near Sulphur Springs
Union troops crossing the Rappahannock near Sulphur Springs

Throughout the day on August 20, Pope spread his army along the northern bank of the Rappahannock from Kelly's Ford northward to just above the railroad bridge at Rappahannock Station (present day Remington, Virginia) and prepared to defend the river crossings. On that day the head of Longstreet's right wing of Lee's army reached Kelly's Ford. Lee had intended to cross the river above Pope's army to flank it but Pope was expanding northward too quickly. On August 21 and 22 the northern ends of the two armies "waltzed", first Pope and then Longstreet expanding northward along the river. Each army kept its southern end anchored at Kelly's Ford. Lee then changed his strategy and ordered Jackson's left wing to move much further upriver in order to cross above Pope. On August 23, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry crossed the Rappahannock at the northern end of Jackson's line and made a daring raid on Pope's headquarters at Catlett Station, thus showing that the Union right flank was vulnerable to a turning movement.[1]

Rappahannock Station[edit]

Lee now needed to protect his own right flank from a possible enemy attack. Upriver storms on August 22 had caused the river to rise enough to make most of the fords useless, but Lee needed to take the railroad bridge at Rappahannock Station where Union artillery on the high northern bank plus a small troop and gun emplacement on the south bank controlled the crossing. On the afternoon of August 22, two Confederate artillery units arrived in the vicinity of Rappahannock Station. They were under orders from Maj. Gen. James Longstreet to drive the enemy from his positions on both sides of the river. Nathan G. Evans' South Carolina Brigade and George T. Anderson's Georgia Brigade were ordered to support the artillery. At daylight on the 23rd the 19 guns of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans began the duel. One historian characterized this three-hour action involving nearly fifty cannon as "one of the fiercest small artillery duels of the war".[4] The first Confederate artillery target was the small Union battery on the knoll just south of the river. This position was an easy target for the artillery of both armies. It was quickly abandoned by Union forces, who blew up the railroad bridge as they retreated. Evans then sent his small Macbeth Artillery battery and the Holcombe Legion infantry to occupy the knoll, but they were quickly dislodged by Union artillery fire from across the river. About noon some of the Union artillery units on the north bank moved slightly upriver in order to be able to fire on the bottomland where the Confederate infantry brigades were concealed. The Confederate infantry retreated under fire as best they could, but they suffered substantial casualties. At mid-afternoon additional Confederate artillery units arrived to shell the Union forces, which then set fire to the buildings in the small town and retreated.[5] On August 25 Jackson's wing rose at 3 am to begin marching further upriver to cross the Rappahannock at Hinson's Mill Ford, flanking Pope on his right. On the 26th he marched via Thoroughfare Gap to capture Bristoe Station and destroy Federal supplies at Manassas Junction, far in the rear of Pope's army.[1] A few days later Longstreet's wing of the Army of Northern Virginia followed the same route to join Jackson's wing, setting the stage for the Second Battle of Manassas.

Union forces retreat from Rappahannock Station

Reinterment of a soldier[edit]

A Smithsonian Institution archaeological team uncovered the remains of a Confederate soldier in 1989 while excavating the ruins of St. James Episcopal Church to access the site's eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places. The team identified the soldier as a native of New Orleans and member of the Washington Artillery killed during the Battle of Rappahannock Station on August 23, 1862. The reinterment of the soldier was conducted at the St. James Cemetery, Brandy Station, Virginia.[6][7]

Battlefield preservation[edit]

The American Battlefield Trust and its partners have acquired and preserved 869 acres (3.52 km2) of the battlefield through November 2021.[8] It is located along the Rappahannock River at Remington, Va., and features visible earthworks as well as bridge and mill ruins.[9]

See also[edit]



  • Andrews, W. H. (1992). Footprints of a Regiment: A Recollection of the 1st Georgia Regulars. Atlanta: Longstreet Press. pp. 56–59.
  • Hennessy, John J. (1992). Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas (First Edition (November 1, 1992) ed.). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. pp. 60–86, 448. ISBN 9780671793685. OCLC 26095816.
  • Owen, William Miller (1885). In Camp and Battle with the Washington Artillery of New Orleans: A Narrative of Events During the Late Civil War from Bull Run to Appomattox and Spanish Fort. Ticknor & Company. pp. 105–107.
  • The Campaign in Virginia, of July and August 1862: Official Report of Major General John Pope. Milwaukee: Jermain & Brightman, Printers. 1863. pp. 12–16.
  • Stone, DeWitt Boyd Jr (2002). Wandering to Glory: Confederate Veterans Remember Evans' Brigade. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. pp. 41–45.
  • "Saved Land & Opportunities". American Battlefield Trust. Retrieved November 30, 2021.
  • "Visit Rappahannock Station Battlefield". American Battlefield Trust. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  • "Archaeologists Locate Casualties of Civil War: A Confederate Soldier and an Episcopal Church Building". Episcopal News Service. 26 October 1989. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  • "Civil War Soldier to Be Reinterred at Church Site". Episcopal News Service. 13 May 1992. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  • "Rappahannock Station". U.S. National Park Service. 2012. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012.
  • "Map of the First Battle of Rappahannock Station". Civil War Trust. Archived from the original on 3 September 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Owen, Wm. Miller In Camp and Battle with the Washington Artillery of New Orleans: A Narrative of Events During the Late Civil War from Bull Run to Appomattox and Spanish Fort Chapter VI, Ticknor & Company, 1885.

38°31′38″N 77°49′49″W / 38.5272°N 77.8302°W / 38.5272; -77.8302