Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War in the eastern theater. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac during the Civil War.
The name Army of Northern Virginia referred to its primary area of operation, as did most Confederate States Army names. It included regiments from all over the Confederacy, even those as far away as Texas and Arkansas. Militiamen from the New Mexico and Arizona territories also served among its members.
The first commander of the Army of Northern Virginia was General P.G.T. Beauregard, followed by Joseph E. Johnston. But on June 1, 1862, its most famous, and final, leader, General Robert E. Lee, took command after Johnston was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines.
In the first year of his command, Lee had two principal subordinate commanders. The "right wing" of the army was under the command of Lieutenant General James Longstreet and the left wing under Lieutentant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. The Cavalry was led by Major General J.E.B. Stuart and the Reserve Artillery by Brigadier General William N. Pendleton . Following Jackson's death after the Battle of Chancellorsville, Lee reorganized the army into three corps, under Longstreet, Richard S. Ewell, and A.P. Hill. This three-corps arrangement lasted for the rest of the war, although commanders changed frequently in 1864 and 1865.
The Army fought in a number of battles, including:
- Battle of Seven Pines
- Battle of Malvern Hill
- Battle of Second Bull Run
- Battle of Antietam
- Battle of Fredericksburg
- Battle of Chancellorsville
- Battle of Gettysburg
- Battle of the Wilderness
- Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
- Battle of Cold Harbor
- Siege of Petersburg, including the Battle of the Crater
On April 9, 1865, the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to the Army of the Potomac at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the Civil War, with General Lee signing the papers of surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant.
The army was noted for its aggressiveness and audacity, almost always pitted in battle against an opponent that outnumbered it, sometimes (such as at Antietam and Chancellorsville) two-to-one.
Robert E. Lee's Farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia showed his admiration of, and devotion to, his men:
- After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.
- I need not tell the survivors of so many hard-fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged.
- You may take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.
- With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.
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