150 Years Ago: Lee’s Army behind Clark Mountain

If you drive down U.S. Highway 522 heading south towards Richmond, just before you pass into Orange County, this mountain comes into view:

Orange Co Jan 12 08 181

This is Clark Mountain (or Clark’s Mountain, but I’ll go with what appears on modern topographical maps).

From its heights, one can take in much of Central Virginia. And if you consider that region to be the “seat of the war”, the Clark Mountain is flat dead center. The last times I’ve visited the mountain, the crest was marked off as private property. However, you can see the view on one of Linda Walcroft‘s Civil War tour pages. (Update: Linda has graciously moved her photo to a new post on her blog, where you can click to enlarge the panoramic view, which is worth a click.)

Clark Mountain featured prominently in the early stages of the Northern Virginia campaign of 1862. In mid-August, General Thomas J. Jackson’s wing gathered on the south side of Clark Mountain. The mountain

General Robert E. Lee visited the summit of the mountain in order to see first hand the disposition of General John Pope’s forces. On August 18, Lee and General James Longstreet rode to the summit to see Pope’s army falling back to the Rappahannock. Dust clouds heading north indicated that Lee’s plan to envelope Pope’s line was not to be.

It would not be the last time that Lee watched from atop Clark Mountain as a Federal army maneuvered across the central Virginia countryside.