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Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia

Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia

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The Third Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia was a military organization within the Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, as well as the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac...

 during much of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. The corps was formed in mid-1863 and served until Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

's surrender April 9, 1865, near the end of the war.

Formation


After the death of Lt. General Thomas J. Jackson
Stonewall Jackson
ຄຽשת״ׇׂׂׂׂ֣|birth_place= Clarksburg, Virginia |death_place=Guinea Station, Virginia|placeofburial=Stonewall Jackson Memorial CemeteryLexington, Virginia|placeofburial_label= Place of burial|image=...

 at the Battle of Chancellorsville
Battle of Chancellorsville
The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the American Civil War, and the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville Campaign. It was fought from April 30 to May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the village of Chancellorsville. Two related battles were fought nearby on...

, Robert E. Lee had to choose a new commander for the Second Corps. Current divisional
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 commanders including John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Hood had a reputation for bravery and aggressiveness that sometimes bordered on recklessness...

, Richard H. Anderson
Richard H. Anderson
Richard Heron Anderson was a career U.S. Army officer, fighting with distinction in the Mexican-American War. He also served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War, fighting in the Eastern Theater of the conflict and most notably during the 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania Court House...

, Daniel Harvey Hill
Daniel Harvey Hill
On July 22, 1862, Hill and Union Maj. Gen. John A. Dix concluded an agreement for the general exchange of prisoners between the Union and Confederate armies. This agreement became known as the Dix-Hill Cartel....

, Ambrose Powell Hill, Richard Ewell, Lafayette McLaws
Lafayette McLaws
Lafayette McLaws was a United States Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

 and Jeb Stuart were considered, but in the end Lee chose Ewell. Not wanting to injure the honor of A.P. Hill, who had more seniority, Lee created a new Third Corps for him to command. While giving three of Jackson's former Second Corps divisions to Dick Ewell, Lee gave Hill's old "Light Division", currently under William Dorsey Pender
William Dorsey Pender
William Dorsey Pender was one of the youngest, and most promising, generals fighting for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early life:...

, to the Third Corps and Anderson's Division from Longstreet's First Corps to the new corps as well. To create a third division (whenever possible, a Confederate army corps would contain three divisions) Lee ordered two brigades sent from the defenses around Richmond plus two brigades from Pender's Division, to create the third division under the command of Henry Heth
Henry Heth
Henry "Harry" Heth was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He is best remembered for inadvertently precipitating the Battle of Gettysburg, when he sent some of his troops of the Army of Northern Virginia to the small Pennsylvania village,...

.

1863


When Lee invaded Pennsylvania
Gettysburg Campaign
The Gettysburg Campaign was a series of battles fought in June and July 1863, during the American Civil War. After his victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia moved north for offensive operations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The...

 in the summer of 1863, he needed all units, so the Third Corps came with him. Since it was the heaviest of all of them, it took the role as the rear guard, but in a strange turn of events was the unit that precipitated the greatest battle of the Civil War, Gettysburg
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

. Hill's men played a principal role in the battle, with Heth's division first engaged John F. Reynolds
John F. Reynolds
John Fulton Reynolds was a career United States Army officer and a general in the American Civil War. One of the Union Army's most respected senior commanders, he played a key role in committing the Army of the Potomac to the Battle of Gettysburg and was killed at the start of the battle.-Early...

 Union I Corps
I Corps (ACW)
I Corps was the designation of three different corps-sized units in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The units served in the following armies:...

. Heth's and Pender's division distinguished themselves on the first day of fighting. But Heth was wounded and Maj. Gen. James Archer
James J. Archer
James Jay Archer was a lawyer and an officer in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War, and he later served as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War....

 was captured. A.P. Hill soon fell sick and the Third Corps was more directly used by Lee. Pettigrew, now commanding Heth's Division, and Pender's Division were held in reserve on the second day, but General Pender was mortally wounded by cannon fire. Anderson's Division was once again attached to Longstreet and was engaged on the assault on the left. On the third day the Third Corps took part in Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge's commander,...

.

The Third Corps lost more men than any other Confederate corps at the battle, totalling nearly 9,000 men. The Third also lost many officers, including six of the thirteen brigade commanders and two of its divisional leaders. Hill's men were the first to make it back to Virginia and needed to reorganize. The division commanders now were Heth, Anderson and Cadmus Wilcox, a brigade commander from Anderson's Division. Following the Gettysburg Campaign, the corps fought in the autumn campaigns. In the Battle of Bristoe Station
Battle of Bristoe Station
The Battle of Bristoe Station was fought on October 14, 1863, at Bristoe Station, Virginia, between Union forces under Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren and Confederate forces under Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill during the Bristoe Campaign of the American Civil War...

, Hill attacked the isolated Union II Corps with his three divisions, but was in turn hit in the flank by the awaiting V Corps. Hill lost heavily, 2,000 men in total, and another general, Carnot Posey
Carnot Posey
Carnot Posey was a Mississippi planter and lawyer, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Bristoe Station, dying from infection.-Early life and family:...

.

1864


Because of their heavy losses, more brigades were attached to the Third Corps. Heth's Division got two more large brigades and another "demi" brigade, and Wilcox received two brigades as well. The corps was heavily engaged at the Battle of the Wilderness
Battle of the Wilderness
The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–7, 1864, was the first battle of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Both armies suffered heavy casualties, a harbinger of a bloody war of attrition by...

, being a key factor for the Confederate victory there. and held in reserve at Spotsylvania
Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, sometimes simply referred to as the Battle of Spotsylvania , was the second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. Following the bloody but inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, Grant's army disengaged...

, where Jubal A. Early took command when Hill fell sick. After being lightly engaged at Cold Harbor
Battle of Cold Harbor
The Battle of Cold Harbor was fought from May 31 to June 12, 1864 . It was one of the final battles of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign during the American Civil War, and is remembered as one of American history's bloodiest, most lopsided battles...

, William Mahone
William Mahone
William Mahone was a civil engineer, teacher, soldier, railroad executive, and a member of the Virginia General Assembly and U.S. Congress. Small of stature, he was nicknamed "Little Billy"....

 took command of Anderson's Division when that officer took over Longstreet's Corps. The Third fought again at North Anna, where it took the brunt of the fighting. The Third Corps would be often ridiculed for not following up their victory at North Anna. The corps lost five thousand between the three battle in mid 1864; however it was still the largest in the army at 17,000 strong.

The Third Corps then was reinforced by Robert F. Hoke's 7,500 men. Following Cold Harbor, the corps was rushed to the Richmond-Petersburg area where it drove Grant's entire army in the three day Battle of Petersburg. The Third Corps bore the brunt of the trench fighting and fought most of Petersburg. Hoke's Division was soon transferred out and the corps was down to 16,000 men, still the largest in the army. The corps won the last major victories in the East, routing Winfield Scott Hancock
Winfield Scott Hancock
Winfield Scott Hancock was a career U.S. Army officer and the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 1880. He served with distinction in the Army for four decades, including service in the Mexican-American War and as a Union general in the American Civil War...

's Federal II Corps at Ream's Station and then hit Ambrose Burnside
Ambrose Burnside
Ambrose Everett Burnside was an American soldier, railroad executive, inventor, industrialist, and politician from Rhode Island, serving as governor and a U.S. Senator...

's IX Corps at Battle of the Crater
Battle of the Crater
The Battle of the Crater was a battle of the American Civil War, part of the Siege of Petersburg. It took place on July 30, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General George G. Meade The...

, where Mahone's division was instrumental to the success there.

1865


By the end of 1864, the Third Corps was much reduced; numbering between 12,000 and 15,000 men. It was clearly showing how small Lee's army had become. After many more battles around Richmond, Lee's lines at Petersburg finally broke in late March 1865. The Corps was ordered then to cover the ensuing retreat toward South West Virginia in early April. While fighting was going on in the streets, A.P. Hill charged a battalion of Union infantry with his staff. Initially successful, the general was killed before he hit the ground. Henry Heth temporarily took command of the battered Third Corps but it eventually was merged with Longstreet's First Corps. The Third's much reduced divisions experienced little fighting for the next two weeks and surrendered at Appomattox
Appomattox
Appomattox may refer to:*Appomattox, Virginia, a town*Appomattox County, Virginia* Appomattox Basin, a name for the Tri-Cities, Virginia region*Appomattox Court House, a court house in Virginia...

 on April 9, being the largest corps left. From the time the corps was created, only one of the original brigade commanders and one of the division commanders remained the same.

See also


  • First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    The First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia was a military unit fighting for the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. It was formed in early 1861 and served until the spring of 1865, mostly in the Eastern Theater. The corps was commanded by James Longstreet for much of its...

  • Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    The Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia was a military organization within the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during much of the American Civil War. It was officially created and named following the Battle of Sharpsburg in 1862, but comprised units in a corps organization for quite...

  • Fourth Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    Fourth Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    The Fourth Corps was a military unit formed in October 1864 within the Army of Northern Virginia of the Confederate Army. It fought for the Confederate States of America during the late stages of the American Civil War. The corps was commanded by Richard H...

  • Cavalry Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    Cavalry Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    The Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia was the only organized cavalry corps in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. Prior to the establishment of a formal corps, cavalry organization in the Confederacy consisted mostly of partisan ranger units and some battalions, a few...