by Jacob D. Cox, Major-General, U. S. V.
The campaign of the spring of 1862 was an interesting one in its details, but as it became subordinate to that against Jackson
in the Shenandoah
and was never completed as Fremont
had planned, a very brief sketch of it must suffice.
On the 29th of March Fremont
assumed command of the “Mountain Department,” including West Virginia
, eastern Kentucky
, and East Tennessee
as far as Knoxville
There was a little too much sentiment and too little practical war in the construction of a department out of five hundred miles of mountain ranges, and the appointment of the “path-finder” to command it was consistent with the romantic character of the whole.
The mountains formed an admirable barrier at which comparatively small bodies of troops could cover and protect the Ohio Valley
behind them, but extensive military operations across and beyond the Alleghanies
from west or east were impracticable, because a wilderness a hundred miles wide, crossed by few and most difficult roads, rendered it impossible to supply troops from depots on either side.
The country was so wild that not even forage for mules could be found in it, and the teams could hardly haul their own provender for the double trip.
Quick “raids” were therefore all that ever proved feasible.
had formed a plan of campaign which consisted in starting with Blenker
's division (which had been taken from the Army of the Potomac and given to him) from Romney
in the valley of the south branch of the Potomac
, ascending this valley toward the south, picking up Schenck
's and Milroy
's brigades in turn, the latter joining the column at Monterey
, on the great watershed, by way of the Cheat Mountain
From Monterey Fremont
intended to move upon Staunton
and thence, following the south-western trend of the valleys, to the New River
Here he would come into communication with me, whose task it would have been to advance from Gauley Bridge
on two lines, the principal one by Fayette and Raleigh Court House over Flat-top Mountain to Princeton
and the Narrows of New River
, and a subordinate one on the turnpike to Lewisburg
The plan looked to continuing the march to the south-west with the whole column till Knoxville
should be reached, the last additions to the force to be from the troops in the Big Sandy Valley
of eastern Kentucky
The plan would probably have failed, first, from the impossibility of supplying the army on the route, as it would have been without any reliable or safe base; and second, because the railroads east of the mountains ran on routes specially well adapted to enable the enemy quickly to concentrate any needed force at Staunton
, at Lynchburg
, at Christiansburg
, or at Wytheville
to over-power the column.
The Union army would be committed to a whole season of marching in the mountains, while the Confederates
could concentrate the needed force and quickly return it to Richmond
when its work was done, making but a brief episode in a larger campaign.
But the plan was not
destined to be thoroughly tried.
, after his defeat by Kimball
, March 23d, had retired to the Upper
Shenandoah Valley with his division, numbering about 10,000 men; Ewell
was waiting to cooperate with him, with his division, at the gaps of the Blue Ridge
on the east, and General Edward Johnson
was near Staunton
with a similar force facing Milroy
In April General Banks
, commanding the National
forces in the Shenandoah Valley, had ascended it as far as Harrisonburg
, and Jackson
observed him from Swift Run Gap in the Blue Ridge
, on the road from Harrisonburg
also pushed eastward from Cheat Mountain
summit, in which high regions winter still lingered, and had made his way through snows and rains to McDowell
, ten miles east of Monterey
, at the crossing of Bull Pasture River, where he threatened Staunton
was thought to be in too exposed a position, and was directed by the War Department to fall back to Strasburg
, and on the 5th of May had gone as far as New Market
's division had not yet reached Fremont
, who was waiting for it at Petersburg
saw his opportunity and determined to join General Johnson
by a rapid march to Staunton
, to overwhelm Milroy
first and then return to his own operations in the Shenandoah
Moving with great celerity, he attacked Milroy
on the 8th, and the latter calling upon Fremont
for help, Schenck
was sent forward to support him, who reached McDowell
, having marched 34 miles in 24 hours. Jackson
had not fully concentrated his forces, and the Union
generals held their ground and delivered a sharp combat,3
in which their casualties of all kinds numbered 256, while the Confederate
loss was 498, General Johnson
being among the wounded.
as senior assumed the command, and on the 9th began his retreat to Franklin
, abandoning the Cheat Mountain
was reached on the 11th, but Jackson
approached cautiously and did not reach there till the 12th, when, finding that Fremont
had concentrated his forces, he did not attack, but returned to McDowell
, whence he took the direct road to Harrisonburg
, and marched to attack Banks
meeting and joining him in this movement.
resumed preparations for his original campaign, but Banks
's defeat deranged all plans, and those of the Mountain Department were abandoned.
A month passed in efforts to destroy Jackson
by concentration of McDowell
's, and Fremont
's troops; but it was too late to remedy the ill effects of the division of commands at the beginning of the campaign.
On the 26th of June Pope
was assigned to command all the troops in northern Virginia
was relieved by his own request, and the Mountain Department ceased to exist.
The operations on the Kanawha
line had kept pace with those in the north during the month of April.
Leaving a brigade to garrison the Lower Kanawha Valley
, I sent forward another under Colonel Crook
on the Lewisburg Turnpike
, whilst I moved in person with the two remaining (Scammon
's and Moor
's) on the Princeton
The brigades numbered about two thousand men each.
Wagons were so few that tents were discarded, and the men bivouacked without shelter.
On the 7th of May my advanced guard occupied Giles Court House (Parisburg) and the Narrows of New River
, and on the 16th the rest of the two brigades on this line were at the East
's brigade occupying Lewisburg
We were thus prepared to join Fremont
's column when it should approach Christiansburg
Instead of this we got news of Jackson
's movements and of Schenck
's and Milroy
's retreat, and Fremont
was obliged to telegraph that his plans were suspended, and that I must look out for myself.
The enemy had made strong efforts to concentrate a sufficient force to protect the railway, and the brigades of Generals Humphrey Marshall
, and Williams
were assigned to this duty, under the command of Marshall
My own orders required me to converge toward Crook
's line of movement as I advanced, and from Flat-top Mountain my line of supplies was exposed to a hostile movement on the right flank.
On the 16th of May Marshall
, leaving Heth
to hold the passes of New River
, marched by the Wytheville
, driving out my small detachment there after a stubborn resistance.
In the night I marched Moor
's brigade back from East River
and drove Marshall
out in turn.
I recalled Scammon
's brigade also on the 17th, and offered battle in front of the town.
took strong position on the hills south of the place, but did not attack, nor did Heth
, who followed Scammon
part of the way from the Narrows.
could easily have been turned by roads on the west, and I determined while awaiting the resumption of the general plan of campaign to retire to Flat-top Mountain, a very strong position, directing Crook
on the other side of New River
to halt at Lewisburg
, where we could support each other.
On May 23d Heth
with his brigade tried to dislodge Crook
, but was beaten, with the loss of 38 killed and many wounded, of whom 66 fell into our hands.
also captured 4 cannon and 300 stand of small-arms.
's loss was 13 killed, 53 wounded, and 7 missing.
When General Pope
assumed command he directed a defensive policy to be pursued in West Virginia
, and made arrangements to transfer part of my command to his army in the field.
About the middle of August I took two brigades by way of the Kanawha
and Ohio Rivers
, and thence by rail to Washington
was made the advanced post in the Kanawha Valley
, and no important movement was again made on that line.
It is an interesting fact, that, so confident was General Halleck
would be joined by McClellan
's army in time to keep Lee
in the neighborhood of Richmond
, my original orders were to march through the mountains by way of Staunton
, and join Pope
I had several detachments out pursuing guerrillas and scattered bands of Confederate troops operating in my rear toward the Kentucky
line, and this necessarily caused a few days' delay in beginning the directed movement.
I took advantage of the interval to lay before General Pope
, by telegraph, the proof that the march ordered meant fifteen days of uninterrupted mountain travel, most of it through a wilderness destitute of supplies, and with the enemy upon the flank.
Besides this, there was the very serious question whether the Army of Virginia would be at Charlottesville
when I should approach that place.
On the other hand, my calculation was that we could reach Washington
in ten days or less by the way we came.
On this evidence Pope
, with Halleck
's assent, gave permission to move as suggested.
The march from Flat-top Mountain to the head of navigation on the Kanawha
, ninety miles, was made in three days, and the Kanawha Division reached Washington
within the time appointed.
One train-load of two regiments joined Pope
at Warrenton Junction when the railroad was cut at Manassas Junction
by Stonewall Jackson
Two other regiments got as far as Bull Run bridge and had a lively affair with the enemy.
Afterward I was ordered into the forts on Upton
's and Munson
's hills to cover the front of Washington
Here, with McClellan
in person, we listened to the cannonade of the Second Bull Run
, and through our lines Pope and McDowell retired within the defenses of Washington.
It has often been a subject of interested speculation to inquire what would have been the fate of the Kanawha Division, had it been approaching Charlottesville
at this time, in accordance with Halleck
's original order .