General J. E. Johnston
had transferred the mass of his army to the front of Richmond
, and had taken command there in person.
's division alone remained on the Rappahannock
, to watch the enemy there, and to aid Jackson
in case of need.
This division was now near Gordonsville
, and a good road from that point through Swift Run Gap placed it within easy reach of Jackson
The latter, conscious of his inability with five or six thousand men (his force had nearly doubled since Kernstown
by the return of furloughed men and by new enlistments) to resist in the open country the advance of Banks
, had availed himself of the nature of the country to take a position where he could be attacked only at great disadvantage, and yet might threaten the flank and rear of the advancing column, if it attempted to pass him. The main Shenandoah river
covered his front, a stream not easily fordable at any time, and now swollen by the spring rains.
The spurs of the mountains as they run out towards this river afford almost impregnable positions for defence; his flank could only be turned by toilsome and exposed marches, while good roads led from his rear to General Ewell
Thus secure in his position, Jackson
at the same time more effectually prevented the further advance of the Federal
column than if he had remained in its front; for he held the bridge over the Shenandoah
, and was but a day's march from Harrisonburg
, and should Banks
threaten to move forward towards Staunton
, he was ready to hurl the Confederate forces against his enemy's flank and rear.
was in the midst of a hostile country, and already one hundred miles from the Potomac
at Harper's Ferry
, with which a long line of wagon communication had to be maintained.
To push on to Staunton
, with Jackson
on his flank and rear, was virtually to sacrifice his present line of communication, with no practicable substitute in view; to attack the Confederates
on the slopes of the mountains, with even a greatly superior force, was to risk defeat.
On the 28th of April Jackson
applied to General Lee
, then acting as Commander-in-Chief
under President Davis
, for a reinforcement of five thousand men, which addition to his force he deemed necessary to justify him in marching out and attacking Banks
Next day he was informed that no troops could be spared to him beyond the commands of Ewell
and of Edward Johnson
, the latter of whom was seven miles west of Staunton
, at West View, with a brigade.