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Chapter 16:

  • More than one-third of the Federal forces operating against Richmond.
  • -- McClellan's opinion of his army. -- its numerical strength. -- official statement of Confederate forces in North Virginia. -- Lincoln's order of the 22d February. -- McClellan's dissent. -- when Johnston determined to change his line on the Potomac. -- his preparations for retreat. -- how it was accomplished. -- McClellan's advance. -- discovery of Johnston's evacuation of Manassas and Centreville. -- he crosses the Rappahannock and waits for the enemy. -- he penetrates McClellans's designs. -- Federal council of war at Fairfax Court-house. -- shifting of the scenes of war in Virginia. -- the battle of Kernstown. -- how “StonewallJackson came to fight this battle. -- great numerical superiourity of the enemy. -- the contest at the Stone fence. -- Jackson falls back to Cedar Creek. -- Magruder's line on the Peninsula. -- a fearful crisis. -- McClellan held in check by eleven thousand Confederates. -- outwitted again by Johnston. -- retreat of the Confederates up the Peninsula. -- strategic merit of the movement. -- battle of Williamsburg. -- Longstreet's division engaged. -- success of the Confederates. -- McClellan's whole army in peril. -- his flank movement on Johnston's retreat. -- engagement at Barhamsville. -- the line of the Chickahominy. Johnston's brilliant strategy. -- evacuation of Norfolk. -- destruction of the Virginia. -- her last challenge to the enemy. -- a galling spectacle. -- Commodore Tatnall orders her destruction. -- a Court of inquiry. -- naval engagement at Drewry's Bluff. -- a feeble barrier to Richmond. -- repulse of the Federal fleet. -- what it proved. -- McClellan's investment of the line of the Chickahominy. -- defences of Richmond. -- scenes around the Federal capital. -- alarm and excitement of its people. -- the exodus from Richmond. -- public meeting in the city Hall. -- noble resolution of the Legislature of Virginia. -- re-animation of the people and the authorities. -- President Davis' early opinion of the effect of the fall of Richmond. -- appeals of the Richmond press. -- Jackson's campaign in the Valley of Virginia. -- Jackson determines on the aggressive. -- disposition of the Federal forces west of the Blue Ridge. -- affair at McDowell. -- Jackson deceives Banks -- Surprises his rear-guard at front Royal. -- Banks' race to Winchester. -- scenes of retreat through Winchester. -- Banks' quick time to the Potomac. -- extent of Jackson's success. -- fruits of two days operations of the Confederates. -- Jackson passes between the columns of Fremont and Shields. -- death of Turner Ashby. -- Jackson's tribute to him. -- battles of cross keys and Port Republic. -- Ewell defeats Fremont. -- the field of Port Republic. -- Ewell's arrival saves the day. -- critical and splendid action of two Virginia regiments. -- close of the Valley campaign. -- Jackson's almost marvellous success. -- his halt at Weyer's Cave

[262] In the first part of the year 1862, the Federal Government, with plans fully matured, had under arms about six hundred thousand men; more than one-third of whom were operating in the direction of Richmond. What Gen. McClellan himself said of the vast and brilliant army with which he designed to capture the Confederate capital was not extravagant. It was, indeed, “magnificent in material, admirable in discipline and instruction, excellently equipped and armed.” On March 1, 1862, the number of Federal troops in and about Washington had increased to 193,142, fit for duty, with a grand aggregate of 221,987.

Such was the heavy and perilous force of the enemy that, in the spring of 1862, hung on the northern frontier of Virginia. Let us see what was in front of it on the Confederate line of defence. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had in the camps of Centreville and Manassas less than thirty thousand men. These figures are from an official source. “StonewallJackson had been detached with eleven skeleton regiments to amuse the enemy in the Shenandoah Valley, passing rapidly between Banks and Shields, and giving them the idea that he meditated a formidable movement. Such was the force that in North Virginia stood in McClellan's path, and deterred him from a blow that at that time might have been fatal to the Southern Confederacy.

It had been the idea of the Washington authorities to despatch the Confederacy by a combined movement in the winter. The order of President Lincoln for a general movement of the land and naval forces against the Confederate positions on the 22d of February (Washington's birthday), directed that McClellan's army should advance for the immediate object of seizing and occupying a point upon the railroad southwest of Manassas Junction. But McClellan urged a different line of operations on the Lower Rappahannock, obtained delay, and did not advance.

In the mean time, Gen. Johnston had not been an idle spectator of the immense and overwhelming preparations of the enemy in his front. As a commander he was sagacious, quick to apprehend, and had that peculiar military reticence in connection with a sage manner and decisive action, that obtained the confidence of his men instead of exciting criticism, or alarming their suspicions. In the first winter months of 1862, he had determined to change his line on the Potomac. All idea of offensive operations on it had long ago been abandoned. It had become necessary in Gen. Johnston's opinion that the main body of the Confederate forces in Virginia should be in supporting distance of the Army of the Peninsula, so that, in the event of either being driven back, they might combine for final resistance before Richmond.

During winter, Johnston had been quietly transporting his immense stores towards the Rappahannock, removing every cannon that could be [263] spared, and filling the empty embrasures with hollow logs painted black, which even at a few yards' distance much resembled thirty-two and sixty-four pounders. Never were preparations for a retreat so quietly and skilfully made. So perfectly were all things arranged that all stores, baggage, sick, material, and guns were removed far to the rear, before Johnston's own men realized the possibility of a retreat. It was only as the different brigades fell into line, and the main army defiled southward through Fauquier County that the men discovered the movement to be a general and not a partial one.

On the 8th of March, the Government at Washington issued a peremptory order to McClellan to move for the new base of operations lie designed on the Chesapeake Bay, and to capture the Confederate batteries on the Potomac. The change in the situation which Johnston's skilful retreat had effected was not known in Washington. On the 9th of March McClellan's army was in motion. All Washington was in expectation; it was known that the second “On-to-richmond” had commenced, and that the second grand army was about to pass its grand climacteric. At night Fairfax Court-House was reached, and the grand army encamped within a radius of two miles. At a late hour came the wonderful tidings that Manassas and Centreville had been evacuated! There was no enemy there. But there was a great conflagration in full flame, bridges and machine-shops just blown up, and other incendiary fires gleaming in the distance. Nothing was left in the famous Confederate position; it was desolate, though frowning in fortified grandeur. Thus had been accomplished in the face of the enemy the most successful and complete evacuation — the most secure and perfect retreat of which the history of the war furnishes an example. Johnston had safely escaped with his entire right and left wings; he had securely carried off every gun and all his provisions and munitions; and he had blown up or otherwise destroyed every bridge and culvert on turnpike and railroad along his route.1

When Johnston's army had crossed the Rappahannock, it was drawn up in line, and waited a week for the enemy; but McClellan refused the challenge, and moved down the stream near the sea-board. To contract [264] his left, Johnston fell back across the Rapidan, and increased the strength of the right against all flanking maneuvers. Large fleets of transports were gathered at the month of the Rappahannock, but few knew their object or destination. Johnston however divined it. He promptly took the idea that the Federals, while making a show of force along the Lower Rappahannock, would not attack; their object being to transport their force with great celerity to the Peninsula, thinking to surprise Magruder at Yorktown, and seize Richmond before any troops could be marched to oppose them.

He was right. On March 13, a council of war was assembled at Fairfax Court-House, by McClellan. It agreed on the following resolution: “That the enemy, having retreated from Manassas to Gordonsville, behind the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, it is the opinion of Generals commanding army corps that the operations to be carried on will be best undertaken from Old Point Comfort between the York and James Rivers: provided, 1st, That the enemy's vessel Merrimac can be neutralized; 2d, That the means of transportation sufficient for an immediate transfer of the force to its new base can be ready at Washington and Alexandria to move down the Potomac; and, 3d, That a naval auxiliary force can be had to silence, or aid in silencing, the enemy's batteries on the York River; 4th, That the force to be left to cover Washington shall be such as to give an entire feeling of security for its safety from menace.”

While the scene of the most important contest in Virginia was thus being shifted, and Gen. Banks was transferring a heavy force from the Shenandoah Valley to take position at Centreville, in pursuance of McClellan's plan for the protection of Washington, a battle unimportant but bloody took place near Winchester.

Battle of Kernstown.

Gen. Shields had been left at Winchester by Banks with a division and some cavalry, and commanded, as he states in his official report, seven thousand men of all arms. Ascertaining that “StonewallJackson was at New Market, he made a feint, pretended to retreat on the 20th of March, and at night placed his force in a secluded position, two miles from Winchester on the Martinsburg road. This movement, and the masked position of the enemy made an impression upon the inhabitants of Winchester that Shields' army had left, and that nothing remained but a few regiments to garrison the place. On the 22nd Ashby's cavalry drove in the enemy's pickets, and discovered only a brigade. The next day Jackson had moved his line near Kernstown, prepared to give battle and expecting [265] to find only a small force of the enemy at the point of attack. He had less than twenty-five hundred men. It will amuse the Southern reader to find it stated in Gen. Shields' official report that Jackson had in the engagement of Kernstown eleven thousand men, and was, therefore, in superiour force.

The engagement between these unequal forces commenced about four o'clock in the evening of the 23d of March, and terminated when night closed upon the scene of conflict. Jackson's left flank, commanded by Gen. Garnett, was finally turned, and forced back upon the centre, but only after a most desperate and bloody encounter. A long stone fence ran across an open field, which the enemy were endeavouring to reach. Federals and Confederates were both in motion for this natural breast-work, when the 24th Virginia, (Irish), ran rapidly forward, arrived at the fence first, and poured a volley into the enemy at ten paces distant. But the overwhelming numbers of the enemy soon swept over the fence, and drove the Confederate left into the woods, taking two guns and a number of prisoners.

During the night Gen. Jackson decided to fall back to Cedar Creek. The enemy pursued as far as Harrisonburg, but with little effect, as Ashby's famous cavalry, the terrour of the Federals, covered the retreat. In his official report Gen. Shields wrote that the retreat “became flight ;” but in a private letter to a friend in Washington, he had previously written of the Confederates: “Such were their gallantry, and high state of discipline that at no time during the battle or pursuit did they give way to panic.”

The Confederate loss in killed, wounded and prisoners is carefully estimated at 465. Gen. Shields stated his loss as 103 killed, and 441 wounded. It had been a fierce and frightful engagement; for Jackson had lost nearly twenty per cent. of his force in a very few hours of conflict. [But the battle was without any general signification. It drew, however, upon Jackson a great deal of censure; “he was,” says one of his officers, “cursed by every one;” and it must be confessed, in this instance at least, the great commander had been entrapped by the enemy.

But public attention in Richmond was speedily taken from an affair so small by daily announcements of fleets of transports arriving in Hampton Roads, and the vast extension of the long line of tents at Newport News. McClellan, having the advantage of water-carriage, had rapidly changed his line of operations, and was at the threshold of a new approach to Richmond, while the great bulk of the Confederate force was still in motion in the neighbourhood of the Rappahannock and the Rapidan.

It was a fearful crisis. The fate of Richmond hung upon the line held across the Peninsula, from Yorktown on the York River to Mulberry Island on James River, by Gen. Magruder with little more than ten thousand [266] men. McClellan had three corps d'armee in the lines before Yorktown, and had in the field a force of nearly 90,000 infantry, 55 batteries of artillery (making a total of 330 field guns), and about 10,000 cavalry, besides a siege train of 103 guns. This estimate of his force did not include the garrison of Fortress Monroe of about 10,000 men, nor Franklin's division which arrived about the end of April. The commander of this force hesitated before a line of eleven thousand men. His hesitation again saved Richmond. He was again deceived as to the strength of the Confederates. With admirable adroitness Gen. Magruder extended his little force over a distance of several miles, placing a regiment in every gap open to observation, to give the appearance of numbers to the enemy. McClellan took to the spade, and commenced the operation of a regular siege against Yorktown. While he was constructing his parallels, Gen. Johnston moved down to reinforce the Confederate lines of the Peninsula, in time to save Magruder's little force from the pressure of enveloping armies.

McClellan had been deceived twice as to the force in his front. He was to be outwitted twice by the strategy of retreat. Gen. Johnston decided neither to stand a siege nor to deliver a battle at Yorktown. The enemy was in largely superiour force, besides his additional strength in gunboats, and the object was to force him to more equal terms. It was readily seen by Johnston that in falling back to defences already prepared nearer Richmond, and investing the line of the Chickahominy, he would obtain the opportunity of concentrating a large force in front of the capital, besides being unexposed to operations in his rear, which threatened him at Yorktown from McDowell's corps at Fredericksburg. It was the just and sagacious view of the situation, and again the great master of Confederate strategy was to teach the enemy a lesson in the art of war.

Johnston had obtained all the delay he desired in keeping the enemy before his lines; and on the 4th day of May, when McClellan had nearly completed all his parallels, secured communications between the different batteries, and was almost ready to open fire on the town, the news came that the Confederate army had retired.

The whole Federal army was, at once, put in motion to pursue. The Confederate works were left intact, but excepting a few unwieldy columbiads, all ordnance had been carried off. The men made “dummies,” and put them in the embrasures, besides stuffing old clothes to represent sentinels. The pursuing army toiled on through rain falling in torrents, over roads deep in mud, the men straggling, falling out and halting without orders, and artillery, cavalry, infantry and baggage intermingled in apparently inextricable confusion. The scene had much more the appearance of the retreat of a defeated army than the advance of a successful one.


Battle of Williamsburg.

It may be well imagined that McClellan, sorely disappointed, and knowing very well that the people of the North, who were already clamouring for a change of commanders, would not be satisfied with the barren occupation of the deserted works of Yorktown, was anxious to snatch some sort of victory from the rear-guard of the Confederate retreat, which he might magnify in official dispatches and Northern newspapers.

01 the morning of the 5th May, Gen. Hooker's division of Heintzelman's corps came up near Williamsburg with the Confederate rear-guard, commanded by Gen. Longstreet. The Federals were in a forest in front of Williamsburg; but as Hooker came into the open ground, he was vigorously attacked, driven back with the loss of five guns, and with difficulty held the belt of wood which sheltered and concealed his men from the Confederate fire. Other forces of the enemy were moved up, until Gen. Longstreet was engaging nine brigades of the Federal army. During the whole of the day, from sunrise to sunset, he held McClellan's army in check, drove the enemy from two redoubts he had occupied, and secured Johnston's retreat so effectually, that the next morning when the rear guard moved off, it did so as undisturbed as if the enemy were a thousand miles distant.

But Gen. Longstreet not only accomplished the important object of securing the retreat. He won a brilliant victory. Gen. McClellan himself confessed a loss of 455 killed, 1,400 wounded, and 372 missing, making a total of 2,228. And Longstreet carried off with him nine pieces of captured artillery. Yet so anxious was McClellan for the colour of victory that he dispatched to Washington news of a success, and represented as the process of “driving rebels to the wall,” the leisurely retreat of Johnston to works around Richmond, prepared ten months ago under the prudent and skilful direction of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and already the amplest and strongest at any point in the Confederacy.

The fact was that McClellan's army had received a serious check at Williamsburg, which, if Gen. Longstreet had been able to take advantage of it, might have been converted into a disastrous defeat. McClellan had also planned a flank movement upon Johnston's retreat. This performance, too, proved a miserable failure, although the idea did credit to his genius.

The design was that Franklin should move to West Point, the head of the York River, and disembark a large force there to assail Johnston on the flank. On the 7th of May, Franklin attempted a landing under cover of his gunboats, at Barhamsville near West Point. The attempt was gallantly repulsed by Whiting's division of Texas troops. The fight was [268] wild and confused. Franklin hurriedly fell back before an inferiour force, and did not halt until under the guns of his flotilla.

The incidents of Williamsburg and Barhamsville had been Confederate successes; and Johnston's movement to the line of the Chickahominy turned out a most brilliant piece of strategy. He had secured the safe retreat of his army, together with his baggage and supply train, and, although forced by the configuration of the land, and the superiourity of the enemy on the water, to abandon the peninsula of Yorktown, he had done so in a manner which illustrated his genius, and insured the safety and efficiency of his army.

Evacuation of Norfolk-destruction of the Virginia.

The retreat front Yorktown involved the surrender of Norfolk with all the advantages of its contiguous navy-yard and dock and the abandonment of the strong Confederate positions at Sewell's Point and Craney Island. Here was the old story of disaster consequent upon haste and imperfect preparations. The evacuation was badly managed by Gen. Huger; much property was abandoned, and the great dry-dock only partially blown up.2

But the evacuation was attended by an incident, which was a painful surprise to the Confederate people, an occasion of grief and rage, and a [269] topic of violent comment in the Richmond newspapers. The famous ironclad Virginia, popularly said to be worth fifty thousand troops in the field, was destroyed by the orders of Commodore Tatnall, her commander. “The iron diadem of the South,” exclaimed the Richmond Examiner, “had been shattered by a wanton blow.”

The Virginia had been unable to bring on a fight with the enemy's fleet. When McClellan was encamped before Yorktown, she appeared in Hampton Roads, when the whole Federal fleet declined the combat, and with the vaunted Monitor took shelter beneath the guns of Fortress Monroe. On this occasion the Virginia, in sight of the enemy's fleet, carried off three schooners lying in the Roads almost within range of the guns of the fleet, and yet there was no movement to engage her; and this spectacle, so galling to the esprit du corps of the Federal navy, was witnessed by the French and English ships-of-war lying off Norfolk.

After the enemy's occupation of Norfolk, both shores of the James River came into possession of the Federal troops, who were therefore enabled to cut off the Virginia from her necessary supplies. Commodore Tatnall resolved to take the vessel up the river above the lines occupied by the enemy. According to his statement, he had been assured by her pilots that if the ship was lightened they would take her with a draught of eighteen feet of water within forty miles of Richmond. The ship was being lightened; Commodore Tatnall had retired to bed, when another message was brought him that the ship had been so far lightened that her wooden hull below the plating was exposed, and that the pilots (whom Commodore Tatnall charged with cowardice and an unwillingness to engage in action) now declared that the westerly wind had so lowered the water in the river that it would be impossible to take the vessel above the Jamestown Flats, up to which point the shore on both sides was occupied by the enemy. The commander, aroused from his slumbers, and acquainted with the decision of the pilots, ordered the vessel to be destroyed. Her decks and roof were saturated with oil, her crew were disembarked in small boats, trains of powder were laid from each port-hole to different parts of the vessel, and these were lighted at a given signal. Simultaneously the ship was on fire in many parts, and after burning several hours the flames reached the magazine, about four o'clock in the morning of the 11th of May, when the Virginia was blown up with an explosion heard many miles distant. Not a fragment was ever afterwards found of the only naval structure that guarded the water approach to Richmond.

“ The Virginia,” reported Commander Tatnall, “no longer exists. I presume that a court of inquiry will be ordered to examine into all the circumstances, and I earnestly solicit it. Public opinion will never be put right without it.” The court was ordered, and public opinion was “put right” by its decision that the destruction of the Virginia was unnecessary; [270] that she might have been taken up the James to a point of safety, where she could still have barred the ascent of the river; and that then and there, if the worst ensued, was the time to decide upon the disposition to he made of the vessel.

Naval engagement at Drewry's Bluff.

The destruction of the Virginia left the James River open for the enemy's operations. The Galena, the Aroostook, the Monitor, Port Royal, and Naugatuck, steamed up the river on the 15th of May, under the command of Commodore Rodgers, and without opposition advanced within twelve miles of Richmond. Here was a half-finished fort at what was called Drewry's Bluff, mounting four guns. The river at this point was also obstructed by a double line of piles and sunken vessels, and the banks were lined with sharpshooters. It was a feeble barrier to Richmond; the protection of the river had been entrusted to the Virginia; and yet the fort proved a success, owing to the defect of the enemy's gunboats.

The Galena and Monitor approached within six hundred yards of the batteries, but the guns of the latter proved useless, as they could not be elevated sufficiently to reach the work constructed on the bluff. The armour of the Galena was badly injured, and this river monster lost thirty of her crew in killed and wounded. Notwithstanding, the engagement continued for upwards of four hours, when the gunboats were repulsed. The Confederate loss was five killed and seven wounded. This action was considered as proving that earthworks could not be reduced by gunboats, and decided the question for the enemy that the capture of Drewry's Bluff, and the water approach to Richmond were impracticable without the aid of a land force.

The possession of the James River below Drewry's Bluff was of but little present advantage to McClellan, as his base of supplies was on the Pamunkey, from which point there was rail communication to Richmond. He had advanced within sight of the spires of the Confederate capital. The investment of the line of the Chickahominy brought the two armies face to face within a few miles of Richmond, and opened one of the grandest scenes of the war, exhibiting the strength and splendour of the opposing hosts, and appealing to the eye with every variety of picturesque effect. For nearly a year an immense labour had been expended upon the fortifications of Richmond. Earthworks of magnitude arose on every side. They were constructed in different shapes, to suit the conformation of the ground; they swept all the roads, crowned every hillock, and mounds of red earth could be seen in striking contrast with the rich green of the landscape. Redoubts, rifle-pits, casemate batteries, horn works, and enfilading [271] batteries were visible in great number, in and out of the woods, in all directions. Beyond, through the open and cultivated country in the neighbourhood of Richmond stretched the camp of the enemy. Wooded heights overlooked them, and the numerous tents of the army, the vast trains of wagons, the powerful park of artillery, together with the fleet of steamers and transports, presented a striking contrast to the usually quiet country.

The mere circumstance of McClellan's proximity to Richmond was, to the vulgar mind of the North, an indication of his success. The fact that his army had marched unopposed to within a few miles of the city excited the hopes of the ignorant masses. Rumour each day in New York announced the fall of Richmond. Nor was there any great feeling of security in the Confederate capital. There were alarm and excitement in the mixed and restless population of Richmond; and the popular feeling found but little assurance in the visible tremour of the authorities. The Confederate Congress had adjourned in such haste as to show that the members were anxious to provide for their own personal safety. President Davis sent his family to North Carolina, and a part of the Government archives were packed ready for transportation. At the railroad depots were piles of baggage awaiting transportation, and the trains were crowded with women and children going to distant points in the country, and escaping from the alarm and distress in Richmond.

But the panic, like all excitements of this sort, was soon subdued on reflection, and shamed by the counsels of the brave and intelligent. The newspapers rebuked it in severe terms. The shop-windows were filled with caricatures of the fugitives. Much of the alarm was turned into ridicule. A meeting of citizens, assembled on the 15th of May, in the City Hall, were addressed by Gov. Letcher and Mayor Mayo, and applauded the sentiment that Richmond should be reduced to ashes before it should become a Yankee conquest.

The Legislature of Virginia acted with singular spirit, and led in the work of the restoration of public confidence. On the 14th of May it adopted the following resolution, which, indeed, deserves to be committed to history as an example of heroic fortitude and patriotic sacrifice:

“4 Resolved, by the General Assembly of Virginia, That the General Assembly hereby expresses its desire that the capital of the State be defended to the last extremity, if such defence is in accordance with the views of the President of the Confederate States, and that the President be assured that whatever destruction and loss of property of the State or individuals shall thereby result, will be cheerfully submitted to.”

To this exhibition of the spirit of Virginia, President Davis responded in lively terms. He stated to a committee of the Legislature, which called upon him to ascertain his views, that he had never entertained the thought [272] of withdrawing the army from Virginia and abandoning the State. But to some extent he spoiled the assurance by suggesting, in swollen words, that even if Richmond should fall, “the war could still be successfully maintained on Virginia soil for twenty years.”

The tardy battle for Richmond yet lingered. Public confidence and public courage rose each day of the delay. The eloquent press of Richmond was stirring the Southern heart. The Richmond Despatch wrote: “If there is blood to be shed, let it be shed here; no soil of the Confederacy could drink it up more acceptably and none would hold it more gratefully. Wife, family, and friends are nothing. Leave them all for one glorious hour to be devoted to the Republic. Life, death, and wounds are nothing, if we only be saved from the fate of a captured capital and a humiliated Confederacy. Let the Government act; let the people act. There is time yet.”

But while thus fluctuated the sentiment of Richmond there came an especial occasion to reanimate the cause of the Confederacy, to erect again the reputation of its arms, and to fill with gratitude and hope the hearts which had so long throbbed with anxiety in its besieged capital. That occasion was the splendid diversion of “StonewallJackson in the Valley of Virginia. Public attention turned to the eccentric career of that commander to find a new hero, and an unexpected train of brilliant victories.

Jackson's campaign in the Valley of Virginia.

When the principal scene of the war in Virginia was shifted from the lines of the Potomac, Gen. Jackson remained in the Shenandoah Valley. Ewell's division was sent to operate with him in that part of the State. The object of the combined force was to divert the army of McDowell at Fredericksburg from uniting with that of McClellan; and beyond this design the authorities at Richmond had no expectations from Jackson's small command.

It was an idea originating with the adventurous commander himself to act on the aggressive, and to essay the extraordinary task of driving the Federal forces from the Valley, then there under the three commands of Banks, Fremont, and Shields.

In order to understand the disposition of all the opposing forces at this time west of the Blue Ridge, it will be necessary to make a brief and rapid resume of operations and movements in that quarter for some weeks previous, so as to put before the reader a comprehensive scene and an intelligent situation.

The disposition of the enemy's forces west of the Blue Ridge was designed to co-operate with McDowell at Fredericksburg. They included [273] the troops of Banks and Shields in the Shenandoah Valley, and those of Milroy, Blenker, and Fremont in Western Virginia. As soon as Jackson had been reinforced by Ewell's division, which crossed the Blue Ridge at McGackeysville, the commander proceeded in person to the position of Gen. Edward Johnson's little force, which was drawn up in a narrow valley, at a village called McDowell, with the heavy brigades of Milroy and Blenker in line of battle before them. The enemy was driven here after a brief engagement. Learning that his success at McDowell had so frightened Milroy and Blenker that they had called upon Fremont, who was a few marches behind, Jackson determined to deceive them and fall back. Moving at a fast rate down the Valley Pike, he proceeded to Newmarket, and was there joined by Ewells force, which had been awaiting him at Swift Run Gap. The whole force now amounted to about fourteen thousand men; and after a little rest, proceeded across the Shenandoah Mountains.

Let us see how now stood the forces of the enemy. When Shields, who had followed Jackson since the battle of Kernstown, found him strongly posted at McGackeysville, he declined to advance against him and, withdrawing his forces from between Woodstock and Harrisonburg, he regained the Valley, determined to push on towards McDowell at Fredericksburg. Banks had his force scattered up and down the Valley, the rear being at Front Royal. Blenker and Milroy were similarly bound through Western Virginia, but their defeat had diverted Fremont from his proper route, who immediately went to their assistance. Thinking, therefore, that Jackson was busily engaged in that distant quarter, and not likely to trouble them in the Valley again, Banks and Shields were commencing a movement towards Fredericksburg, unconscious of danger, when, on the morning of May 22d, Jackson and Ewell, with fourteen thousand men, were meditating an attack on their rear at Front Royal.

The rear-guard, consisting of the First Maryland Regiment, may be said to have been almost annihilated. Every man was killed, wounded, or captured, save fifteen; nine hundred prisoners were taken on the retreat towards Strasburg; and a vast quantity of the enemy's stores was destroyed. At the first shock of the action, Banks had his army in motion from Strasburg; he feared that Jackson, moving from Front Royal on the converging road to Winchester, might cut him off from that supposed place of safety. His fears were nearly realized; for at Middletown Jackson pierced his main column, took a number of prisoners, demoralized the retreat, and having driven a part of his rear towards Strasburg, turned on hot pursuit to Winchester.

On the 24th of May, Banks' army, in frantic retreat, entered the streets of Winchester. The citizens received them with shouts of derision. Many of the fugitives were on the run ; sore shots were fired from the windows [274] of houses; ordnance exploded; cavalry rode down stragglers; bands of plunderers hastily entered houses, bayonetted their occupants, and in one wild scene of unrestrained disorder, fury, and cowardice, Banks' army passed out of the ancient town, where the enemy had so long ruled ill the insolence cf power.

Banks' army had stood but a few moments before Winchester, and had broken under a distant fire of artillery. He had evidently no disposition to test the substance and strength of the foe by actual collision, and was only desirous to place the Potomac between himself and the danger of action. Never was there such a shameful retreat; such a deliberate abandonment by a commander of everything but the desire for safety. In forty-eight hours after he had got the first news of the attack on Front Royal, Banks was on the shore of the Potomac, having performed thirty-five miles of the distance on the last day of the retreat.

The fruits of Jackson's two days operations were immense. Banks had escaped with the loss of all the material and paraphernalia that constitute an army. He had abandoned at Winchester all his commissary and ordnance stores. He had resigned that town and Front Royal to the undisputed possession of the Confederates. He had left in their hands four thousand prisoners, and stores amounting to millions of dollars. It was a rapid stroke and a splendid success which Jackson had made. Tidings of his victory were communicated to the Confederate army around Richmond in general orders. “The Federal army,” wrote Gen. Johnston, “has been dispersed and ignominiously driven from the Valley of the Shenandoah, and those who have freed the loyal citizens of that district by their patriotic valour, have again earned, as they will receive, the thanks of a grateful country. In making this glorious announcement, on the eve of the memorable struggle about to ensue, the Commanding General does not deem it necessary to invoke the troops of this army to emulate the deeds of their noble comrades in the Valley.” 3

In falling back from Winchester, Gen. Jackson had to run the danger of being enveloped by the converging columns of Fremont and Shields. He succeeded ( “through the blessing of an ever kind Providence” ) in reaching Strasburg, before the two Federal armies could effect their contemplated junction in his rear. On the 5th of June he reached Harrisonburg, and, passing beyond that town, turned towards the east in the direction of Port Republic.

On the movement from Harrisonburg occurred the melancholy incident [275] of the death of the famous cavalry commander of the Valley, Turner Ashby, whose name was connected with much of the romance of the war, and whose gentle enthusiastic courage, simple Christian faith, and royal passion for danger, constituted him one of the noblest and most beautiful types of modern chivalry. On the road from Harrisonburg to Port Republic, the 58th Virginia became engaged with the Pennsylvania Bucktails. Col. Johnson came up with the Maryland regiment, and by a dashing charge in flank drove the enemy off with heavy loss. Ashby was on the right of the 58th Virginia, and had just commanded a charge of bayonets upon the enemy, concealed in a piece of woods, when he fell dead not many yards from a fence where a concealed marksman had sped the fatal bullet. Gen. Jackson's tribute to the fallen officer, whose active and daring cavalry had so often co-operated with his arms, was an extraordinary one, considering the habitual measure of this great man's words. He wrote of Ashby: “As a partisan officer I never knew his superiour. His daring was proverbial; his powers of endurance almost incredible; his tone of character heroic, and his sagacity almost intuitive in divining the purposes and movements of the enemy.”

Battles of cross-keys and Port Republic.

On the 7th of June the main body of Gen. Jackson's command had reached the vicinity of Port Republic. The village is situated in the angle formed by the junction of the North and South Rivers, tributaries of the south fork of the Shenandoah. The larger portion of Jackson's command was encamped on the high ground north of the village, about a mile from the river. Gen. Ewell was some four miles distant, near the road leading from Harrisonburg to Port Republic. Gen. Fremont had arrived with his forces in the vicinity of Harrisonburg, and Gen. Shields was moving up the east side of the south fork of the Shenandoah, and was then some fifteen miles below Port Republic. Gen. Jackson's position was about equi-distant from both hostile armies. To prevent a junction of the two Federal armies, he had caused the bridge over the south fork of the Shenandoah at Conrad's store to be destroyed.

Fremont had seven brigades of infantry besides numerous cavalry. Ewell had three small brigades during the greater part of the action that was to ensue, and no cavalry at any time. His force was short of five thousand men. About ten o'clock the enemy felt along his front, posted his artillery, and, with two brigades, made an attack on Trimble's brigade on the right. Gen. Trimble repulsed this force, and, advancing, drove the enemy more than a mile, and remained on his flank ready to make the final attack. At a late hour of the afternoon, Gen. Ewell advanced both [276] his wings, drove in the enemy's skirmishers, and, when night closed, was in possession of all the ground previously held by the enemy.

The victory-known as that of Cross-Keys-had been purchased by a small Confederate loss: 42 killed and 287 wounded. Gen. Ewell officially estimated the enemy's loss at 2,000. Gen. Fremont officially gives it at 625-exhibiting rather more than the usual difference between Federal and Confederate figures.

Meanwhile Gen. Jackson was preparing to give the final blow to Shields on the other side of the river; and on the morning after their victory, Ewell's forces were recalled to join in the attack at Port Republic. As day broke they commenced their march to the other field of battle seven miles distant.

The enemy had judiciously selected his position for defence. Upon a rising ground near the Lewis House, he had planted six guns, which commanded the road from Port Republic, and swept the plateau for a considerable distance in front. As Gen. Winder moved forward his brigade, a rapid and severe fire of shell was opened upon it. The artillery fire was well sustained by our batteries, which, however, proved unequal to that of the enemy. In the meantime, Winder, being now reinforced by a Louisiana regiment, seeing no mode of silencing the Federal battery, or escaping its destructive missiles but by a rapid charge, and the capture of it, advanced with great boldness for some distance, but encountered such a heavy fire of artillery and small arms as greatly to disorganize his command, which fell back in disorder. The enemy advanced across the field, and, by a heavy musketry fire, forced back our infantry supports, in consequence of which our guns had to retire.

It was just at this crisis, when the day seemed lost, that Ewell's forces appeared upon the scene. Two regiments — the 58th and 44th Virginia-rushed with a shout upon the enemy, took him in flank and drove him back, for the first time that day in disorder. Meanwhile Gen. Taylor was employed on the Federal left and rear, and, his attack diverting attention from the front, led to a concentration of the enemy's force upon him. Here the battle raged furiously. Although assailed by a superiour force in front and flank, with their guns in position within point blank range, the charge ordered by Taylor was gallantly made, and the enemy's battery, consisting of six guns, fell into our hands. Three times was this battery lost and won in the desperate and determined efforts to capture and recover it. At last, attacked in front and on flank, Taylor fell back to a skirt of woods. Winder, having rallied his command, moved to his support, and again opened upon the enemy, who were moving upon Taylor's left flank, apparently to surround him in the wood. The final attack was made. Taylor, with the reinforcement, pushed forward; he was assisted by the well-directed fire of our artillery; the enemy fell back; a few [277] moments more, and he was in precipitate retreat. Four hundred and fifty prisoners were taken in the pursuit, and what remained of the enemy's artillery.

While the forces of Shields were in full retreat, Fremont appeared on the opposite bank of the south fork of the Shenandoah, with his army, and opened his artillery with but little effect. The next day withdrawing his forces, he retreated down the Valley. The battle of Port Republic closed the campaign of the Valley. It had been fiercely contested by the enemy, and the Confederate loss was quite one thousand in killed and wounded. But the termination of the campaign found Jackson crowned with an almost marvellous success. In little more than two weeks, he had defeated three Federal armies; swept the Valley of Virginia of hostile forces; thrilled Washington with alarm; and thwarted whatever plan the enemy might have entertained, in other circumstances, of environing Richmond by large converging armies.

On the 12th of June Jackson encamped near Weyer's Cave. Here the pious commander paused, to hold divine service in his army in commemoration of his victories. He was to be here but a few days before receiving orders to move towards Richmond, and to join in the impending contest for the capital.

1 In Gen. McClellan's official report of this period, he seeks to convey the impression to the reader that he was well aware of Johnston's evacuation, and only marched his troops to Manassas that they might gain “some experience on the march and bivouac preparatory to the campaign, and to get rid of the superfluous baggage and other impediments which accumulate round an army encamped for a long time in one locality.” lie continues: “A march to Manassas and back could produce no delay in embarking for the Lower Chesapeake, as the transports could not be ready for some time, and it afforded a good intermediate step between the quiet and comparative comfort of the camps round Washington and the rigours of active operations.”

If Gen. McClellan had designed to have written something to be laughed at, he could not have better succeeded than in the sentences quoted above.

2 The circumstances of the evacuation of Norfolk were made the subject of an investigation in the Confederate Congress. Commodore Forrest testified as follows before the committee making the investigation:

I understood that it was the intention of the Government to withdraw the troops under Gen. Huger, for the protection of Richmond, and that the navy-yard and public buildings were to be destroyed. Upon learning this, I had a conference with the Secretary of the Navy. I stated to him that I did not see any necessity for such a proceeding, and that if he would allow me to return, I could assure him that I would protect the yard and Norfolk from any attack that the enemy might make. He asked me particularly in what manner I could do it. I explained to him that I had eleven hundred employees at the navy-yard, good and true men, that they had been exercised at great guns and small arms weekly for several months, and that there were guns mounted in what is called Forrest entrenchments, in lunette-four in all, containing each three or four guns of forty-one hundred weight, 82-pounders, and that I did not apprehend anything disastrous from Burnside's force; that by placing the steamer Virginia in a proper position, I thought she might very well protect the harbour, and even if Gen. Huger's army was taken away, I thought the citizens would all turn out to man the batteries. To this he replied, they would starve us out. I informed him that they could not very well do that for some time to come, that we had four hundred barrels of pork, and four hundred barrels of beef stowed in the yard; that the forage there had been collected for three months for the cattle. To this he replied, that it had been determined upon as a military necessity, and must be carried out.

Mr. Foote. What was the value of the navy-yard? What do you conjecture the amount of the injury to be which we suffered from the destruction of the navy-yard?

Commodore Forrest. There is a printed schedule taken by a commissioner appointed by the Governour of the State of Virginia, which could be had from the Secretary of State of the Commonwealth. In that schedule it mentions the value of the public property to be $6,500,000, or thereabouts.

3 We may imagine the historical value of Federal official documents on reading Gen. Banks' report of the events we have related. The drama from Strasburg to the Potomac is thus epitomized:

My command had not suffered an attack and rout, but accomplished a premeditated march (I) of near sixty miles, in the face of the enemy (!), defeating his plans and giving him battle wherever he was found (!!).

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