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[135] They shall never strike together: nay, Shields shall never strike at all, but be stricken: thus hath the master of the game already decided.

Shall Jackson, then, hold Shields at arms' length, and strike the larger prey, Fremont, first? This the impassable river and the dominant position of his artillery overlooking the bridge, enabled him to do. He might have driven back Shields's co-operative advance in the meadows beneath, by a storm of shells, while he assailed his partner three miles away; and Shields might have beguiled the day, by looking helplessly over at the smoke surging up over the treetops, and listening to the thunder of the battle rolling back to Harrisonburg with Fremont's defeat; or, by reckoning when his own time would come, if that better pleased him. Shall Jackson, then, strike Fremont first? ‘Yes,’ said Ewell: ‘Strike the larger game first.’ But Jackson said, ‘No. The risk is less to deal first with the weaker. In a battle with Shields, should disaster perchance befall us, we shall be near our trains, and our way of retreat; and true courage, however much prudent audacity it may venture, never boasts itself invulnerable. But if an inauspicious attack were made on Fremont, the defeated Confederates would have behind them a deep river, to be crossed only by one narrow bridge, and a line of retreat threatened by Shields's unbroken force. Again, Shields defeated, had but one difficult and narrow line of retreat, between the flood and the mountain, and might be probably destroyed. Fremont, if defeated, had an open country and many roads by which to retire; and could not be far pursued, with Shields's force still unbroken threatening our rear.’ Thus argued Jackson, but only to himself, then; he was wont to give no account of his measures to others.

Shall Jackson, then, prepare to deal with his weaker adversary, by withdrawing all his army to the Southern side, burning the bridge behind him, and thus leaving Fremont an idle spectator of Shields's overthrow? Again, No; and for two reasons: First, this would permit Fremont to crown all those dominating heights on the north side, with his artillery, so that Shields, though still separated from his friends by the water, might enjoy the effectual shelter of their guns. And second, supposing Shields dealt with satisfactorily, then it might be desired to pay the same polite attentions to Fremont; and Jackson meant not to deprive himself too soon of the means of access to him. Shields, then, shall be first attended to, on the south side; but yet the bridge not destroyed, nor the heights beyond surrendered.


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Shields (23)
Fremont (16)
T. J. Jackson (12)
R. S. Ewell (2)
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