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[40]

This description will enable the reader to understand the importance of the villages of Strasburg and Front Royal, which close up the two outlets of the valley, communicating with Winchester on one side and with Washington on the other, by way of Manassas Gap and the railway. But these were not positions the defence of which could be entrusted to a small force; for Strasburg was approachable on every side, and Front Royal was at too great distance from the encampments of Manassas Junction to be within reach of help, being at the same time commanded by heights which were easy of access. Without taking into consideration the peculiarities of this position, a single regiment, the First Maryland, had been stationed at Front Royal for some time for the purpose of holding the partisans of the enemy in check, and Banks occupied Strasburg with the five thousand men composing his small army corps.

On the 20th of May, Jackson left New Market at the head of an army of twenty thousand men. Instead of bearing down directly upon Strasburg by the main road and the broad valley of North Fork, which Banks was carefully watching, he crossed the Massanuten Mountains and re-entered the narrow valley of South Fork, where he was protected both by that river and the mountains. He thus left Luray behind, while his advance-guard encamped unnoticed, on the 22d, only sixteen kilometres from Front Royal. On the 23d the small Federal garrison, consisting of about nine hundred men, with two pieces of artillery, was taken completely by surprise. By a strange coincidence the regiment placed at the head of Jackson's column bore the same name as the one he was about to attack, the First Maryland. This unfortunate State of Maryland, convulsed by conflicting passions, inflamed by its neighbors of the North on one side and by those of the South on the other, supplied combatants to both armies. The encounter of these two namesake regiments—sad consequence of the civil war! —was fearful and sanguinary in the extreme, for a mutual recognition took place at first sight. The people of the South regarded Northern soldiers as legitimate enemies; but Marylanders, belonging to a slave State, when found fighting under the Federal flag, were nothing but traitors in their eyes. The Federals of Maryland, on the contrary, regarded their fellow-citizens who had

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